ORCA Grants

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What is an ORCA Grant?

The ORCA Grants program is designed to encourage collaborative scholarly, research, and creative work between undergraduate students and faculty. Student participants may become engaged in the scholarly pursuits of Murray State faculty or carry out a project of their own under the supervision of a faculty mentor. This competitive program will provide undergraduates with financial support for supplies, equipment, operating expenses and travel.

Part- or Full-time undergraduates enrolled at Murray State University are eligible to apply. Similarly, all university faculty (and professional staff in specific situations), whatever their college, rank, or nature of appointment, may serve as ORCA Grant mentors. Students may work with faculty from their own colleges or from another of Murray State's colleges or the Hutson School of Agriculture.

Many students have benefited from working collaboratively with Murray State faculty. The ORCA office is pleased to be able to provide support to further encourage these exceptional teaching and learning opportunities. We believe that greater numbers of students need to discover the benefits of these hands-on opportunities in laboratories, studios, libraries, and field sites. Students who have participated in these kinds of experiences in the past have developed detailed knowledge of research methods while their faculty mentors have gained the valuable assistance of enthusiastic and committed students.

In general, ORCA grants will not be awarded to support a class assignment or class project.ORCA grants are intended to encourage and stimulate student-faculty interactions and work that extend beyond the normal classroom. Review of the Examples of Previously Funded Projects section of this web site will give you an idea of the wide variety of projects we have previously funded.

There is an expectation that when ORCA support is provided the work will lead to a presentation at a regional or national meeting, to a performance or exhibition of the work at a regional or national show, or to a publication. All students who receive an ORCA grant are required to give an oral presentation, poster, or performance at Murray State's Scholars Week and will be encouraged to consider submitting a poster at Posters-at-the-Capitol.

When thinking about developing a project that would be supported by an ORCA grant, one approach you might want to consider is to continue or extend a project that initially began as a class assignment. Your previous class work would provide you with preliminary ideas, data, library research, etc. upon which to base further studies. That preliminary work would be an excellent foundation upon which to build an ORCA proposal.

Students are encouraged to seek academic credit for work completed under an ORCA Grant. How credit is awarded will vary from one department to the next. Independent study, specialty study, special topics, and special problems are a few of the ways that departments have of awarding credit for this kind of work.

Why complete an ORCA Project?

Invaluable work experience

When applying for a job, you will be asked what experience you have. If you have no prior experience, it is very difficult to gain hands-on experience. With an ORCA Grant, you will gain the experience you need while working in an area of interest to you.

Today, you will also find that the best graduate and professional schools are looking for that "something extra" that is reflected by an independent research, scholarly, or creative project. Every student graduating from college can produce a long list of courses that (s)he has taken, and many of these students will have strong grade point averages. Not every student, however, will have a major scholarly project that (s)he can put forward. The fact that you have committed yourself to an in-depth project helps those making graduate and professional schools selections better understand your level of commitment and demonstrates that you have an interest in the subject that goes beyond the average student.

Opportunity to get to know faculty

Very often you will need to get a letter of recommendation from a faculty member. It may be for graduate school, professional school, or a job. It is hard for a faculty member to write a meaningful letter for you if your only contact with your professor is through a class. You are one on many students in the class and, very often, the faculty member has not gotten to know you in a way that can help him or her write a convincing letter. Working one-on-one with a faculty mentor will enable the faculty member to better understand your strengths, abilities, and interests.

What are some previously supported projects?

What are the eligibility requirements?

Students

You must be an undergraduate to obtain an ORCA Grant. A student is an undergraduate if enrolled in a baccalaureate or pre-baccalaureate degree program. All part-time and full-time undergraduates of Murray State University are eligible to apply provided they are in good academic standing.

Faculty Sponsors

Any full- or part-time faculty (or professional staff in certain situations) at Murray State may sponsor an ORCA Grant project.

What is the faculty role in projects?

The ORCA Grant program is intended to help increase collaborative scholarly, creative, and research projects of interest to both the faculty member and student. Faculty mentorship of students can be professionally rewarding experiences and ones that have an immediate impact on our students satisfaction with their education and the University. These experiences have also proven to be a major influence on students’ academic achievement and helped students establish career goals.

The role of the faculty sponsor is to guide students through an inquiry-based learning experience. While the project may be one that the student has independently created or one that the faculty member has designed, the student should be given an appropriate orientation and training for the project, including background reading, an introduction to the question to be studied, and information on previous work conducted on the topic. When feasible, students should be encouraged to work with other students. Peer learning is an extremely valuable teaching methodology.

Throughout the term, faculty sponsors should be available to meet one-on-one with students to review their progress and provide feedback. We have found that regularly scheduled meetings with student researchers contribute significantly to the success of the partnership. If you happen to work collaboratively with a larger group (other faculty or graduate students), be certain to include your undergraduates in these meetings.

Designing an Undergraduate Project

Tasks given to undergraduates should be designed to give them educational experiences that are appropriate to the discipline so that they can develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. When undertaking an undergraduate project, keep the following in mind:

  • The student’s responsibilities and assignments should be academic and not clerical in nature.
  • When developing the proposal with the student, make certain that the scope of the project and the student's responsibilities are clearly defined, e.g. specify that the student should participate in regular meetings, conduct background readings, attend appropriate seminars, work with senior level students, etc.
  • As the project progresses, students should be given increasing levels of responsibility.

