URA Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for URA Faculty Mentors

  1. What is the URA Program?
    The Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program is a unique opportunity for SMU Faculty to share their areas of expertise in one on one research projects with undergraduate students. These positions are intended to provide hands on experience for students, and should not be hired on as clerical, administrative or busy work positions.

  2. Does my department/college have URA positions?
    The URA program is open to all departments and faculty across the University. The program was piloted within Dedman College in 2005, and has expanded to include participants ranging from Engineering to Religious Studies.

  3. How does it work?
    Each URA is funded 50% (up to $1500) by the Financial Aid department and 50% (up to $1500) from the participating academic department. Students are eligible for one award ($3000) in the academic year and a separate award during the summer. It is recommended that students with a cumulative GPA below 2.0 do not initiate an Assistantship until their coursework improves. Students cannot engage more than one URA project at a time. The student works at an hourly rate (usually $10 per hour, 10 hours per week) for possible earnings of $3000 throughout the 30 weeks of the academic year. Please note, the $3000 URA award is the maximum earnings for the student during their URA term, not a guaranteed amount.

  4. What students are eligible for Assistantships?
    Any undergraduate student in good standing with the university that has a valid work permit is eligible.

  5. What are the steps to hiring a URA Student?

    • A. Work with your URA student to complete the URA Template form (PDF)

    • B. Complete the student Payroll Authorization Form and the New Hire packet, if needed

      In Section IV:
      Select Research Assoc Non Work Study or Research Assoc WorkStudy
      Enter the hourly Pay Rate
      Enter the Fund and Org that will provide the matching 50%

    • C. Attach the URA Form to the PAF and send both through for signatures. The Student Employment Office will be the final signature prior to submission to Payroll.

  6. Can I hire/rehire a URA student during the summer?
    Yes! Some departments have a specific zero-credit course they request their URA students to enroll in for tracking purposes – please contact your hiring department for details. Students who are not enrolled in credit bearing summer courses must be hired as Temporary Staff. If you previously hired a URA during the spring semester and would like to extend your research through the summer you will need to file a separate URA Form and Payroll paperwork. The summer is a separate term and SMU Payroll considers this a “rehire.” Your URA position will not automatically be renewed for summer.

  7. Why should I participate in the URA Program?
    Undergraduate research is an excellent way to follow through on the work all faculty do to instruct in the classroom. By introducing students to the unpredictable progress of research, in an environment fostered by a faculty mentor, the student gains critical skills that will aid them in progress after SMU. For the faculty mentor, such students often can make valuable contributions to their research. Because URA involves a matching fund mechanism, the normal resources available to a faculty member are greatly extended.

  8. When faculty are using grant funding to match URA and receive monthly PARs for their student workers, why does the URA contribution not show up?
    Because the URA funds are SMU funds, they are not accessed by the Grants & Contract Accounting office. Only the expenses allocated to external grants will show up on the PAR.

  9. Who can I contact with additional questions?
    Professor Robert Kehoe, Director of Undergraduate Research – urdir@smu.edu; Gina Kelbert, Student Employment Coordinator – gkelbert@smu.edu;  SMU Payroll Helpdesk – payroll@smu.edu