Teaching associate professor Irina Khindanova partners with undergrads to boost their research skills
Researching pressing issues and passion projects is prized at most universities, with faculty and graduate students working to answer the crucial questions of our time. But for undergraduate students, questioning is sometimes out of the, well, question.
Not so at DU, and especially not with Reiman School of Finance Teaching Associate Professor Irina Khindanova, who routinely partners with undergraduate students to guide them through research projects that push them academically and elevate their skills.
“There are many strong undergraduate students, and sometimes I don’t think they realize their own potential,” Khindanova said. “They can do much more.”
Recently, that “much more: has included her undergraduate research partners being published in academic journals like the Research in Business and Economics Journal and presenting at the spring 2021 Academic and Business Research Institute (AABRI) conference, as Paul Ciarcia (BSBA 2021) did with his Latin Honors thesis, “Changes in REIT Investment Strategy Following COVID-19.”
“I was intimidated to write a thesis at first, but Irina was encouraging throughout the entire process and assured me that the project was worth pursuing,” Ciarcia said. “One of the biggest things I learned from this experience is that you do not need to have all of the skills in order to start something new. With determination, willingness to learn, and a bit of help, you can accomplish things you wouldn’t have thought you were qualified for.”
Jared Cloutier (BSBA 2021) worked with Khindanova on his Latin Honors thesis, “Analysis of U.S. Acquirers’ Performance Following Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions,” which he also presented at the spring 2021 AABRI conference.
“I reached out to Professor Irina to request that she advise my research project, as I thoroughly appreciated her style of teaching while taking her Multinational Financial Management course,” Cloutier said. “Irina encourages her students to ask questions and does an excellent job of breaking down complex subject matter into concepts that are easy to understand. These qualities were especially helpful when conducting research for my thesis paper, since many of the methods that we utilized to collect and analyze data were methods that I had not previously been exposed to.”
Khindanova guides her students from start to finish. She helps them articulate their topic, design the research and analysis to best address that topic, set up a timeline for the project, write abstracts, edit multiple drafts, share their results and prepare presentations for conferences.
“Throughout the entire process, Irina provided immeasurable amounts of guidance, encouragement, and insight, and I am more than grateful that she was willing to advise me on my thesis,” Cloutier said.
Perhaps one of the reasons Khindanova is so willing to assist undergraduates and foster these intellectual partnerships is because of her own experience as a student working with a professor. She thought she’d done a good job with her research paper, but when her professor returned it, the margins were full of comments in red ink. Seeing all those corrections, she realized how thorough you must be in this sort of research.
“Those red margins and comments!” Khindanova said. “Every time now when I review students’ drafts, I remember all that red ink, and I try to give them good feedback.”
Her undergraduate research experience fuels her passion for helping her students do their best. That passion manifests itself in the excellent papers the undergraduates produce, as well as in the ways she boosts their skills, confidence and abilities.
“Students have huge potential,” Khindanova said. “Many don’t realize by themselves what they can do.”