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For Potential Emerging Scholars Mentors

The Emerging Scholars program allows first-year students to use their Federal Work Study funds for positions as undergraduate research assistants for faculty and research staff at KU.  The goal of this initiative is to involve low-income students in the research and creative process early on in their time at KU. This early exposure to research fosters a valuable academic experience for students.

Research mentors interested in mentoring an Emerging Scholar can submit a job description online.  Here is how the job placement process works:

  1. Potential mentors submit job descriptions for the Fall 2021-Spring 2022 academic year by April 30, 2021
  2. Students applying to the Emerging Scholars Program will rank which positions they are most interested in, and the Center will place students into positions based on student interest over the summer. 
  3. If matched with a student, the mentor will attend a virtual orientation to the Emerging Scholars Program in August to meet the student and make sure it is a good fit.  If so, the mentor will then orient and mentor the student in the research project throughout the academic year (Fall 2020-Spring 2021). 

Research mentors should have enough work for a student to work between 4 to 7 hours/week.  There is no cost to the mentor or academic department for the student's wage, as that will be covered through the student's Federal Work Study award and the Center for Undergraduate Research.

For the 2021-2022 school year, Emerging Scholars positions could be in-person or remote, depending on mentor and student preferences.  All positions that are on-campus should comply with the current COVID-19 safety protocols.  Mentors can indicate on the job description form whether the position would be remote, in-person, or either so that students have a better idea what they are signing up for.

Questions about the Emerging Scholars Program? 

Writing a Job Description

Your project should be designed to be completed by an Emerging Scholar working on the project around 4 to 7 hours per week during the academic year (Fall 2021-Spring 2022). It can be part of a larger project, a pilot project, or be designed to provide preliminary data for future research or creative projects.  While some tasks performed by Emerging Scholars may be fairly basic, the idea is that the student is included in the intellectual work of research; Emerging Scholar positions should move students towards this level of intellectual engagement over the course of the year.

To submit a job description, fill out the Emerging Scholar Job Description Form.  Keep in mind that most Emerging Scholars will have no research experience prior to entering the program, so tasks should be at an entry-level and the description should be written in accessible language.

Tips for writing job descriptions

Based on previous experience, here are some tips for writing a good job description.  The goal is to make these job descriptions accessible and exciting to potential Emerging Scholars, yet at the same time we also want to make sure that the description is specific enough so the student understands the work that would be involved and would be a good fit for your position.
  • Use simple language: To appeal to the typical student applying for this program, write your job description as you would a TED talk: avoid jargon, keep it simple, and emphasize the broad appeal and value of your project.
  • Describe the nature of the work: Try to give the student a clear picture of the type of work that they would be doing in this position.  As much as possible, we want the student to understand what they are getting into to make sure this position is a good fit.  Provide specific details about the tasks that the student would do as well as the general dispositions that would make a student well-suited toward a position.  Examples include:
    • Ceramics: "Tasks will begin with mixing clay and glazes, recording and organizing test results such as working properties, texture and color of materials. Depending on the method of production the student will learn various mold-making and casting processes, glazing and/or painting, kiln loading, and will be expected to assist in the packing and shipping of artwork to out-of-state exhibitions. Other tasks will include maintaining an organized workspace and assisting with moving and photographing work. Due to the nature of my work many tasks are repetitive and hands-on. You will get dirty."
    • History: "The research assistant will find appropriate documents by combing online sites and going through the stacks in the library; copy or transcribe the documents, highlighting the best parts; take down all bibliographic information (including potential copyright issues); and file them, either through Dropbox or with a program called EndNote.  Applicants should be interested in history, curious, enjoy detective work, organized, an excellent reader, and detail oriented. Patience also helps, since the process is a little like digging for gold -- you don't always find it."
  • Clearly state deal-breakers: Make sure you clearly state any scheduling requirements or qualifications that would be a deal-breaker for a student to succeed in your position, such as that they need to be available for 3-hour blocks of time during the day; we don't want a student signing up for a position that won't work for them.  Keep in mind that typical students applying for this program have little background in your discipline, so try to keep the baseline qualifications to a minimum and include language that would make your project seem approachable to a first-year student.  One example:
    • Biology: "The ideal student for this project is excited to learn about evolutionary biology and animal behavior.  The student will need to have a set schedule each week, though the exact schedule is flexible. The student must be available during regular working hours for at least four two-hour blocks a week, but fewer, longer blocks are good as well.  The student must have attention to detail, be organized and be willing to ask questions.  The student will need to do some problem solving and troubleshooting because the experiments to be done have never done before.  The experiments are not technically difficult, but may require some thought, as well as trial and error, to be executed properly.  The student will need to be persistent and not easily discouraged.   This project does not require any field specific knowledge or experience.  All that is needed is a willingness to try."

Example job descriptions

Brainstorming ideas for student positions

While having students work as research assistants is common in some disciplines, in others it may take some creative thinking to think of ways that an undergraduate might assist you on your own research/creative work.  If you're looking for inspiration, you might browse jobs from past years and look through this document with example tasks that Emerging Scholars might do (pdf).  To get ideas about what types of tasks an undergraduate might do as an Emerging Scholar, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there elements of your research that would require relatively few skills to get started, but would benefit from lots of hands?
  • Do you have any side-projects to your research that a student could take on?  If the project takes off, it would contribute to your research, but if it doesn’t, it wouldn’t negatively affect your research.
  • Are there parts of your research that you could delegate to students?
  • What checks could you bring into the process to ensure that the student contributions are of high quality?
Mentors can also email Nikki Perry, Assistant Director with KU's Center for Undergraduate Research, to schedule a time to brainstorm ideas for job descriptions for the Emerging Scholars Program.

Mentor Responsibilities

Once you are matched with a student, we ask that you orient the student to the project and provide training. While you may have a graduate student or research assistant working with the Emerging Scholar student on a day to day basis, the faculty member is expected to assume the primary responsibility for ensuring that the student has a high quality experience.

Mentoring an Emerging Scholar student includes:

  • Schedule their time and provide around 4 to 7 hours of work each week
  • Orient them to the research project, including any training related to safety, technology, and responsible conduct of research
  • Provide background readings and discuss the development of the current project
  • Include them in research group meetings, if applicable
  • Meet with them on a weekly basis to discuss their progress and performance on the project
  • Engage them in conversations about their current academic experiences and their career interests
  • Communicate any concerns you have about your student with the Center so we can follow up and get them connected with resources
  • Assist the Center in assessing student progress, as needed.

Mentor Eligibility

All KU faculty are eligible to mentor students through the Emerging Scholars Program, as are many KU employees who are actively conducting research through their role at KU (research scientists, academic staff, etc.).  Research staff should get permission from their supervisor/PI before submitting a job description.  We would like to have a diverse set of positions available (sciences, professional schools, arts, etc...) for students, so we encourage people from all departments to submit a job description.  Please email us at if you have a question about your eligibility as a mentor.  Though graduate students may end up working with students, they are not eligible to apply to be the primary mentor of an Emerging Scholar.

Emerging Scholars Mentor Job Descriptions

Mentor deadline for 2021-2022: April 30, 2021

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