Summer Research Grants for Undergraduate Students

Summer Research Grants in the College of Liberal Arts are designed to provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to propose and pursue a project of their own, apart from curricular requirements or academic credit.

CLA Summer Research Awards

The names of the students receiving these awards and their advisors are listed below.

2021 Winners:

Daniel Ashby (Erik Ropers, advisor)
“Visualizing Textual Trends of Abuse on Twitter by the Japanese Far-right”

Samuel Smith (Paz Galupo, advisor)
“Experiences of Trans-IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) Survivors in the Context of Therapy”

Video presentations can be found on the CLA YouTube channel.

Application Process and Eligibility Requirements

The awards program seeks to emphasize individual curiosity and initiative, intellectual ambition, and independent scholarly work. Each project will require a CLA faculty mentor, but the genesis of the project should clearly belong with the student and not with the research program of a faculty member. Stipends of $3500 will be awarded on a competitive basis to students whose applications demonstrate a sound conception of the proposed work and evidence of the interest and ability to complete the project successfully. Faculty mentors will receive a stipend of $500 for their work in advising a student and overseeing a project.

Eligibility:

Any student may apply (.docx) for the awards who is a:

  • currently enrolled undergraduate student who will continue working toward a bachelor’s degree at Towson University in the fall semester following completion of the summer project.
  • student who is pursuing a major in the College of Liberal Arts and has made substantial progress in that major.
  • student who completes and submits all portions of the application by the due date, which shall be the second Friday in March, and agrees to meet all responsibilities of the award.

Responsibilities of Recipients:

Students who receives a CLA Summer Research Grant agree to:

  • devote a minimum of 30 hours per week for at least ten weeks during the summer to the approved project. Please note that this is more than the time formally expected of students in fully meeting the requirements of two three credit courses. Students who cannot meet this expectation should not apply for the awards.
  • enroll in no summer courses, whether at TU or elsewhere, and to make no commitment to other fixed work obligations (whether as employment or as a volunteer) for more than ten hours per week while conducting summer research. (Please see note 2 below on the incorporation of volunteer work as part of a project.)
  • provide a written report to the faculty mentor for review and an electronic copy of the final version of this report to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts by September 30. Although no minimum length for this report will be specified, it should reflect a scope of research and writing associated with the time invested. In doing so, each student agrees that the report may be posted on a college or university website as evidence on the academic outcomes of the Summer Research Awards program. (See note 3 below.)
  • make a public presentation of the results of the project work within an existing context for student research presentations or at an event created for the purpose of this presentation.
  • complete any informational surveys connected with the Summer Research Awards requested either before or after the summer of work.

Award Administration:

Each CLA Summer Scholar will receive a $2500 stipend at the beginning of the summer, no later than June 10, and a $1000 stipend at the end of the summer after all reporting requirements are complete.

  • The faculty advisor will be asked to certify that the student has completed a project in line with the proposal made during the application process, has accomplished work appropriate to the time commitment associated with the grant, and has delivered a written report/analysis and made a public presentation on the project.
  • If the faculty advisor is unable to make a positive affirmation that these expectations have been met, the final $1000 stipend will not be paid.
  • If the student believes a decision on final payment is unfair, the student may appeal this determination in writing.

The final decision will be made jointly by the department chair of the faculty advisor and the Dean.

Special Considerations:

  • Although the Summer Research project must not be directly associated with receiving academic credit, some students may choose to extend their research developed during the summer project in order to write a senior thesis or its equivalent. Faculty advisors will be charged with insuring that any credit-bearing project is a distinct and substantive expansion of work done under a summer research award, involving additional work proportionate to the credit offered. The written report from the summer award and its public presentation must not be used to meet any expectation associated with a senior thesis or independent research course.
  • In some instances and in some disciplines, a case may be made that voluntary engagements in the community or with an organization are part of a research process. It is the responsibility of the student to make a credible case in proposing a project that this engagement is essential to the research, that the research aspects of the project are fully and substantively defined, and that the result of the project will be a meaningful research report meeting the scholarly, theoretical, and analytical standards of a discipline within CLA. The proposal must also establish the maximum number of hours per week that would be devoted to volunteer engagements and the time committed to scholarly research and analysis.
  • Students may propose projects that include activities or products other than a scholarly paper as a report. A particular project might include performance of a work being studied, as when a person organizes the performance of a play or plays, for example, associated with analysis of the work or of reception of it. Or a student might produce a video, write poems, prepare a translation, build a data set, edit a set of papers, or assemble an anthology that would be presented as part of the project report. In all cases, a substantive critical essay or reflection on the work accomplished and presented will be required as part of the report.

