Faculty members Donald Hafner (far right) and Ourida Mostefai (far left) with recent winners of Advanced Study Program grants. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Advancing Student Research
Summer grant program a boon for undergrads' scholarly activities
By Mark Sullivan
When Lora Krsulich '07 set out to study illegal immigration in her home state of California, she did more than browse books and journals.
Using a $1,200 Boston College Advanced Study Grant to fund her research, Krsulich accompanied the United States Border Patrol, did an internship in the district office of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), volunteered at a workers' resource center, and even interviewed her co-workers at a local pasta restaurant.
"Needless to say, I became familiar with several perspectives of the debate on illegal immigration over the summer," said Krsulich, a native of San Bruno. "Having the opportunity to patrol the border and interview agents at US Border Patrol provided me with a realistic perspective about border security and a broader understanding of the causes that motivate migrants to 'cross over.'"
Krsulich's was one of nearly two-dozen student projects undertaken this past summer across the globe - on themes ranging from Pompeii excavation to Irish poetry to Cuban hip-hop culture - that received support from BC's Advanced Study Grants program [see separate story].
Soon, nominations will be taken for next summer's round of Advanced Study Grants. Starting Jan. 18, faculty members will be invited to nominate current freshmen and sophomores for the summer fellowships that support student-designed research or language skills-acquisition projects in any academic discipline.
Typically ranging between $500 and $2,000, the grants are awarded by the University Fellowships Committee to underclassmen who have shown "that special spark of scholarly initiative and imagination," and whose summer projects are seen honing prospective candidacies for national fellowships like the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Goldwater or Truman.
Count Krsulich among the satisfied beneficiaries of the program. "As a recipient, I have found [the Advanced Study Grant program] to be one of the most valuable and underrated programs that Boston College has to offer to students looking to engage in individual research and remain competitive in scholarship contests nationwide," said Krsulich, whose sponsor was Assoc. Prof. Jennie Purnell (Political Science).
University Fellowships Committee chairman Prof. Donald Hafner (Political Science), said: "The Rhodes, the Marshall, the Fulbrights are all wonderful prizes, but for freshmen and sophomores, they can seem much too far away on the horizon. In fact, to compete for the later prizes, students need to start doing interesting things with their intellectual lives right from the start of their BC careers.
"Perhaps even to their own surprise, freshmen and sophomores can devise quite sophisticated summer research projects of their own. And when they do, it is a marvelous boost to their confidence and ability to accomplish even more in their junior and senior years."
Hafner credits the success of the Advanced Study Grants program goes to College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program Director Mark O'Connor, who first proposed the grants, and to coordinator Assoc. Prof. Ourida Mostefai (Romance Languages and Literature), who has promoted them.
"When Mark first prodded us into action, we had fewer than 10 applicants, and no promised funding," Hafner said. "Under Ourida's stewardship, we now typically get close to 100 applicants."
Mostefai says the grants program is especially valuable for the mentoring relationship it builds between faculty and students. "When we invite students to apply, they're happily surprised," she said. "It transforms the relationship students have with the University by personalizing it."
After notice is sent on Jan. 18 requesting nominations of students for Advanced Study Grants, faculty will have until Feb. 11 to submit candidates. For more information, see the Fellowships Committee Web site [< ahref = "www.bc.edu/offices/ufel/fellowships/advanced/">www.bc.edu/offices/ufel/fellowships/advanced/].