Overcoming Unique Challenges in the Pioneer Research Program

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at April 19

Let’s not sugar-coat it. Pioneer is hard. It’s not for the faint-hearted, nor for the student for whom academic success has come easily and expects their Pioneer experience to be the same walk in the park.

Pioneer is for students who are up for a challenge and possess—or are willing to develop—GRIT.

Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Grit, the power of passion and perseverance, defines the term as the ability to harness “a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal.” She furthermore calls it “the hallmark of high achievers in every domain.” 

The focus of Dr. Duckworth’s research is how self-control and grit relate to success in both academic and professional pursuits. She has found that, rather than a static feature of personality, grit can be cultivated and grown. Good news for aspiring Pioneer scholars!

So what are the characteristics that lead to the requisite amount of passion and perseverance ...more

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Rigor of Pioneer’s research curriculum inspires creativity and agency in the research process

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at March 22

The Pioneer Research Program engages high school students in academic research on original topics in their fields of interest. The culmination of students’ efforts, the Pioneer research paper, is held to college-level standards of academic achievement. All of this happens, however, outside of both high school and collegiate educational settings, through an academic program designed intentionally for the purpose of supporting students in this journey and within Pioneer’s rigorous and supportive academic system.

The standards and oversight that comprise Pioneer’s Academic System have been developed by Pioneer alongside Oberlin College, allowing the Pioneer Research Program to offer college-credit to all students who pass the program. The standards and oversight, and Pioneer’s rigorous approach to research mentorship, has led to the program’s full accreditation by Oberlin College. In order to support Pioneer scholars meeting Pioneer’s rigorous standards, Pioneer has developed a comprehens...more

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Pioneer’s academic system allows high school students to dive into their interests and experience the joy of research

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at February 18

Joy is often associated with things like food thanks to the popularity of Irma Rombauer’s, The Joy of Cooking, and more recently to the art of “tidying up”, thanks to Marie Kondo’s fresh approach to organizing and decluttering home and workspaces.

In “The Joy of Research”, however, Economist and New York Times Columnist, Paul Krugman, described the passion he holds for his work. “What I really love,” he wrote, “is doing the research—puzzling out how health systems work, what’s going on with monetary policy, how to access and interpret data about the wheat market.” 

Pioneer scholars describe their research experience in similar terms, both the fact that it is like solving a puzzle and the joy and satisfaction it brings. This is due, in part, to the innate curiosity Pioneer scholars possess. The other contributing factor is the Pioneer Academic System through which students are guided by faculty mentors in using their curiosity and creativity to conduct original research within an a...more

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Is it worth it for high school students to publish a research paper? Pioneer scholars share their experiences

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at February 4

Publishing a research paper as a high school student is a significant accomplishment—but as we have previously addressed in a recent article on our blog (“Is publishing a research paper the key to academic success for high school students?”) it is not essential to academic success, nor is it always the right path forward for a young scholar. With the variety of predatory and vanity publishing options continuing to increase in recent years, it is important for high school students to resist pressure to publish for the sake of publishing.  Pioneer’s academic system has always emphasized standards such as authentic interest, originality, rigor, authenticity, and academic integrity as the most important aspects in determining student success in the academic research process: the most important reward is not in superficial demonstrations of success, but instead in the skills, mindsets, and confidence scholars develop by going through the rigorous process of writing an original research...more

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Pioneer offers high school students the freedom and support to customize their research experience based on their interests

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at January 5

While some Pioneer scholars come into the program with a strong sense of the research topic they’d like to pursue, others come in looking for guidance in defining a specific research question within their general field of interest. To support students in developing their research, Pioneer Academics assigns scholars to a research concentration in which they spend five sessions meeting with a faculty mentor and a cohort of peers before selecting their topics. Pioneer scholar alumni from both scenarios have shared that the combination of freedom and support they received led them to identify a research topic that combined their areas of interest in unique and meaningful ways.  

One such student that came in with a broad idea of the topic she wanted to pursue is Cecilia (anthropology, 2016), a Pioneer scholar from China. The support she received in the cohort sessions helped her narrow her general interest in medical anthropology down to a specific research question. “I didn’t know sp...more

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Pioneer’s support system empowers high school students to conduct college-level research

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at 12/6/2021

Like most high school students, Alejandra (biophysics, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Colombia, had little experience with self-directed, creativity-driven learning when she began the Pioneer research program. Naturally, she was a bit apprehensive at first—could she really conduct original, college-level research in biophysics with no prior experience? 

What Pioneer scholars discover is that the Pioneer research program is designed to help students make the transition to high-level academics, combining the rigor of college with high school-level support. For students used to excelling in high school without much effort, the challenge of independent research is a push to prepare for the next level. Working through this challenge is empowering, as Pioneer scholars realize their true capabilities. For her part, Alejandra says, “[In realizing I could learn on my own], I gained a lot of self confidence. It’s not as though I’m an expert in biophysics–there is a lot more I need to learn. ...more

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Pioneer scholars confidently submit their research papers to universities

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at 10/26/2021

Maged (art history, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Egypt currently attending Connecticut College, had always focused on the sciences at school and assumed he would pursue a STEM field in college. When applying to Pioneer, however, he was intrigued by the number of research areas he had never even heard of. Ultimately, he chose art history from the list, because he wanted to explore his interest in art through an academic lens. His research topic was on the architecture of Coptic churches, which gave him an opportunity to learn more about his own society. “I learned a lot about the architecture of the Coptic Church in my country, which was really interesting for me because throughout my childhood I would see these amazing churches, but I had never experienced visiting them inside because I am a Muslim, and it isn’t that common for Muslims to visit churches. I experienced something new academically, and I experienced something new culturally and socially as well,” Maged explains. Maged’s ...more

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Pioneer’s cohorts offer international perspectives and enriched learning experiences

The Pioneer Research Program
Posted at 10/4/2021

Pioneer’s academic placement process assigns Pioneer scholars to cohorts with a specialized research concentration. These cohorts are very small––no more than six students and a faculty mentor––yet they are truly international, welcoming students from all over the globe. In these cohorts, Pioneer scholars have the chance to interact with peers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, connecting over a shared love of learning.  These international cohorts enhance the Pioneer experience, both personally and academically. 

For many students, university is the first opportunity to have meaningful interactions with peers from different parts of the world. Hannah Travali-Peacock (political science, 2019), was grateful for her international experience in the Pioneer research program before starting university last fall. “I’ve met a bunch of international friends at [university]…but I think I would have been a lot more intimidated to talk to those people if I hadn’t been the only A...more

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