Change is in the air here at Chapman University. With the Keck Center nearly standing in completion, acceptances rolling out to future panthers, and spring air sweeping through Atallah Plaza, it is no surprise that change has infiltrated the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. Though we are saddened that Dr. Anna Leahy has left our corner of campus, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Julye Bidmead as our new director, ushering in an era of transition in our office.
Dr. Bidmead has been at Chapman University for eleven years, serving as an Associate Professor of Religious Studies in Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science. In addition to her role as professor, for the last two and a half years Dr. Bidmead has served as the Director of the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs. In this position, Dr. Bidmead acts as a mentor and facilitator to Chapman scholars wishing to pursue fellowship and scholarship opportunities both in the US and abroad. Bidmead shares, “After the first year I did fellowships, I took a study tour to find opportunities in the UK.” The office now boasts over 35 different fellowship and scholarship opportunities available to students, both during undergraduate and graduate education.
Dr. Bidmead is an obvious fit as the new director of OURCA, as an experienced researcher herself. Her focus being religious studies, Bidmead looks at Near Eastern religion with a focus on gender, Ancient Mesopotamian religion, and the world of the Bible. Her most recent book project explores the roles of women in ancient religion, their rituals, and their contributions in society. Dr. Bidmead says the most rewarding part of her job facilitating fellowships and scholarships is undoubtedly, “Working with students. I get to learn about student research projects and how they fit into the countries where they wish to continue their education.” She expounds on the excitement of guiding students toward universities abroad where their area of research is thriving.
“It was a natural transition,” Bidmead says of her new role at OURCA, noting that “scholarships and fellowships go hand in hand with research.” At the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester, Dr. Bidmead began her partnership as Co-director of OURCA alongside Dr. Anna Leahy, and initiated the merger of OURCA and the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs. The duo worked to derive and incorporate the strengths from of each office into a single collaborative program, encompassing undergraduate research, creative activity, and opportunities for growth in fellowships and scholarships. The development and expansion of this merger is reflected in a new name: The Center for Undergraduate Excellence.
There’s no doubt about it, the Center for Undergraduate Excellence is growing and advancing on many levels. Dr. Bidmead discusses the first of many changes is that “the office is growing in personnel.” This semester we are welcoming not just our new director, but a new office assistant as well as new Scholar Ambassadors. Another exciting advancement is the promotion of former Office Coordinator, Lisa Kendrick. Acting now in her promoted position as Operations Manager, Kendrick will oversee all happenings in undergraduate research as well as fellowships and scholarships.
There has never been a more advantageous time to get involved in research and creative activity here on campus and through study abroad fellowships. Bidmead proudly reveals, “Around this time of year we find out who is in the finals for [the Fulbright Awards]. This year five out of fifteen of Chapman students that applied have been accepted as finalists. That is our highest percentage ever!” Even more impressive, all have been accepted as finalists for research and graduate study Fulbright placement, the most competitive avenue of the Fulbright scholarship program. “The move toward undergraduate research is coming smack dab into fellowships!” Bidmead states enthusiastically.
When asked what programs Chapman students should take note of Bidmead insists without hesitation, “SURF is the number one thing to be aware of.” Additionally, she suggests students begin thinking about scholarships as soon as their first or second year, as there are many opportunities exclusive to underclassmen as well as scholarships readily available to undergraduate students. Finally, she encourages all students to present a poster at Student Research Day as presenting one’s work is a necessary interdisciplinary skill.
As the new director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, Bidmead is most excited about “seeing our students grow in their intellectual development, whether that be doing research and creative activity here or applying for prestigious awards.” It is her long term hope that every student at Chapman University will become involved in research and creative activity during their time here, as well as apply for scholarships and fellowships. Finally, Bidmead extends her most humble gratitude to Dr. Anna Leahy for her guidance and partnership. “I really couldn’t have done it without Anna. I learned so much from her,” Bidmead stresses with palpable appreciation and sincerity.
With the tide turning for research and creative activity at Chapman University, now is the time to engage your inquiries and ideas in a project of your own. Learn more about the events and opportunities available to you by following and liking our office on Facebook!