The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is beginning its next accreditation cycle, which includes implementing more student research opportunities.

Last semester, many students were told the university was in a crucial year for accreditation. This does not mean the university was being inspected and approved of that year only.

“Accreditation is a continual process. We finished our accreditation for the last five years, and have started our accreditation for the next five years,” Colleen Wolverton, an associate professor with the Department of Management, said.

The last five years saw the university implement University 100 classes for incoming students. The next five-year plan, called a Quality Enhancement Plan or QEP, is Advance: Student Research Experience.

“The purpose of this program is to teach students how to access high-quality information,” Wolverton said.

Wolverton outlined how disinformation can be spread both by uninformed rumor and by malicious intent. One of the goals of the new QEP is to provide students with knowledge of how to find quality sources.

Wolverton outlined two ways that these skills and experience will benefit students: experience on the parts of individuals and overall benefit to organizations.

 “So, the student selects a topic, and they conduct research on the topic. Through conducting this research, they’re learning and becoming an expert in their chosen topic.”

The topics of expertise can be of value in and of themselves, differentiating the knowledge students’ bring to their careers. This can allow individuals to find success without always directly competing with each other for the same roles. 

 “One of the things I talk about in my class is how data is the new oil,” she said. “If you don’t have data, if you don’t have good information, the organization will be at a loss.”

As many organizations and businesses rely more on large amounts of data for making decisions, the ability to analyze, understand and conduct further research becomes a key skill to have as individuals. 

The plan for implementing this initiative is to work research-focused classes into degree plans, then allow opportunities to present or publish the resulting research paper.

Wolverton said, “We have opportunities for presentation and publication at the university already. The student conference has traditionally been put on by the Honors students.”

While students who are not part of the Honors college are allowed to participate, it is not typical to see them do so.

“We don’t typically see a lot of students from business majors presenting, and I would like to see more have the opportunity,” Wolverton said.

The conference is only one way for students to present their research, and the university intends to provide an opportunity for the other: publication.

“We are going to be starting a new journal for student publication,” Wolverton said. “Students who present research at the conference or publish in the journal will receive an Advanced Student Research designation on their transcript.” 

Doing this can have far-reaching benefits for students, both in and out of academia. 

“How cool would that be, to be able to say at a job interview, or in applications for graduate school, that they have published or presented research,” she said.