The chemistry department recently purchased a single-crystal X-ray diffractometer, a $220,000 expense that made Ithaca College one of the few chemistry programs in the country to offer this machine for undergraduate research. Despite college-wide concerns about the rising cost of tuition, the new equipment is a worthwhile investment that shows the college is able to continue to improve the value of an Ithaca College education while still working to balance the budget.
Offering undergraduates the opportunity to conduct individualized research is critical to giving the college a competitive edge against larger schools with lower tuition rates. The type of academic opportunity gives students an advantage for applying to graduate-level programs and the hands-on experience that will better prepare them for the workforce. However, a focus on undergraduate research should not be limited to academic programs within the sciences.
Currently, the college does not require all students to write a senior thesis. While there are some exceptions — physics students must research and defend a thesis and senior film majors must produce a senior thesis film — many Ithaca College students leave the college without completing an individual long-term, in-depth research project under the guidance of a faculty member. Promoting undergraduate research in all majors should be a valued component of the college’s curriculum. Students should be encouraged to work closely with a member of the faculty or fellow group of students to delve more deeply into academic topics of interest. This type of individualized learning will help make the college stand out for prospective students and give current students the learning opportunities that will help them professionally and academically.