Political Science and Economics double major Alexandria Colurciello ’17 spent March 28 at the State Capitol showing what undergraduate research means at Southwestern University. Colurciello was in Austin to represent SU at Texas Undergraduate Research Day, an annual event designed to highlight the positive statewide impact of research conducted by undergraduates. The value of student-led research is well known at Southwestern, where it is a core component of the academic experience.

“When students learn based on their own discoveries, that learning tends to be deeper and more transformational for students,” says Director of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship Julie Sievers.  “Giving students the chance to do authentic work, work driven by real, meaningful questions, can capture their imagination and passion in ways that textbook-based learning rarely can. This is why undergraduate research is considered a ‘high-impact practice’ by educational scholars, and why programs like the SU Inquiry Initiative in STEM, or the focus on using primary sources and current research questions in the humanities, are so important at SU.”

Nominated for the honor by her faculty research advisors, Associate Professor of Political Science Shannon Mariotti and Professor of Economics Dirk Early, Colurciello was selected to represent SU for her original research on a timely public policy issue. In “Equal Opportunity or Legacy of Slavery?: ‘Ban the Box’ Policies Within the American Liberal Tradition,” Colurciello presented her investigation into the impact on incarceration rates of “ban-the-box” policies, which prevent employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history early in the hiring process. Ban-the-box initiatives are currently being debated across the country, as well as in Texas which has seen proponents in its large cities, but resistance in the state legislature.

The exceptional quality of her work in public policy shows that Colurciello is a classic Pirate, with the skills to make professional-level contributions to her dual disciplines as well as the intellectual vigor to take on a challenging, real-world issue. Undergraduate Research Day gave her the chance to share important work on a question of state-level policy with the very people who will legislate it.

“Having the opportunity to participate in Undergraduate Research Day was a huge honor!” Colurciello reported. “Southwestern has always fostered a positive atmosphere for research and I was so excited that I was able to share my work with fellow scholars and the public.”

Undergraduate Research Day shows that educators, research institutions, and employers across the state understand the value that student-led research can bring to an undergraduate experience. The Southwestern University community is proud of our fundamental commitment to undergraduate research, but even more proud of students like Alexandria Colurciello who show in their own accomplishments the wisdom of the investment.

Texas Undergraduate Research Day is coordinated by the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC) and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT) and conducted with the support of the Honorable Kel Seliger, Chairman of the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee, and the Honorable John Zerwas, Chairman of the Texas House Higher Education Committee. Southwestern University thanks these individuals and organizations for their support of higher education in Texas.