Developing regional solutions through undergraduate research

Community-based undergraduate researchers join with faculty mentors to explore problems and offer understanding and ideas to make a difference

Undergraduate researcher Noah Drymalski presented at the May 3, 2019, Community-Based Research Symposium and his faculty mentor, Elizabeth Koebele, assistant professor of political science, and community partner Stacey Muse were part of the audience.


5/8/2019 | By: Jane Tors |

Environmental sustainability and helping regional resources such as social services and schools keep pace with population growth were prominent themes in the 2018-19 Community-Based Research program. Through this University of Nevada, Reno program, undergraduate students use research-based methods to address challenges identified by regional governmental and nonprofit organizations. Over the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters, 22 projects were completed by 20 undergraduate students.

"It is a win-win for UNR students and our community because the students get real-world experience doing applied research and our community gets problems solved that otherwise would go unresolved," said Scott Mensing, director of the Undergraduate Research office which coordinates the program.

"Like many nonprofits, we're looking for resources to complement and enhance the work we're doing," said Stacey Muse, executive director of Nevada Volunteers and formerly with the University's Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement.

Muse was interested in better understanding the impact of the Service Enterprise Certification, part of a large-scale effort supported nationally by the Points of Light organization and offered locally through Nevada Volunteers. Service Enterprises are among the top 11% of nonprofits in the country in volunteer management and organizational performance. While statistics like this are available to quantify the program's impact nationally, Muse wanted to better understand the impact and outcomes locally as a means to further develop the program which, as she says, has a lot of potential.

It is this kind of question that undergraduate students selected to the program frame as a research project. They do so with the support of a research award and the mentorship of a faculty member.

"I especially appreciate that there is mentorship of faculty, so there is guidance in place," said Muse.

Each fall and spring semester the Community-Based Research program concludes with a symposium at which the students present their findings to representatives of the partner organizations and their faculty mentors.

The Spring 2019 Community-Based Researchers and their projects were:

  • Michelle Baker, Reynolds School of Journalism, "Respite Care Research" with JUSTin Hope Foundation, faculty mentor Sheila Peuchaud,
  • Noah Drymalski, College of Liberal Arts, "Nevada Volunteers: Implementation of Service Enterprise Training" with Nevada Volunteers, faculty mentor Elizabeth Koebele,
  • Sierra Jickling, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Zone of Influence: Mining Operations and Water Rights" with Great Basin Resource Watch, faculty mentor Catherine Berry,
  • Aina Katsikas, College of Business, "Economic Analysis of Cost Drivers for Washoe County Detention Center Expenditures" with Washoe County, faculty mentor Mehmet Tosun,
  • Alexis Lyken, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Making Connections-Truckee River Walk" with City of Reno, faculty mentor Scott Kelley,
  • Emily MacDiarmid, Reynolds School of Journalism, "City of Reno: The Local Arts Community (Phase 1)" with City of Reno Arts, Culture & Events Office, faculty mentor Ezequiel Korin,
  • Cory Rogaczewski, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Rain on Snow Flooding in the Truckee Meadows Since 1950: A Case Study of Hydrology and Disaster Response to Aid in Mitigating Future Impacts" with City of Reno, faculty mentor Adrian Harpold,
  • Blake Sieck, College of Science, "Barley Straw to Prevent Algae Growth" with City of Reno, faculty mentor Ruth Gault,
  • Nicholas Wolfram, College of Liberal Arts, "Service Fees Efficiency" with City of Reno Office of Revitalization, College of Liberal Arts, faculty mentor Jeremy Gelman.

The Fall 2018 Community-Based Researchers and their projects were:

  • Miguel Aguilera, College of Science, "Reno Air Quality in the Past 30 Years" with the City of Reno, faculty mentor Scott Kelley,
  • Morgan Belli, College of Liberal Arts, "Successful Aging In The City of Reno: Analysis and Suggestions for Improvement" with the City of Reno, faculty mentor Marta Elliott,
  • Alison Cramer, College of Science, "The Effects of Pontederia Cordata on Water Quality in Virginia Lake" with the City of Reno, faculty mentor Ronald Breitmeyer,
  • Gianni Giuliano, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Operations Water Efficiency" with the City of Reno, faculty mentor Stephanie McAfee,
  • Kalin Ingstad, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Transitioning to 100% Residential Renewable Energy in Reno" with the Sierra Club, faculty mentor Elizabeth Koebele,
  • Aina Katsikas, College of Business, "Evaluation of Citizen Preferences in Washoe County" with Washoe County, faculty mentor Mehmet Tosun,
  • Sarah Ko, College of Science, "Recharging STEM Education in Nevada" with Envirolution, faculty mentor Scott Kelley,Alexis Lyken, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Measuring Sustainability" with Nevada Green Institute, faculty mentor Scott Kelley,
  • Miranda Montes, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Understanding Nevada's Natural Gas" with Sierra Club, faculty mentor Elizabeth Koebele,
  • Cory Rogaczewski, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Rain-on-snow Flooding in the Truckee Meadows" with the City of Reno, faculty mentor Adrian Harpold,
  • Natalie Sheridan, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, "Habitat Conservation to Support Urban Biodiversity & Eradicate Invasive Species" with the City of Reno, faculty mentor Professor Scott Kelley,
  • Hayden Smith, College of Science, "A Growing Problem: Student Population Growth in Carson City" with the Carson City School District, faculty mentor Scott Kelley.

Undergraduate Research is part of Research & Innovation. For more information about Undergraduate Research programs and resources, visit unr.edu/undergradresearch.

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