Pillars of Research

Contribute to cutting-edge scholarship and gain valuable research skills in a supportive community of peers and professors with the Pillars of Research Learning Community (PRLC).

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Contribute to Research of Consequence
Former Pillars of Research LC faculty director Heba El-Shazli teaching a lesson to the PRLC students.

Become a World-Class Researcher

Open to all students, the Pillars of Research LC offers the opportunity to gain hands-on research and analytic skills while contributing to topics of interest and gaining class credit. Students in the semester long community will earn 1 credit of GOVT 399.

As a part of Pillars of Research, students have the opportunity to participate in the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP) conducting a hands-on research project under the mentorship of a Schar School faculty member.  Students serving as an undergraduate research assistant earn 1-3 additional credits of GOVT 399.

"The Pillars of Research (PRLC) professors facilitate an environment that fosters meaningful discussions and great ideas...this course was perfect for me seeing as I am a research assistant with the university's Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP). PRLC equipped me with research methods and on-campus resources that led to the success of my research project. PRLC provides students with knowledge of on-campus resources such as the writing and communication centers, as well as research opportunities like OSCAR and URAP. Thanks to Pillars of Research, I now feel confident using on-campus resources and I plan to apply to more research programs."


Erika Brooke Burkard, PRLC ‘24 

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A Community of Scholars

Students will have a wide-range of professional development opportunities, including:

  • Weekly discussions with scholars, practitioners, and experts on various research topics;
  • Workshops covering essential aspects of research and scholarship, such as methodology, research design, data management and analysis, poster design and presentations, and navigating institutional review boards; 
  • Facilitated conversations about future career prospects, including work in academia and the public sector; and
  • A trip each semester to a Washington, D.C.-area research organization such as the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Council on Foreign Relations, or Brookings Institution.


Students in the Pillars of Research Learning Community pose for a picture in front of the US Capitol during a field trip to the Library of Congress.
Pillars of Research students taking a tour of the Library of Congress

Pillars of Research students took a tour of the Library of Congress this fall.

A Memorable Year

Past and future events include: 

  • Customized field trips to notable sites such as the Library of Congress, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more about PRLC’s visit to the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • Influential speakers including senior editor at Foreign Affairs Justin Vogt, and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and Schar School professor Steven Pearlstein.
  • Exposure to university resources including Fenwick Library, the Writing and Communication Centers, and the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR).
  • Learning about professional opportunities in the research sector, including networking opportunities with members of the Congressional Research Service, and the Government Accountability Office.
  • Networking opportunities with esteemed Schar School faculty including Phil Martin and Shea Holman.
  • An opportunity to present at the URAP Fair and Internship Expo. Read more about the spring 2022 winner, a Pillars of Research student, Delaney Soliday.
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Meet the Pillars of Research Learning Community Director

Mariely Lopez-Santana

For any questions or to learn more, contact: mlopezs1@gmu.edu