Summer Fellows: The Benefits Extend Beyond the Season

President's Perspective

Dear Friends,

It’s been a typical summer at Ursinus College. Nearly 70 inquisitive students in our Summer Fellows research program energized the campus as they explored such diverse topics as pesticide alternatives, art from the Berman collection, single-walled carbon nanotubes, regulation and the housing crisis, and violence in children’s cartoons.

These Fellows were selected to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor for eight weeks on a research project of their choice. Ursinus, for its part, supports the students with stipends and a living allowance so they can devote the time solely to being a Summer Fellow. They presented summations of their research to the College community last Friday.

The Summer Fellows program originated with a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant that supported 10 science students in the summer of 1992. Four years later the College decided to include students from all disciplines. It has become an integral part of the academic budget and receives supplemental support from endowment funds. Former Fellows include a Rhodes Scholar and several Thomas J. Watson Fellows.

Former Fellows say the benefits of learning how to do research and working with faculty extend beyond the projects themselves. In the shorter term, many students continue their research as honors projects during the year or present their findings at conferences.

This summer, rising seniors Jamie Faselt and Michael Melchiorre worked in a nine-acre field studying predatory insects and alfalfa as a means of finding alternatives to pesticides. They plan to present their research at the Entomological Society of America’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon, this fall.

Brandon Adorno, a Psychology major, developed a survey on “Perceptions of Sexual Misconduct and Defining Sexual Assault” to get more precise definitions that could lead to better response and treatment. He plans to deploy the survey this fall.

Xylia Serafy, an Environmental Studies and Spanish dual major, studied the health of manatees. Her project, “Mexico’s Hidden Civil War: The Status of the Antillean Manatee in a Campesino World,” will continue as an integrative honors thesis with findings that will serve the global conservation community beyond Mexico.

Olivia Schultz, a double major in Art History and Media and Communication Studies, will curate an exhibition in the Hillel House in Spring 2015, after she completes her study of “Israeli Art: Discovering the Berman’s Hidden Treasures.”

“I was able to work more intensely on my research this summer because I had to go off campus to get information,” she said. She also appreciated the close work with her advisor. She now has the foundation to build upon her summer research during the academic year.

One Summer Fellows project that lives on began in 2004 with Katy Diana McSurdy (Class of 2006) and faculty mentor Professor of Environmental Studies Richard Wallace. They plotted an organic garden which has grown, in all senses, to become the fruitful Ursinus Organic Farm.

Katy interviewed some former Summer Fellows for Ursinus Magazine several years ago. They said they considered these summers to be among their best Ursinus experiences, and many said the organizational and research skills they gained have endured. “In the long term, experiencing independent study, learning to question, and maintaining a constant curiosity,” is what Katy took from her experience.

Former Fellows have referred to their faculty interactions as central to the experience. Our strategic plan refers to the significance of this relationship: “Ursinus faculty members regard student-faculty collaborations in research and creative production as an essential pedagogy. It spurs students’ abilities to think independently and imaginatively, to effectively deal with complexity and ambiguity, to make reasoned decisions, to express themselves orally and in writing, and to address real world problems in innovative and creative ways.”

There are more than 1,300 alumni who were Summer Fellows, and they have found the skills they gained to be useful in their careers and lives. We congratulate our 2014 Summer Fellows for their exceptional work and hope they will reap the benefits of their experience in the years to come.

Go, Bears!

Bobby Fong

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