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Presidential Award of Excellence

Donna Brown

Donna Brown

Hamel Center for
Undergraduate Research

For Donna Brown, the biggest reward of undergraduate research doesn't come when a student receives a grant to pursue advanced academic work. It comes later, often years later, when those same students share stories of how their research inspired them in their careers, academic pursuits, and even in their communities.

"When they step out of the classroom and pursue research like this, they're really becoming colleagues and collaborators with their mentors, and they develop an understanding of the research process that lasts a lifetime," says Brown, who is retiring after 38 years with UNH.

In 1987, Brown became the founding director of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which provided grants to five students that first year, and made UNH one of the nation's first universities to host such a program.

Now a center that offers multiple research programs, it helps some 250 undergraduates each year and awards grants valued at $400,000.

Under Brown's direction, the center has launched the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships, the International Research Opportunities Program (IROP), the Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program, honors grants, presentations grants, study abroad grants, and a course allowing students to assist faculty mentors with teaching and research activities. She also started the online undergraduate research journal, Inquiry , the only such journal among New England land-grant universities.

In 2006, UROP became the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, thanks to a generous endowment from Dana Hamel. It continues to provide a range of research opportunities for students and faculty from all disciplines.

Such programs, Browns says, are a great foundation for graduate studies and professional work, and help students contribute to the wider world as responsible citizens. In fact, it's not unusual for IROP participants to pursue international interests and research throughout their careers, often in the same countries they first traveled to as UNH students.

"There still aren't many programs that support international undergraduate research anywhere in the world, in any discipline," says Brown, who first came to UNH in 1972 as a lecturer in the political science department. "That's something that really sets UNH apart."

-- Jim Graham
-- photo by Lisa Nugent