UK Libraries Initiatives Advance Research, Scholarship for UK Undergraduates

photo of Learning Lab intern in white gloves working with collection at UK Libraries
Interns in the Special Collections Research Center Learning Lab get to work with rare collections related to areas of interest in their own studies.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 9, 2021) — As the end of the spring semester draws near, University of Kentucky Libraries would like to remind undergraduate students about two special opportunities available annually through the libraries to help showcase and enhance their research, including the Learning Lab Internship and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship.

"At the University of Kentucky, we want to provide every undergraduate student the opportunity to engage in meaningful and impactful research and scholarship opportunities," Dean of UK Libraries Doug Way said. "In the Libraries we support undergraduate researchers and scholars through our faculty, collections and services. We also recognize students’ scholarly accomplishments through the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship, and we provide students with the opportunity to develop research skills by working with primary resources as part of our Learning Lab."

The 2021-2022 Learning Lab Internships are a one-of-a-kind paid research opportunity at the University of Kentucky for undergraduate students through UK Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. A specialized program created to enhance students’ skills in research, critical thought and analysis by working with primary resources on a topic of interest, this paid internship targets outstanding undergraduate students looking to enhance their studies through training in archival methods and theory.

“The Learning Lab program produces curious scholars and researchers from any discipline,” UK Libraries undergraduate research archivist Carol Street said. “One of the greatest outcomes from the program is the confidence each student feels after taking a research project from conception to dissemination. Knowing they can complete a difficult project like this gives them a confident mindset to take on bigger challenges, whether it’s their senior thesis, graduate school, medical school or any of life’s challenges.”

Each year, Learning Lab Interns are accepted to present their research at conferences across the United States and around the world. Seven students from the 2018-2019 cohort presented at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WorldCUR) in Germany in May 2019. All students from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 cohorts were accepted to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

“Getting the opportunity to interact with new materials firsthand is incredibly special, and research can often be more thorough or nuanced when one has had this unique chance to see and hold everything in the collection that they want,” said Learning Lab intern Emily Keaton.

Applications for 2021-2022 UK Libraries Undergraduate Learning Lab Internships are being accepted now through Sunday, May 9.

To apply, students are asked to discuss their interest in or how they would pursue research using a collection of their choice from the list of available projects, which covers topics ranging from social work and finance to the humanities and environmental sciences.  

More information on the Learning Lab program and the application process can be found through UK Libraries’ student jobs website.

The Special Collections Research Center at UK Libraries sustains the Commonwealth’s memory and serves as the essential bridge between past, present and future. By preserving materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of Kentucky, the center provides rich opportunities for students to expand their worldview and enhance their critical thinking skills. Special Collections Research Center materials are used by scholars worldwide to advance original research and pioneer creative approaches to scholarship. UK Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center is the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection, the John G. Heyburn Initiative and ExploreUK.

The UK Libraries Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship is open to UK undergraduates from all disciplines who conducted research between the Fall 2019 and Spring 2021 semesters.

Established in 2016, this $1,000 award recognizes and celebrates exceptional, original scholarship and research by students whose projects make substantive and creative use of library collections, services or resources. The award is offered for research projects in two separate categories, traditional paper/scholarship and digital methodologies, which means two students have the opportunity to receive the cash prize each year.

“The libraries support every phase of undergraduate research at UK, and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship is how we celebrate extraordinary work,” said Street, chair of the award selection committee.

Submissions for the 2021 UK Libraries Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate are being accepted now through Friday, April 23.

More information about the application timeline and materials, eligibility and evaluation criteria can be found through the Dean’s Award website.

As the premier research library in the Commonwealth, UK Libraries provides ever-expanding access to quality information resources, teaching and learning programs and services, and excellent learning spaces. More information about UK Libraries can be found on its website.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.