With the rising interest in undergraduate research on Lubbock Christian University’s campus, many professors, such as Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry Dr. Steven Bonner, are taking hold of the opportunity to mentor students in their research pursuits. Dr. Bonner has invested countless hours outside of the classroom over the past four years assisting students as they prepare research for the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).
Dr. Bonner was first introduced to NCUR when Dr. Susan Blassingame, Lubbock Christian University Dean of the Hancock College of Liberal Arts and Education, invited him to attend NCUR as an observer. While he thought events such as this were limited to students in the sciences, his view soon changed. By attending NCUR as an observer, Bonner said he was able to see the potential of mentoring relationships between students and professors in all areas of study.
Since then, Dr. Bonner has not only inspired students to participate in undergraduate research, but he has had students request him specifically to mentor them in the process. For example, LCU alumnus James Masterson (’14) went to Dr. Bonner during his senior year. Under the mentorship of Dr. Bonner, Masterson not only presented his research at NCUR, but was selected as the first undergraduate to present at the 21st Annual National Association of Youth Ministry Educators (AYME) Conference. Dr. Bonner said that his experience with undergraduate research has confirmed to him the importance of close mentoring relationships with students.
“This is something that not only benefits me because I learn as much from them and their questions as they do from me and my questions. I’m not doing this for them, I’m doing this with them. We are on this journey together of exploration and questions,” Bonner said.
Dr. Bonner also credits the early work of Dr. Blassingame and other faculty members, such as Associate Professor of Chemistry Julie Marshall, Associate Professor of Ecology and Conservation Biology Bart Durham, and Natural Sciences Professor Lucy Porter, for their early work in bringing undergraduate research to life on campus. He said that the commitment of his colleagues to the students and their development outside of the classroom provides a natural avenue for high impact learning.
“You’re not going to find the level and quality of undergraduate research at many other undergraduate institutions. The level of research our students are doing, the opportunities they have in the lab to analyze data, that’s stuff that usually takes place on the graduate level,” Bonner said.