Evaluation Framework for Summer Undergraduate Research Funding*

The evaluation framework outlined below will serve as a guide for the Summer Undergraduate Research Award selection committee in making recommendations on award recipients. Understanding these considerations should assist students as they prepare proposals for the awards. The number of awards granted each year will be dependent on available funding, and the number of proposals and their ratings may vary from year to year. Thus, a ranking by the selection committee at the top evaluation level will make a proposal highly competitive for funding but will not guarantee an award, while a ranking at the second level will not necessarily preclude funding a proposal. Proposals ranked at Level III will not be funded.

Level 1: High Priority for Funding

  1. The proposal presents a research question that suggests a fresh or interesting approach to its topic, consistent with expectations for research at the undergraduate level. The applicant explains why the question being asked is significant and presents the proposal’s ideas logically and vigorously.

  2. The topic and research question described is appropriate for the student proposing the project. It is neither too large and open-ended for an undergraduate to manage successfully nor too limited and narrow to be of significant interest and challenge. The student’s record, combined with the discussion of the work in the proposal, encourages confidence that the student can carry out successfully a project of this scope. Relevant evidence from the record may include, but is not limited to, the applicant’s academic performance in relevant courses, any prior experience in related research, previous independent work, evidence of skills relevant to the project (software, language, statistics, protocols, etc.), community contacts connected with the project, or other relevant experience.

  3. The student discusses contexts, sources, methods, theories, or strategies in ways that reflect a degree of sophistication in the discipline or disciplines most relevant to the work being undertaken.

  4. If any specific resources are required for the project, including the cost of transportation to research sites, the proposal explains how those resources will be acquired or supplied.

  5. The letter from the faculty research advisor provides unambiguous support for the intellectual and educational value of the project and clearly affirms that the student has the qualifications and capacities to complete the project successfully during the specified summer period. The faculty member is known to have, or explicitly defines, expertise that supports effective mentoring on the project and commits to a sound mentoring plan.

Level II: Acceptable for Funding

  1. The proposal presents a research question that carries interest, but the statement of the project could be improved to show clear evidence of an independent thinking by the student or to convey a stronger sense of significant import. The discussion of the proposal is reasonably organized but may be somewhat lacking in energy or persuasive power.

  2. There are positive elements that speak well for the project and the student, yet the match between the student and the research proposed could be more fully explained. The project may appear too big (or too small) for the period allowed. The student may lack some of the preparation the project appears to assume, or the student fails to discuss areas of experience and accomplishment appropriate to the project. Elements that create confidence that the student will be successful are not fully present, but there is potential to develop the proposal somewhat further, to clarify or focus the project, and to provide a more compelling case.

  3. The student discusses only partially contexts, sources, methods, theories, or strategies that are necessary for a complete definition of the project. Further development is needed to support an expectation of successful project completion.

  4. Resources on which the project must rely may be addressed in part, but a fuller explication is needed before the project is launched.

  5. The faculty mentor expresses support for the project but may not address sufficiently the student’s ability to carry it out within the defined summer period, based on the student’s intellectual preparation and experience. The match between the faculty member’s own specialties and the proposed project are not clearly explained. The faculty member needs to supply additional assurance about the commitment to summer mentoring.

Level III: Not Acceptable for Funding

  1. The proposals lacks a clear research question, or the question being asked seems well-used and familiar. The student’s writing leaves uncertainties about the intent or substance of the proposal.

  2. The work described does not suggest any likelihood of success for the project in the hands of the student making the proposal. The suggested work may be evidently too large in scope or too limited for the summer research program or for the individual student. There may be little evidence of the thought, planning, or preparation needed for a successful project.

  3. The student does not adequately discuss a research approach, sources, or methods, or the student describes theories, sources, or methods that do not match well with the project.

  4. The project would require significant resources that the proposal does not recognize or discuss.

  5. The letter from a faculty mentor does not engage sufficiently with the project or speak with any substance to the qualifications of the student for carrying it out. The faculty member’s commitment to supporting the project and providing summer mentoring is not clear.

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*This document honors the model for evaluating Student Undergraduate Research Funding proposals created by The Office for Undergraduate Research at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.