Occidental Receives Keck Foundation Award to Broaden Undergraduate Research
Occidental College has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to promote undergraduate research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences in partnership with local arts and cultural institutions.
“The Keck Foundation’s support for this initiative is an affirmation of Occidental’s long tradition of vigorous undergraduate research,” said Jorge Gonzalez, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “This grant allows us to build on our faculty’s strengths as teacher-scholars, expand the horizons of our students, and deepen our connection with Los Angeles’ rich history and cultural resources.”
The three-year grant provides both academic and hands-on opportunities for students, including new Cultural Studies Program courses for first-year students, research seminars, internships and summer research fellowships. Thanks to the grant, the College’s Education-in-Action Program will provide faculty with student facilitators to help coordinate the community-based research projects related to the new curriculum. Faculty will also receive course development funds and benefit from participation in workshops and roundtables. The grant proposal was co-written by Amy Lyford, professor of art history and the visual arts, and Lisa Sousa, associate professor of history. Sousa will serve as faculty director of the program.
“I was elated to hear we'd received the grant, having put in many months of work with my colleague Lisa Sousa to craft a program that creates a pedagogically innovative and rigorous research-centered curricular program,” said Lyford. “This is particularly significant because at most liberal arts colleges, undergraduate research is primarily within the sciences."
The multi-component structure of the program introduces and reinforces undergraduate research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at various points in the curriculum. Grant funds will support six Keck CSP seminars for first-year students; six Keck research seminars for sophomores, juniors, and seniors; 12 summer undergraduate research projects with stipends for students; four paid nine-month student internships; and 12 Education-in-Action student facilitators.
Faculty members have been invited to submit proposals for the first Keck research seminars and Keck CSP seminars for the 2012-13 academic year that will use resources, collections, and archival materials in local museums, libraries, and cultural institutions. Faculty members whose courses are chosen will receive a $1,000 course development stipend and will have an EIA student facilitator to assist them with their courses.
The Keck program will strengthen Occidental’s formal relationships with local arts and cultural institutions by increasing students’ practice of research throughout all four years of their academic careers. Their experiences will be anchored in the archives, museums, and cultural repositories of the College’s partners, including the Autry National Center, LACMA, and the Outpost for Contemporary Art.
The Keck grant builds on Occidental’s successful tradition of faculty-mentored undergraduate research, a signature program of the school for decades. Nineteen Occidental students were recently selected to present their research on subjects ranging from geology to linguistics at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research -- nearly 200 have been invited to the conference in the last seven years. In addition, every year dozens of students spend 10 weeks during vacation participating in Occidental’s Summer Research Program, working closely with faculty mentors in a wide variety of disciplines and presenting their research findings at a fall conference.
The W.M. Keck Foundation has given more than $3 million in grant support to the College since 1980, including scholarship endowment, renovation of the Norris chemistry building, construction of the Hameetman Science Center, and creation of the Keck Language & Culture Studio. The Keck Theater was named in recognition of an estate gift from William M. Keck.
The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Co. It is one of the nation’s larger philanthropic organizations, with assets of more than $1 billion. In recent years, the foundation has focused on science and engineering research, medical research, undergraduate education, and Southern California.