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A Pandemic-Resilient CURE Shifts Community College Students From Knowledge Consumers to Authentic Knowledge Producers

Journal of College Science Teaching—Fall 2023 (Volume 52, Issue 7)

By Thomas M. Onorato, Nathalie Oulhen, Gerardo Reyes, Stephany Foster, Cosmo A. Pieplow, Janet E. Rollins, Jacqueline A. Brashears, Claudette Davis, Ian Alberts, Ingrid D. Veras, and Gary M. Wessel

Academic food security aims to provide students with sufficient access to knowledge (one key academic nutrient) in order to limit intellectual hunger. In this analogy, the student is seen as a consumer of knowledge. Academic food sovereignty, on the other hand, aims to shift the focus from student knowledge consumership to student knowledge producership. Our efforts to democratize authentic undergraduate research experiences and our computational biology approach to the discovery and analysis of sea star ovarian gene expression aim to shift the paradigm to sustainably realize “academic food sovereignty.” Essential for this paradigm shift is the realization that faculty of community colleges and primarily undergraduate institutions can be valued in equal partnership with research-intensive institutions. In this article, we report how a genuine, sustainable inter-institutional partnership formed; developed into a community-college centric, authentic course-based undergraduate research experience (aCURE); and evolved into a pandemic-resilient small tri-institutional networked aCURE. Qualitative and quantitative data on the impacts of our efforts are presented, and the broader impacts of this academic bridging and learner-autonomy-respecting bidirectional partnership are discussed. Sustainability is essential for “academic food sovereignty,” and we emphasize the many legs of the proverbial stool for stability in the future.
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