Nine Occidental College students who received grants to conduct independent summer research abroad presented the fruits of their study in Africa, South America, and Europe at an October 25 campus conference.
The subjects of the students' research projects varied widely. Disciplines ranged from cognitive science to literature to economics to art. One project focused on urban beekeeping in Paris, while another looked at the importance of dance in community cohesiveness in Ghana. A third project investigated the practice of Buddhism in traditionally Catholic Ireland. The lone South American study examined women’s political mobilization in Argentina in reaction to military dictatorship.
Research Abroad scholarships make it possible for Occidental students to conduct eight-to-12-week-long summer research projects virtually anywhere in the world. The scholarships range from about $3,000 to $6,500. While the scholarship recipients develop their research proposals and independently conduct their research, they receive ample support from designated Occidental faculty supervisors.
"I think it’s Oxy’s coolest program," said Elaine Westcott ’12, who did the French beekeeping study. "It rewards creative thinking and independent work. I tell all of my friends at other schools about it, and they say, ‘I wish my college had that!’ I think it’s one of the most valuable programs here."
"This research experience allowed me to apply what I was learning in classes at Oxy to real-world issues, specifically efforts to increase financial inclusion in developing nations," said Chris Suzdak ‘12, who studied the interaction of microfinance and the chieftaincy system in Ghana.
Previously called the Richter Traditional Scholarship, the summer Research Abroad scholarship has been available at Occidental since the 1960s, and hundreds of Oxy students have benefited from the program over the years. Occidental is one of the few colleges that offer such a program for undergraduate students.
"This was an amazing opportunity to travel abroad, which I had never done before, and I was able to have my first independent research experience with the very authors that had written the papers that gave me the ideas for research in the first place," said Deborah Chun ’12, who studied flavor perception with scientists in London.
The Paul K. Richter Memorial Fund and the Evalyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund support the Research Abroad scholarship. The income generated from the trusts funds the Richter Scholars Program at a small group of private colleges in the U.S., including Occidental.