Legacy of SaP: Celebrating 10 years of the Macquarie Undergraduate Research Internship (MURI)
The Macquarie Undergraduate Research Internship (MURI) takes advantage of the Students as Partners (SaP) model to sustain the aspiration of students from equity backgrounds by building social academic capital, a sense of belonging, and increased student capacities through paid professional and academic research experiences on campus.
2020 marks a decade of this student-run, student-driven, student-sustained program and celebrates 10 years of equity student excellence. In celebration of its success, current student partners, Ali Asgher Ali (outgoing Program Coordinator), Angelica Ojinnaka (incoming Program Coordinator), and Angel Kalaimani (Program Facilitator) share their Partnership experiences at Macquarie University.
As I reflect on my university experiences over the five years of undergraduate and post-graduate training at Macquarie University, I recall my most memorable experiences being outside the typical classroom learning environment.
Especially where my increased capacity, engagement, and empowerment is concerned, initiatives like MURI were essential in introducing and inviting students like me to spaces where we are actively excluded from.
The importance of having such equity-centric programs to empower the student body and engage with advocacy cannot be denied. Specifically, the adoption of the SaP model by MURI, which allowed early-stage and ongoing support from my peers and colleagues, has been crucial to both mine and the program’s success.
By increasing our capacity for professional engagement and complementing the University’s graduate capabilities, the SaP model empowered me as a member of the MURI community by allowing me to engage with its legacy of care and student engagement.
MURI’s active network and returning students as staff allows current Partners to contact “ancestor” Partners for guidance and mentorship which creates another layer of community support within this unique learning space.
Engaging with equity-centric leadership is essential for student partners in such programs. Too often such opportunities are not made available to us, either through unconscious bias or systemic exclusion.
A program like MURI that bridges this gap will support not only student partners but also the student body and the university brand, encouraging belonging, a sense of identity, and commitment to giving back to the community.
Recognising the opportunities that MURI brings and being able to engage with the program in such an intimate way has been crucial to me as a PoC student in academia and I look forward to seeing the MURI model being more accepted across tertiary learning spaces.
As an actively engaged alumni of Macquarie University, I knew I had a strong desire to contribute my experiences and more to the university community from which I have obtained a qualification. The idea of being a facilitator for a program that I have completed was daunting to begin with.
However, I knew as a fellow research student from an equity background, fostering a learning and teaching environment that was equity conscious would be right up my ally.
Being able to participate as a research facilitator in the MURI Program has given me the opportunity to examine and apply the Student as Partners (SaP) model, and evaluate the benefits of student facilitation on academic outcomes.
The professional relationships that I have developed as an intern and now facilitator will only benefit future progression in academia. But most importantly, challenge the notion that equity students are left behind with no support following participation in programs focused on them.
MURI is unique in that it values the ongoing support for equity students by offering them roles within the program and the chance to foster academic relationships that may lead to secure employment.
I have learnt much about teaching practices and increased my understanding of operational tasks that are required to deliver an engaged student program. The MURI program has given me the opportunity to have a critical voice in how student voice is genuinely incorporated in teaching frameworks and become an advocate for the SaP model.
The continuation of the SaP model throughout MURI’s 10-year duration highlights the importance of investing in student cohorts to assist fellow peers in their academic progressions and career development. MURI has given me the opportunity to develop learning and teaching expertise and foster a deeper sense of academic professional identity.
I would encourage more Macquarie University staff and academics to encourage students to participate in the MURI program and offer their research projects or sponsorship to student-initiated research projects.
Learning and teaching models such as SaP, can only be further expanded with the support of the broader Macquarie University academic community. I am sure that future MURI interns who become facilitators and/or coordinators of this program will grow in their professional identity and passion for research.
When I first applied to be facilitator for the MURI program, I didn’t think too much of it. But after I was accepted as a facilitator, I realised a huge responsibility on my hands.
But I also had to remind myself that my MURI journey was as smooth as it was only because of the MURI team. It gave me hope that I could change people’s paths and lives through being a facilitator.
The growth that this opportunity has given me is more than I had ever expected or could ever have imagined. The journey that I had as a facilitator allowed me to develop professional and personal skills which have helped me in my current studies and will in my future career.
The program flips the traditional method of teaching, the unidirectional teacher-to-student flow. MURI allowed me to relate to, engage with, and interact with the interns as I was in the unique position of being where they are years ago. The experience made me understand the techniques that would work best with their understanding to ensure they were engaged.
In addition, celebrating 10 years of MURI this year only highlighted how many students this flagship program has helped succeed and thrive at university and beyond. I am extremely proud to be a part of that accomplishment and that legacy.
I have never had teaching experience before this, but with the support of MURI staff (student partners) and a passion to guide students from an equity background, I feel very fortunate to have this teaching experience.
I hope to see MURI celebrate more anniversaries at Macquarie University and I’ll continue to promote MURI to future students on their journey of personal and professional growth through research.
MURI welcomes students and staff mentors from all faculties to participate in this highly sought-after program in 2021 and encourages widening participation initiatives across Australia to bring a MURI-like program to their university.