At Occidental, students are fortunate to be able to fund independent internships, projects and research through a number of avenues. The John Parke Young Fund finances independent research projects conducted by Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) and economics majors; the Bennett W. Schwartz Fund gives grants to students for a variety of economics-related purposes; and the politics department’s Anderson Fund supports students in their research or internships — just to name a small fraction.
Even outside of academic departments, financial resources abound. The Hameetman Career Center offers to fund unpaid internships of a nearly unlimited variety through its InternAway program, and the Office of National Awards links students with outside fellowships and scholarships.
Despite a constant barrage of emails about deadlines and information sessions, knowledge about funding remains primarily intradepartmental and opaque, especially to younger students. And for a college that emphasizes interdisciplinary learning and research, that’s a problem.
Students can easily find some programs and fellowships on the college website under the relevant department — the politics department webpage, for example, has both “Anderson Fund” and “Fellowship and Grants” tabs clearly listed alongside those for descriptions of the faculty and major requirements. Others programs, such as the Argonaut Summer Research Grant for creative writing offered by the English department, are only advertised publicly via the unorganized student digest.
Perhaps if students never strayed outside their departments for research or internship opportunities, having funding resources communicated inconsistently and primarily via word of mouth would not be such a critical issue. Yet this is antithetical to the mantra of a liberal arts school emphasizing interdisciplinary cooperation. If a kinesiology student were a talented poet not enrolled in creative writing classes at Occidental, they would be likely to miss the small announcement made about the Argonaut grant. If a sociology major were interested in attending an economics conference about poverty and quality of life, they may never know they could have had the support of the Schwartz fund.
What would really fit the college’s needs is to have a centralized and descriptive list of all sources that students have available to them to fund personal projects, research and internships. The planning and execution of these activities is already difficult enough to balance with school and work — having an unnecessarily unclear and scattered funding system only complicates the process further.
The benefits that this small and manageable change could bring are numerous, fostering interdepartmental cooperation in addition to making students’ lives easier. And, really, there are few better ways to showcase what Occidental — and a liberal arts education more generally — has to offer than to display the varied and substantial resources available for student work.