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RISE@WIU: A Program Inspiring Research Collaborations Between WIU Faculty and Students

March 9, 2015

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MACOMB, IL – A progressive new program in Western Illinois University's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is reinforcing collaborative research between faculty and students.

The Research Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE) program provides students in the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Physics with unique research and academic experiences. It also helps them prepare for graduate and professional schools, as well as providing networking opportunities for future careers.

Development of the program began 18 months ago when WIU natural sciences faculty attended a conference about enhancing undergraduate education through research experiences.

"In this conference we realized that WIU already offers many of the activities and opportunities available at research universities, with the advantage of having an environment where faculty can provide individualized attention to undergraduate students," Andrea Porras-Alfaro (Assistant Professor, biological sciences) said. "With RISE@WIU, we are facilitating student access to existing resources, and we are developing new initiatives to enhance student research and academic success."

The program includes monthly meetings and one-on-one mentoring for students. It also increases recruitment and retention efforts while offering additional opportunities to present at research conferences and develop leadership skills.

Last year, 40 students were part of the program and this year's total is expected to be near 70 students.

"The students develop unique skills by actively conducting research with faculty. They also become part of a learning community, which has been found to increase retention and professional success," Porras-Alfaro said.

The program also offers students a variety of scholarships and professional development activities. Students are recognized at the end of the academic year with the RISE Purple and Gold Awards. These awards are given for achieving RISE milestones, such as presenting at research conferences, winning a grant or award and participating in student clubs or professional societies.

With the support of CAS and generous donations from P. James Nielsen (Biological Sciences faculty emeritus), Margaret and Cecilia Wong (WIU class of 1973) and Frank Rodeffer (WIU class of 1961), RISE@WIU is awarding more than $18,000 in new scholarships this year. This includes research awards, scholarships for traditionally underrepresented students, travel awards to attend conferences, support to cover graduate school applications and four $3,000 scholarships for undergraduate students to conduct research over the summer.

To participate in RISE, students must have at least a 2.8 grade point average and work with a faculty member on a research project.

"The goal of the program is to provide students with the best research, academic and professional opportunities in order to be more competitive in a very demanding market" said Porras-Alfaro.

For more information about the program, contact Porras-Alfaro at or visit

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