Undergraduate Research Prepares Students Right

To date, the Emerson Challenge has reached 65% of goal – just slightly ahead of schedule on our way to a total $750,000 by October 2015.

Susan '88 and Robert '88 Appleby have helped make that success a reality. Hear why they believe that supporting undergraduate research at RIT is so important.

It's been over 25 years since my husband Bob and I graduated from RIT, yet coming back to campus still feels like coming home. After RIT, we both pursued advanced degrees from other institutions, but RIT continues to hold the strongest place in our hearts. We were both drawn to RIT by the unique majors that RIT offered in the fields of science and engineering. Now looking back, however, we recognize that it was RIT's commitment to rigorous undergraduate education across all fields that laid the groundwork for the success that we both later achieved.

A staple of RIT's approach to education has always been a solid grounding in real-world problem solving. Sitting in classrooms alone, even in the most advanced classes, does not adequately prepare anyone for a career as a scientist or engineer. Bob and I both benefited from enriching co-op experiences where we learned to apply our classroom studies in industry settings. Yet, at the time, there were fewer opportunities for students, like myself, who were interested in more academic careers. It is for this reason that we have been delighted to see undergraduate research blossom at RIT in the years since we have graduated. The undergraduate research program at RIT provides students with the opportunity to experience the scientific method outside of a structured classroom and the chance to nurture an interest in research science. As an RIT alum who went on to receive a Ph.D. in biological research, I know that early experiences such as these can make all the difference.

Because RIT has given us so much, over the years we have looked for ways to give back. When we heard about the Emerson Foundation Challenge—and its goal of expanding undergraduate research on a base of permanent funding—we knew that this was something we wanted to be a part of. We hope that the Challenge will enable many more students to pursue a passion for research whatever their career goals may be.