- by Mack the Knight
Newburgh Armory Unity Center

For many of us, summer is a time to take a step back from academia. We intend to hike, to read, and to spend quality time with family – but by August, screen time reports are up to five hours a day and campus is calling us home. 

Well, the Mount has a more exciting opportunity for you this summer. Choose furthering your education as your summer job this year by participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE).

What is SURE?

SURE offers students the opportunity to spend 5 or 10 weeks on campus during the summer working one-on-one with a Mount professor on a topic of their choosing. You'll immerse yourself in your research for 20 hours a week (leaving plenty of room for down-time and/or even another part-time job), receive free on-campus housing and a stipend, as well as your research experience – finally getting paid to learn instead of the other way around!

Why spend your summer working on a research project?

You mean other than the free on-campus housing? And the opportunity to take full advantage of your Mount education and bring yourself one step closer to your dream career goals? If you need to hear more, read on for the firsthand account of someone who completed the program!

Q&A with Leila Saleh on participating in SURE

Leila Saleh, member of the Class of 2021, participated in SURE last summer with her project "'Knight Lights': Paving the Way for Newburgh Community Literacy Experiences."

Project Details

Saleh's SURE project incorporated the extensive analysis of the Mount Saint Mary College teacher candidate (TC) involvement with the Newburgh Armory Unity Center (NAUC). The NAUC includes a learning community of cross-grade children, parents, community volunteers, teacher experts in a variety of fields, coaches, high school students, college faculty, nursing students, and teacher candidates in training who together are redefining a cultural model in Newburgh. Teacher candidates volunteer their time on Saturday mornings for various literacy programs with Newburgh elementary students.

She worked with fellow Mount researcher Toriana Tabasco alongside Education professors Janine Bixler and Rebecca Norman to analyze the spring and fall 2019 program data of its current literacy programs in an effort to create fieldwork opportunities for semesters to come.

Here's Saleh's insight into the experience:

Why did you decide to participate in SURE?
I decided to participate in SURE to learn more about the college community. Being that I am seeking certifications in Early Childhood, Childhood, and Special Education, I spent numerous Saturday mornings at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center for fieldwork credits. I was always intrigued by the community that gathered -- despite the early morning hours, everyone entered the armory with a smile on their face and the desire to enrich their learning. I knew that I wanted to learn more about the armory and make my mark on the community, so this SURE project was perfect for me!

How did the SURE program impact your research skills and/or your time in the classroom during the regular academic year?
The SURE program helped me learn how to narrow my searches and focus on certain topics that are of interest to me and apply to the project as a whole. The research aspect (searching databases and presenting findings to the professors) also allowed me to see if my sources were relevant or not. I enjoyed the collaborative conversations we had after we spent the week looking for sources.

In terms of the SURE program's impact during the regular academic year, I found it beneficial to my student teaching experience that I completed in the Fall 2020 semester. I was able to present what I learned about Google Meet and Google Classroom to my cooperating teachers and implement them into the hybrid-learning experience in the 1st and 6th grade classrooms I taught in.

What was your favorite part of the SURE program?
My favorite part of the SURE program was definitely the Saturday morning literacy sessions with the children from Newburgh. Although we were unable to physically be together, I truly enjoyed being able to see the children over Google Meet. Each child brought so much joy and imagination to each session! We would read a book to the students and then complete an activity that went along with the text. The children were always engaged and happy to be working with "their college students," aka Toriana and I!

What would you say to encourage a student who is on the fence about participating in SURE?
To any student who is on the fence about participating in SURE, I would tell them that there is nothing to fear! I contemplated applying to the SURE program for quite some time, but I am happy that I decided to and got to be a part of the program. I will cherish the connections I made with my professors and peers over the summer! There is something for everyone to learn from SURE, so don't be afraid to pursue your interests!

Did you feel like you were missing out on your summer break at all by participating in SURE?
I wouldn't say that I felt as if I was missing out. The hours we participated in the project were fair. I was able to manage the SURE project and work full time, so there's definitely time for typical summer activities in between! Additionally, I feel that collaborating closely with the professors about weekly expectations helped. Once I knew what we were working on during the week, I was able to manage my time wisely. 

So there you have it!

The highlight of your summer doesn't have to be a TikTok video gone viral, or sussing out pre-teens in Among Us until the server kicks you one too many times. Be a part of something bigger this summer by applying for a spot in the SURE program.

Here is a list of the current faculty research proposals – find what sparks your interest. Follow this link to learn more about SURE.

This blog is just the first in a series that will dive into various Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences. Stay tuned for Katie Murray's "Live Life Cleaner, Make It Greener" project, as well as more motivation to get you off the couch and into the research.

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