By Ryan Semerad
Today, Jan. 27, winter applications for Union’s Internal Education Fund (IEF) are due. Students, whose proposals and applications are accepted, will receive on average somewhere between $350 and $500 dollars to purchase supplies or to pay for travel expenses related to research they are conducting as part of their senior theses or sophomore research projects.
IEF grants are awarded three times per year corresponding to each academic term and are judged by a committee appointed by the Student Forum, which consists of faculty and one student board member. While students can apply for the IEF during any term, the grant must be used by the following May.
Thus, students who are awarded the grant in the fall or winter have less than a year to utilize the funds, whereas students awarded the grant in the spring have nearly a full year to spend the IEF.
[pullquote]“The IEF grant makes you as a student responsible for your work and makes [your project] your own.”Elizabeth Ackley ‘11, Two-time IEF recipient[/pullquote]
The IEF grants were first established in 1977 by Glenn C. Wolfson ‘77 in conjunction with the Long-Range Planning and Budgeting Priorities Committee in response to tuition increases that were occurring at the time. Students and administrators felt that if students were spending more money, then there should be a way for students to tap into that surplus and use it to directly improve their studies.
When asked how he felt about the IEF grants survival since their implementation over three decades ago, Wolfson reflected with pride.
“[I feel] delighted, proud and rather stunned that IEF lives on today,” said Wolfson. “Hopefully the ability to pursue meaningful work outside the normal structure of curricular offerings has proven to be a very positive experience for those at Union who have availed themselves of the possibility—I wish that I had had the same opportunity when I was an undergrad on campus,” said Wolfson.
The IEF grants serve as useful heuristics for students who wish to become professional researchers and analysts. The program is distinctly different from Union’s more typical summer research programs because students raise funds to conduct research instead of conducting research for pay.
“IEFs are awarded to students for projects when the goal of the project is to do something or learn something new and original,” said Union College’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Professor of Chemistry Kristin Fox. “[The IEF grants] give students practice for the real world.”
Biology major Elizabeth Ackley ‘11 has been awarded IEF grants twice during her academic career at Union. Ackley is currently using IEF funds to purchase supplies necessary for completing her senior thesis entitled “Elucidating a role for Hoxd13 during gut development in the chick and skate”
She was also awarded IEF funding for her sophomore research project, which helped establish an art program for local children at the Kenney Community Center. The $500 she was awarded was used to purchase art supplies that are still in use to this day. Ackley, who is applying for a Fulbright scholarship for teaching, thinks the IEF program gave her a sense of ownership over her projects.
“Without the IEF, I wouldn’t have been able to even begin preliminary testing for my thesis,” she said. “The IEF grant makes you as a student responsible for your work and makes [your project] your own.”