Under New Management
Meet the new leaders of the Office of Undergraduate Research and learn about their vision for the department.
By Caleb White, DASA Marketing intern
NC State’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) works to promote discovery, inquiry, scholarship and creativity based opportunities through mentored research experiences. The department is under new leadership this year, and with that new leadership comes a new vision for undergraduate research at NC State.
Catherine Showalter is the new associate director and Brittany Valentine is the new university program coordinator. Both were hired this summer, and they are already helping the Pack achieve their research goals.
Showalter holds a Ph.D. in linguistics with a specialization in second language phonology, and for the past few years has been an assistant teaching professor for English as a second language courses. Given the nature of linguistic research, she’s interacted with scholars from various fields and completed research using myriad methods.
“I gained an appreciation for how different fields and individuals within them approach problems and carry out research,” Showalter said. “Specifically, I enjoy how people learn the research process and how it provides a joy of learning that comes from creativity, critical thinking processes and development of other skills. During my graduate studies, I was able to work in an office of undergraduate research and appreciated how mentors and mentees worked together to achieve goals, as well as how these research experiences supported both students’ development — academically and personally — and scholars’ development. The OUR is a perfect place to blend all of my interests and support students and faculty.”
Valentine’s primary responsibility as assistant director is supporting students with research experiences, which means providing an opportunity for a research experience to any student who wants it. She helps students find opportunities, funding and programming (currently available through the office or campus stakeholders and creating new ones), assists with any issues or triumphs in the mentor experience, and facilitates dissemination opportunities on campus or at the state or national level. She is also available to assist mentors with their roles and responsibilities in fostering mentees and completing research.
“The long-term goal that I have is to build capacity through mentors and opportunities in order to provide all students who want to partake in research the opportunity to do so,” Showalter said. “One of my interests in undergraduate research is the mentor-mentee relationship; building quality — and quantity — of opportunities begins with mentors who feel confident in supporting researchers. Coming from the humanities, an often underrepresented area in undergraduate research programs, I also want to build out an understanding of what research looks like in different fields and steps of the process. This can provide insights to support researchers across the university. Finally, I’d like to develop new and sustainable opportunities that provide a space where students from any and all backgrounds and life experiences can find their research bubble and feel supported in order to accomplish their goals.”
According to Showalter, research opportunities can help improve students’ GPAs and can have a positive impact on work experience later on in life.
“We aren’t just here to help you find opportunities specifically funded or run by the office,” Showalter said. “We can help students connect with department- or college-specific opportunities, state opportunities, national opportunities and professional organization opportunities. If you have a vision or want to find a research opportunity, we will work to connect you with one!”
Valentine was born and raised in Connecticut, but North Carolina became her new home as she continued her education at Barton College, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in sports management. As a former teacher at Ravenscroft School, she worked with third, fourth and fifth grade students guiding them through academic challenges. While it was a rewarding experience, she decided she wanted to pursue working in higher education.
In her new role as program coordinator with the OUR, she will oversee the Federal Work Study Research Assistant Program, research award financials, travel funding, symposium registration, and scheduling information sessions, in addition to general office duties.
“I hope to be the cheerleader for students as they grow and learn from their research opportunities,” Valentine said. “OUR teaches students the balance of collaborative and individual work, allows them to hone in on what they are passionate about and provides students with an experience that helps prepare them for future career opportunities.”
Valentine encourages students to stop by and ask plenty of questions as they explore all the opportunities OUR offers.
“It has really boosted the spirits of the OUR office to have in-person interaction again,” Valentine said. “We thoroughly enjoy having students walk through the door and are always greeted with a smile — behind the mask, of course. The OUR Ambassadors are also ready to help out and be of assistance in-person or virtually.”
Learn more about the OUR and its upcoming events and opportunities on their website.