What I Learned from Aunt Grace

Picture of Carol BenderMy working life began at the age of eight. My great Aunt Grace hired me to work at her ice house, where we sold ice, milk, and bread to campers coming to Green Lakes State Park in upstate New York.  While this was probably in violation of child labor laws, I think my aunt understood how important this responsibility would make me feel.  And, she paid me 25 cents an hour!  A princely sum!  I have worked ever since which means that I approach my retirement from the University with some apprehension.

Carol Bender with Ann Landry and UBRP students at Mission Gardens

I never planned a career as the director of an undergraduate research program. In truth, when I was making decisions about my professional life I had no idea that such a career existed (and maybe it didn’t back in the 70s).  But as fate would have it, the University of Arizona provided me with a very satisfying career – a career that allowed me to spend every day (and many nights) working with bright and passionate people, each of whom had a vision for how to make the world a better place.  Listening to the ideas and aspirations of these people, whether they were students, faculty members, staff members or members of the public, gave me the impetus to help develop an undergraduate research program that has unusual but important features that advance science and scientific literacy. Undergraduate research is, of course, fundamental to UBRP and more than 2,500 students have had a research experience through UBRP.  UA provided the environment we needed to take undergraduate research even further by developing novel activities to supplement students’ research experience including:

  • Offering an annual off-campus two-day ethics retreat (needed now more than ever because of our fast-paced society where there are many things we CAN do but that need careful consideration of the consequences BEFORE we do them);
  • Partnering with a community radio station (KXCI 91.3 FM) to encourage students to share their research with the listening audience (and in the process giving students the message that as those privileged to study science, they have an obligation to share what they know with the community at large);
  • Enabling students to integrate into the international scientific community though doing research in another country (thus becoming both scientific and cultural ambassadors for the US and UA); and,
  • Proving the opportunity for UBRPers to correspond with 6th graders so that these precollege students may also grow to love and study science.

Picture of Carol Bender with UBRP studentsI am so proud of the students who have gotten a start on their professions through their UBRP involvement!  One doesn’t have to look far to appreciate the amazing things they have accomplished!

As I come to the end of this career, I am grateful to the late Mike Wells, who had the original idea for UBRP; to the MCB department, which has provided a very supportive administrative home for UBRP; to the scores of scientists who have graciously and enthusiastically welcomed undergraduate researchers into their groups; to the UA administrators who believed in and supported UBRP; and to many, many others who have made every day of the past 30 years both fun and rewarding.

I am pleased to pass the UBRP directorship to Jennifer Cubeta, a UBRP alumna, who is well qualified to take the program into the future.  She has the experience, the temperament, and the vision to lead UBRP for years to come!  Nothing would make me happier than to see those who benefited from UBRP, or who believe in what UBRP does, make a contribution to the UBRP Fund to help insure the program’s continuation (donations can be made through the UBRP website at: https://ubrp.arizona.edu )

In closing, I am reminded of Aunt Grace’s motto:  “I am here to serve.”  I hope I have served the UBRP community and the University well, and I look forward to finding new ways to serve as I move into retirement.