I have never been quite sure what to make of the Curious George children’s books.

George is a chimpanzee taken from his jungle home by the Man in the Yellow Hat. George’s curiosity results in many harrowing adventures. He is carried off by a bunch of balloons, he winds up in jail (and escapes!), he flies a kite, and he rides a bike. George’s curious adventures consistently land him in trouble, yet he Curious_Georgealways returns safely to the Man in the Yellow Hat.

What are we to learn from George’s adventures? On the one hand, George is stripped from his jungle home by a stranger, and his curiosity consistently puts him in peril. On the other hand, George learns from his adventures and he returns safely to the Man, who is protective of the chimp.

I prefer the latter interpretation. George’s world is a place to learn lessons through trial and error; the Man is there to encourage and protect George. George’s life is an adventure in discovery. Failure and success are united by George’s curiosity.

Curiosity and discovery are the most powerful agents of change in human history. Curiosity and discovery are at the heart of our undergraduate research efforts at Channel Islands. We encourage students to raise questions and join us in discovering answers to those questions. Throughout their four years at CI we hope to prepare students to quench their curiosity and generate new questions to be answered.

Habits of MindThis year I am privileged to work with about 20 Student Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURFers) in a research Living-Learning Community. These 20 intrepid freshman students, representing different disciplines, live together in a residence hall and take three linked courses focusing on interdisciplinary research, critical thinking, and written and oral communication skills. Throughout the year SURFers are developing the “habits of mind” that are integral to effective problem-solving: Persistence, creativity, critical thinking, effective communication, application, and remaining open to continuous learning.

Student research is emblematic of our focus on innovative teaching that is student-centered. Student research is a unique opportunity for students to seize control of their learning with extensive mentoring from faculty. Hundreds of CI students conduct research and present their findings at state, regional, and national research conferences. Many of these students are, like me, first generation college students who underestimate their ability to go toe-to-toe with students from “more prestigious” universities. I have watched students transform before my eyes into capable and confident scholars who wind up pursue academic and career paths that they could not imagine.

Curiosity and discovery are life changing. If you doubt that, watch this.