Launching Elevate Research with support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund

When the mission and goals of higher education institutions and corporate/foundation donors align, new opportunities can arise to advance and support the communities that they both are committed to serving. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund envisions “a world in which every member of those communities feels they belong” and it is this vision that paired the organization with Radford University.

With a grant from the duPont Fund, Radford launched the Elevate Research program in 2021 with the goal of closing the opportunity and access gap for minoritized, first generation, non-traditional and low-income students.

“We are so grateful for the Jessie Ball duPont Fund for supporting this program,” says Jeanne Mekolichick, Ph.D., Radford University’s associate provost for research, faculty success and strategic initiatives. “Elevate Research addresses several strategic priorities we aim to advance at Radford University including expanded and equitable access to undergraduate research experiences; increasing leadership opportunities in the classroom for persons identifying as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC); closing equity gaps in retention and graduation rates; and helping faculty and students map career-readiness competencies to the benefits of engaging in undergraduate research, scholarship and creative inquiry to help them leverage their experiences for their next steps.”

Through the program, Radford faculty receive professional development to implement course-based research experiences (CUREs) in classes with a preference for providing these opportunities for first- and second-year students. Data that Radford has compiled since 2014 indicates that students across all spectrums who participate in CUREs are retained at higher rates than students who do not participate in a CURE.

The $102,000 competitive grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund was awarded to Radford University based on the duPont Fund’s equitable access objectives for higher education institutions, which includes “increasing retention and/or graduation rates of first-generation and low-income students at private and public universities and providing low-income and first-generation youth and their families with practical college access tools that lead to college enrollment.” The grant supports Elevate’s faculty and student research mentors and provides funds for materials and supplies.

The Elevate Research program welcomed 10 research faculty fellows representing all six of Radford’s academic colleges across eight departments in the first cohort. The faculty implemented CUREs in both face-to-face and online courses on Radford’s main campus and the RUC site. Strategically selected student research mentors were paired with participating faculty to provide additional support for both faculty and students. The program commenced with 388 students enrolled in the courses with undergraduate research, scholarship and creative inquiry embedded. In this inaugural group of students, 34 percent of the students self-identify as BIPOC students, and 92 percent of the students who enrolled in these courses returned to Radford University for spring semester 2022. 

“We are thrilled with the successes of the program thus far. We have already exceeded program goals with the number of students enrolled in CUREs courses for the two-year period. We are grateful to have engaged such an enthusiastic group of faculty from across the institution in the first year, and supported a talented group of Elevate Research student mentors. We are currently recruiting faculty for the second year,” says Mekolichick.

About the Jessie Ball duPont Fund

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund has awarded Radford University grants throughout the years that generously support academic and research excellence. The duPont Fund is a private foundation that works to expand access to opportunity and create inclusive growth for the people, organizations and communities that Jessie Ball duPont knew and loved. The foundation "envisions a world in which every member of those communities feels they belong, and is engaged in shaping the future of their community."