Faculty Sponsor Responsibilities

In agreeing to mentor a student, certain expectations will be made of a faculty member:

  1. Assist the student in developing the ORCA Grant proposal. (This does not mean you should write the proposal, that is the responsibility of the student.)
  2. Orient the student to the project, provide guidelines, set expectations and train as necessary.
  3. Meet with the student regularly to discuss progress and training needs.
  4. Provide feedback and guidance as needed. Do not wait until the end of the term to talk with the student about a concern.
  5. Assign and evaluate end of term projects promptly. If your student is working for academic credit be certain to submit a grade at the end of the semester.
  6. Contact the ORCA office immediately if a student is not performing the work expected on his/her ORCA Grant or performing at an acceptable level so that the ORCA staff may assist you in resolving any problems.

How do I get started?

Four easy steps

Develop an idea

Project ideas can come from a number of different places. Your idea may come from a course, from the research, scholarly or creative interests of a faculty member, or from an idea of your own. You may work either within or outside your major field or on an interdisciplinary topic.

The Faculty Research Directory provides brief summaries of faculty scholarly, creative, and research interest. This is just a place to start. The most important thing you can do is to talk with the faculty. You will be amazed at how much interest a faculty member will show in you if you show some interest in a faculty member’s scholarly pursuits or simply indicate an interest in wanting to learn something outside the classroom.

If you have an idea you would like to pursue but are not sure which faculty member might be interested in your particular idea, talk with the appropriate departmental chair. Departmental chairs will be able to help you identify an interested faculty member.

In general, ORCA grants will not be awarded to support a class assignment or class project. ORCA grants are intended to encourage and stimulate student-faculty interactions and work that extend beyond the normal classroom. There is an expectation that when ORCA support is provided the work will lead to a presentation at a regional or national meeting, or to a performance or exhibition of the work, or to a publication.

When thinking about developing a project that would be supported by an ORCA grant, one approach you might want to consider is to continue or extend a project that initially began as a class assignment. Your previous class work would provide you with preliminary ideas, data, library research, etc. upon which to base further studies. That preliminary work would be an excellent foundation upon which to build an ORCA proposal.

Please feel free to stop by the ORCA office or call (270-809-3192) for assistance. We want you to find an appropriate opportunity and we are willing to help.

Discuss your project with your faculty sponsor

This is a very important step in the process. After identifying a faculty mentor, work with your faculty sponsor to outline your project. Your discussion should lead to an agreement on the nature and scope of your project, method of inquiry and expected outcome; budget; timeline for completing the project; your access to supplies, equipment, and facilities; frequency with which you will meet throughout the project; and your educational goals.

It is quite likely that you will have to meet with your mentor more than once during the application process. Give him/her the Faculty Recommendation Form to fill out and return to you. Your faculty mentor should read and critique your proposal and must fill and the sign Part B of the Application Cover Sheet.

While it is expected that students will seek help from their faculty mentor in formulating a proposal, students are expected to write the actual proposals. Faculty may critique a proposal but they should not write the proposal.

Complete all parts of the application forms

Download the proposal document

  • The proposal document can be found here.

Follow the instructions

  • The instructions for the proposal can be found on page one of the previous document
  • More detailed descriptions of the grants/fellowships can be found on page two
  • If applicable, include the following documents:
    • Projects dealing with the use of human subjects

      Institutional Review Board approval must be obtained for any research that involves the use of human participants. This includes questionnaires, interviews, surveys, observations and secondary use of data such as medical charts. Projects in psychology, sociology, education, political science, journalism, and nursing often require IRB approval. Please contact Murray State's IRB Administrative Coordinator, Sally Mateja, in the Institutional Review Board Office (Room 328 Wells Hall) to obtain the necessary forms before you submit your proposal or access the forms on line at campus.murraystate.edu/administ/irb/msu_irb_home_page.htm . The e-mail address for the IRB is IRB@murraystate.edu and the phone number is 809-2916. If possible, a copy of the IRB Committee’s decision should be included with your application. ORCA Grant funds may not be used until a copy of the IRB Committee’s approval is on file in the ORCA Office.

    • Projects dealing with the use of animals

      For projects that in any way deal with animals, approval must be obtained from Murray State University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Submit a paper copy of your proposal to the chair of IACUC, Mr. Michael Wetherholt, Office of Sponsored Programs (Room 328 Wells Hall). ORCA Grant funds may not be used until a copy of the IACUC approval is on file in the ORCA Office.

    • PROJECTS DEALING WITH HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

      Projects that in any way deal with hazardous, flammable, or reactive chemicals; ionizing radiation; recombinant DNA; biologically hazardous agents; or known carcinogens must receive approval from Murray State University’s Laboratory Safety Officer, Gay Rollins (Telephone: 270-809-6752). Submit written approval alongside your grant application.

Submit application form on Digital Commons

Once your application is complete, submit it on the Grant Application page.

  • Submit the application to this page by going to "Author Corner" in the left sidebar and clicking on "Submit Grant Application."

Review

Applications will be reviewed by a subset of the ORCA Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consists of two representatives from each of the five Colleges and the School of Agriculture. The Advisory Board may bring in outside expertise if required.

Notification

The deadline for application in September 25th. All students and faculty sponsors will be notified in writing of the award decision after the deadline has passed.

Requirements

Upon completion of the project, students must file final reports on their projects and complete an evaluation of the program. Faculty mentors will also be requested to complete an evaluation. All students supported by an ORCA Grant will be required to present their work as part of Murray State University's Scholars Week.

Forms to download