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Immersion Pathway

The ROCCA Lab offers a complete pathway for students to do intensive learning and skills development, culminating in a final research project or experience, in order to fulfill their Immersion Vanderbilt requirement. However, students are welcome to participate in the lab at any point of their undergraduate careers, even if they do their Immersion Project in some other way.

The pathway we suggest here can culminate in the Immersion Project, an Honors Thesis, or just a valuable experience in research, regardless of students’ college or major at Vanderbilt University.


First year in the lab:

Take a two-course sequence to develop the core ideas and processes of social science research, professionalization and communication. These courses each meet once per week for educational grounding, and students are expected to work in research teams with a Faculty Mentor for ten hours each week. Each course is worth 3 credit hours toward a political science degree or elective, with an emphasis in International Relations.

  1. ROCCA Lab: Collaborative Social Science Research Skills I (Offered each fall): This course lays the groundwork for empirical research and writing. Students learn how to do basic research skills like literature review, critical analysis, build theoretical arguments, and develop research designs.
  2. ROCCA Lab: Collaborative Social Science Research Skills II (Offered each spring): This course advances the knowledge from the previous course to focus on how to use research to communicate outcomes, connect research to community development, and build a resume toward a profession in research.

These two courses are designed to go together, but they may be taken in any order or at any point in a student’s career. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these courses to be successful lab members.

Take a look at the current ROCCA Lab – CSSR I syllabus here: F19-Syllabus-ROCCA-Lab


Second year in the lab:

Faculty mentors or the lab director advise students continuing in the research pathway to take more intensive methodological courses in their respective majors, ranging from research design to qualitative or quantitative methods to economics or game theory. At the same time, students may advance or continue in the lab and work 4-12 hours in the ROCCA Lab each semester for Directed Research political science credit or experience.


Third year in the lab:

Students who have worked for multiple years in the lab may advance to be team leaders or hold administrative positions in the lab. They may also work with their Faculty Mentors to move beyond the Faculty Member’s project into their own related research projects. The Lab can support these students in developing their projects for senior theses, presentation at university or professional conferences, or even publication while the student continues to work with lab projects.


Fourth year in the lab:

As seniors, students will develop their Immersion Project: a fully-formed research project related to work they have done in the Lab. The student may use data and research collected with their team or branch into their own direction. Their Mentor will serve as their Honors Thesis or Directed Study advisor. Students will present their final research project at the Immersion Showcase, and select students will present at a professional conference.


If you cannot take courses, either because your schedule is full or you have another major and don’t need so many political science credits, you can still participate in the ROCCA Lab! Students are always welcome to be a part of our team research projects for the experience and resume title alone. In addition, we have limited funds to pay students (especially those who are work-study eligible) as undergraduate researchers. In this way, we hope to bring as many people into the lab for this experience as possible, regardless of your particular situation.