The mission of North Park University is to prepare students for lives of significance and service through education in the liberal arts, professional studies, and theology. Located in Chicago’s diverse community of Albany Park, North Park works to engage the neighborhood and city in ways that enrich the life of the campus and provide the opportunity for connection to the diverse people of Chicago. As part of this overall mission, North Park University developed the North Park Research Experience for Summer Students (NPRESS) program in 2015.
The NPRESS program provides opportunities for North Park students to conduct research with a North Park faculty mentor for eight weeks over the summer. A grant from the Washington Square Health Foundation helped support seven student researchers during the summer of 2017. Students receive a stipend and are given the opportunity to live on campus, making it possible for them to focus solely on their research. Research topics for NPRESS come from a variety of disciplines, including the physical sciences, social sciences, engineering, humanities, health sciences, business, and theology. This unique interdisciplinary cohort allows students to learn research methods from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.
One NPRESS student researcher expressed the benefits of the NPRESS model in this statement, “Throughout the summer, we all faced many challenges, such as how we were going to interpret the data to get the best results, or how to move forward after getting results that were statistically not significant. Having the support of our individual mentors, and the professors from other majors, helped us overcome those walls,” she said.
North Park faculty members and NPRESS co-directors Dr. Rajkumar Boaz Johnson and Dr. Aaron Kaestner developed the program to offer undergraduate students a comprehensive and hands-on learning experience, encompassing research, writing, and presenting. “NPRESS gives students the full experience as an undergraduate while also providing students a sense of graduate-level research,” said Johnson. In addition to their research work, students engaged in field trips and outings together that highlighted each other’s work or emphasized current social and health related issues within Chicago.
Research conducted during NPRESS adds to the academic and professional knowledge base in a variety of fields, and prepares students to be future leaders researchers, and educators in nursing, exercise science, medicine, public health, and business.