Building connections through research: Founding associate director of OURS announced

Jenessa Steele
Jenessa Steele

The newly expanded Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) named Jenessa Steele, professor of psychology, as its founding associate director.

Steele hopes to “foster a love of research, curiosity and connections with students” across campus in her new role at the university.

“In my 13-year history at Radford, I’ve worked with hundreds of students on a wide variety of collaborative research projects,” Steele said. “As associate director of OURS, I’ll promote faculty-student research on a much larger scale. I have the opportunity to connect with faculty and outreach with students across campus.”

Steele will be further assisting the Advanced Research Opportunities (ARO) living-learning community, the Highlander Research Rookies and the Student Engagement Forum, among other responsibilities.

The Highlander Research Rookies begins this fall and will provide select freshmen and sophomores an opportunity to collaborate on research projects with the university’s faculty. In the program’s inaugural year, 15 apprenticeships will be awarded to high-achieving and highly-motivated students, who then will be paired with a faculty mentor and begin research projects starting with the 2018-19 academic year.

Joe Wirgau, director and associate professor of chemistry, said “it is a positive to have the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences be represented in the office to help to build collaborations across campus.”

On a broad level, Steele hopes to expand current OURS offerings, assist students with research and distribute their findings into the field.

I’m excited for Radford University that a broader collection of our community is going to work and interact with Jenessa. She is a brilliant faculty member and person who will help to further OURS and the university.

Joe Wirgau

“Faculty have the opportunity to support student growth in research from the beginning of their academic career to graduation from Radford University,” Steele said. “I look forward to working with the OURS team as we support faculty-student collaborative research efforts on campus, and beyond.”

A freshman ARO student, Morrgan Duncan, is working with Steele’s lab this year. Duncan has already assisted in data collection and will be presenting at a regional psychology conference over spring break.  

“This is a normal story for Radford,” Wirgau said.

Steele said that she treats her lab like family.

“We work through complicated problems together,” she said. “We had an issue last week with a study and we worked out how to fix it.  When you develop a research team that works together to solve a common problem, you begin to feel like an academic family. That’s how you develop a love for research – your curiosity and connections with other people.”

OURS is working in conjunction with Radford University’s new strategic plan to enhance student learning outcomes and other objectives for Radford University students, including public speaking, presentation skills and research opportunities.

Feb 19, 2018
Max Esterhuizen