Message from the University Librarian
SPIRIT Program Helps Faculty Meet NSF Funding Goals
In 1999, the SPIRIT (School Partnerships in Research and Information Technology) program was founded as one way for the UCI Libraries to reach out to the community and enrich the lives of area junior high and high school students. Nearly 8,000 students from local school districts such as Santa Ana and Compton, whose students are underrepresented in the UC system, have participated in the program over the last nine years. Through SPIRIT, students participate in technology-enhanced research sessions that support subjects taught in their K-12 curriculum. They travel to UCI for a day to learn research methods in a university environment, followed by an experiential learning activity complementing the morning library instruction. Many of the students tell us this experience has prompted them, for the first time, to consider going to college and has encouraged others to set acceptance to UCI as their goal.
For the past five years, SPIRIT has also played an active role in the National Science Foundation FOCUS grant to UCI. FOCUS programs connect UCI faculty and students to partner with K-12 schools in order to strengthen students’ comprehension and achievement in science and mathematics.Research proposals to the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies must include evidence of the research proposal’s broader impact on the community in addition to its intellectual merits. Collaboration with the UCI Libraries’ SPIRIT program is a convenient and effective way to address this issue.
Recently, SPIRIT has been providing support to faculty researchers in obtaining competitive grants. Research proposals to the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies must include evidence of the research proposal’s broader impact on the community in addition to its intellectual merits. Collaboration with the UCI Libraries’ SPIRIT program is a convenient and effective way to address this issue. We have been collaborating with Dr. Zuzanna Siwy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, to provide an effective way to incorporate this kind of community outreach into her NSF Career Award. SPIRIT has integrated her research activities into the teaching of science to middle and high school students and their teachers. In the past year alone, more than 200 students and 15 teachers have passed through the Libraries and Dr. Siwy’s lab to learn about nanotechnology, an emerging and important field of scientific research.
Through the SPIRIT program, students have been given a unique opportunity to acquire lifelong learning and research skills to better prepare them for higher education, citizenship, and careers. We are eager to form more partnerships with faculty for campuswide programs like FOCUS, or individual research projects like Dr. Siwy’s.
Gerald J. Munoff