By Sam Colt
Kenyon’s summer scholars are taking a step out of the lab and into the library.
Confined to natural science majors in years past, a pilot program announced by Interim Provost Joe Klesner on Feb. 20 will allow social science and humanities majors to participate in collaborative summer research geared towards publication in a public forum.
The pilot program — which will run for three years — is the result both of the success of Kenyon’s Summer Science Scholars program and the desire of a group of professors to bring those opportunities to non-science majors.
“[Professors] Dan Hartnett, Abbie Erler and Pashmina Murphy deserve a lot of credit here, “ Associate Provost Bradley Hartlaub said. “They’ve been talking about things like this and working on undergraduate initiatives — the summer science program has been so successful for thirty years, it continues to be something we all trumpet when we’re asked about this — but the question is: what about the social sciences, what about the humanities, what about the fine arts?”
Funding has been allocated for four student/faculty pairs each year. Research pairs will receive the same amount of funding as their lab science peers, with $3,500 going to each student and $2,000 to each faculty member, according to Hartlaub.
“I think the time has come for us, like many other schools — Bowdoin, Grinnell [and] St. Olaf [Colleges] have a big umbrella for undergraduate research and have opportunities for all students — and so this pilot project is [meant] to give this a try for faculty and students.”
Past social science and humanities students have often been forced into pitching their projects from a scientific perspective in order to receive funding.
“In the past, some humanities and social science students who have wanted summer research opportunities have sought them out in the summer science program,” Associate Professor of Spanish Daniel Hartnett said in an email to the Collegian.
Hartlaub stressed the importance of presenting the pilot program’s research to the public.
“The ultimate goal is publication,” he said.
Some professors, however, have expressed concern over the challenges of co-authoring meaningful work during the eight to 10 weeks research pairs will have during the summer.
“The sciences have a much more flexible sense of co-authorship,” Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities Kate Elkins said. “There really isn’t a tradition of co-authorship with students [in the humanities], and in fact publicizing a co-authorship with a student in the humanities could be seen as a hindrance to publication.”
Such a co-authorship would likely be limited to recently emerging research topics, according to Elkins.
“There are certain types of humanities projects that are so contemporary that there’s not a huge amount of research that needs to be done,” she said. “So for something like that in which you’re not dealing with 50 years of research, one could conceivably produce a product by the end of the summer.”
Another concern is that demand for the pilot program’s funds will greatly outstrip supply.
“I’m only teaching 30 students this year and I’ve already got two who definitely want to write applications,” Elkins said. “If that scales, you’re talking about a massive interest.”
Hartlaub suggested the influx of demand would not be a problem.
“I don’t think anybody is worried about the numbers right now,” he said.
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