June 14, 2021 Lauri Stone

Bringing Science REU Costs Down… One Automated Click at a Time

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in study areas often funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The REU summer programs famously recruits underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) from institutions that offers opportunities to conduct research alongside scientists and peers, often one-on-one.

It’s a rare opportunity. These programs take a student passionate about science who has a thirst for learning more, and immerses them deeply into the world of science over several weeks in the summer. These future scientists are provided an unforgettable experience that will carry them through the rest of their educational endeavors and future careers.

In short, the REU and programs like them are a true gift. But as wonderful as these programs are, they are also a  real labor of love for administrators and site staff. The application process is lengthy, cumbersome, and time-consuming with hundreds of applicant submissions and accompanying documents to sort through and organize.

Faculty undergo heavy recruitment of high school and undergraduate students, spending countless hours sorting through the academic hopefuls who apply for the summer research programs through the university website. Aside from the online application, the program generally requires between one and three letters of reference, a transcript, up to two essays, a letter of interest, a resume, a biographical form, or some combination of all of the above There’s screening, reviewing, and interviewing applicants by the scores. It is an exhaustive process cycle after cycle.

The application platforms are often simple, if not antiquated systems having little or no automation capabilities. With the sheer volume of application submissions versus the available number of seats in any given REU, this translates to a massive amount of manual processes that are outdated and lacking automation through technology.

There are some software forms available to help faculty and staff with this tedious process but none we’ve seen truly automate the processes. Except for one…

 

The REUApp

This application was created when a technologist at an ivy league university, noticed the vast amount of work required of administrators overseeing their REU programs. The lack of technology and the gaping holes in the various processes intrigued this developer. He noticed how the continuous delays, the lapses in communication, many redundancies, incomplete submissions causing more delays, dropped communication entirely and the sheer frustration really was an unfortunate waste of time and missed star recruits. He wondered why there had not been a technical solution designed to ease up the amount of time and labor for such a wonderful opportunity for both aspiring students and for the institution to attract top talent.

Meet the REUApp. This software streamlines the recruiting and application process by automated modules that are designed for each of the user groups involved in the process, including a reviewer module. There are tickler/reminder systems in place, templates, rating systems, and ways to share information- or not – among other participating reviewers.

 

The Student Module 

This module allows the student to complete the application in one sitting or save the work and complete in shifts with the app’s flexible data entry. The student can check the status of their application online thus eliminating the need for them to reach out and inquire to the college or university. They can also keep track of the various REU programs to whom they are applying. They can request recommendations and have all of the accompanying documents rounded up for submission in one tidy place with reminder notifications to meet deadlines and to submit the forms with complete accuracy.

 

The Recommender Module

This secure and efficient one step recommendation process reduces time and eliminates frustration for students and recommenders. The letters can be submitted privately online and also has automated reminders. Recommenders are busy. This tool creates a quick and easy way for the student to receive the recommendation letter.

 

The Faculty/Reviewer Module

This module enables auto assignment of students along with the option to provide detailed reviews. The data access is secure, it is multi-platform with areas for detailed commenting. This keeps each applicant’s submission details in one convenient place with review systems and customizable filters. Reviewers can download and print pdf files of the applicant of their choice and keep communication files and templates for repeated and future use.

 

The Program/Admin Module

No more going back and forth with IT and the webmaster to set up a portal each year. This application gets everything up and going fast with no support needed from IT because it is cloud-based with multi-level configurations, reporting, and data integration. It even has an auto-pilot mode. There are no complicated licensing fees nor long-term contracts and the app is competitively priced.

So while many REU administrators  believe they have all the tools they need to support their efforts actually, the software often used are just forms or templates. The agency behind the development of the REUApp have worked with higher education institutions for nearly 15 years and can identify the pain points and bottle-neck areas of many processes thus bringing relief with innovative technology based on experience and strategies.

If your institution has an REU program and you would like to learn more about the app, reach out to awared-winning Sanmita for a demo today. Or feel free to schedule a demo by accessing our calendar here.

Lauri Stone

Lauri Stone is Director of Client Relations at Sanmita, Inc., a web design and development firm offering strategy, design, and technology services to higher education, government, and nonprofit entities. She comes to Sanmita with over 25 years of experience in media marketing and advertising and is originally from Los Angeles, California.