Help Make the Freshman-Scholar Summer-Stipend Launch a Success
By Vallorie J. Peridier, Mechanical Engineering, Honors Program Oversight Committee
This is the inaugural year of Temple University’s new Freshman Academic Scholarship program, wherein tuition scholarships to incoming freshmen are awarded solely on merit. An especially innovative feature of the awards, over and above the base tuition scholarships, are the $4000 academic-enrichment summer stipends which are granted to particularly high-performing incoming students. These individuals will be allowed to use this stipend in support of study abroad, research, internships, or an approved academic- enrichment project of their own devising.
It happens that, this year, 525 of our incoming freshmen were awarded an Academic- Scholarship summer stipend, and it is also likely that a significant portion of these students will decide to use the stipend this summer. Thus, this will be the first time that Temple University endeavors to manage this rather large-scale summer-enrichment program. Indeed, these freshmen scholars face a March 1 deadline to complete the application process which activates their stipend. Informed faculty participation is needed both (i) to achieve the best possible launch, and (ii) to link self-funded freshmen scholars, who are interested in doing summer research, with like-minded faculty mentors. Many of these students’ projects will entail faculty supervision, and most of the application forms will require the sign-off of a full-time faculty member.
The summer-stipend program: an institutional learning curve. Institutions, too, have learning curves, and it is solely in the spirit of galvanizing the faculty that I mention a few potentially awkward elements in this first launch of our freshmen summer-stipend program:
1. The application deadline for the summer stipends is really, really soon (1/March).
2. The institutional letter informing students about the summer-stipend application procedures was
sent on 26/November, not really an ideal time to command freshmen attention given the
imminent (and their first) final-exam period.
3. The “Summer Educational Enhancement Stipend Application” form seems a bit lengthy, possibly
confusing, and perhaps fails to identify some of the appropriate intended uses of the stipend –
like compensation for doing summer research with a faculty member.
4. The summer-stipend application form requires the sign-off of a full-time faculty member for all
types of summer projects except study abroad. While this is a good and efficient scheme for
qualifying projects, note two cautionary observations:
• By the end of their first semester, many freshmen will not have met a full-time faculty
member and vice-versa. (See this FAQ for advice to students on how to remedy
• The form as designed requires the project-approving faculty to sign an affidavit agreeing
to “provide support and guidance to the project as needed”. This signature line may give
the sign-off faculty pause if the proposed project is not actually supervised by that
individual (e.g. an internship project).
Faculty can help compensate for these rough spots if they are suitably informed about the rules and relevant institutional resources for the summer-stipend program.
The base Freshman Academic-scholarship Program. Last spring Provost Dai initiated the Freshman Academic Scholarship Program, wherein the awarded scholarships vary, based on the student’s high school record and performance on the SAT exam. The top-tier award is called the “President Scholarship”; it consists of four consecutive years of full tuition($10K/year in state, $18K/year out-of-state), plus three $4000 summer educational-enhancement stipends. The second- level tier, the “Provost Scholarship,” consists of a four-year tuition award plus one $4000 educational-enhancement stipends. There are other scholarship tiers, “Dean,” “Founder,” “University”; details may be found in the full program description.
Note that high-school applicants to Temple University cannot directly apply for either the merit-based Academic Scholarships, nor for admission to the University Honors program. In both programs, admitted students are enrolled using an automated merit-based scheme. In fact, an incoming student in receipt of either a Presidential or Provost merit scholarship will automatically be placed in the University Honors program.
For the past few years the freshman enrollment in University Honors has hovered at about 340 students, and it is a testament to the recruiting power of the new merit-based Academic Scholarships that the freshmen Honors enrollment jumped to 525, a more than 50% increase, in just this first year of the merit scholarships. The following table shows the number of summer-enrichment-stipend students by College. Note that Presidential scholars (“Pres.”) each get three stipends, so they are nearly certain to use one this summer; students in the “Other” grouping each get one stipend which they may (or may not) use this summer.
Pres (3 stipends
Freshmen academic-enrichment summer stipends: administration mechanics. Conceptually, the mechanics of the academic-enrichment summer stipends are as follows. Students are to receive a stipend of $4000 in support of at least 300 hours of academic enrichment, in their discipline, during the summer. The work or “project” can be an internship, an immersion experience, research with a faculty member, study abroad, or some other original scheme of the student’s own devising. To activate the summer stipend the student must complete an application form which includes a description of the project. The judgment about whether or not the described project qualifies as “academic enrichment” is made by a full-time faculty, who then signs-off on the form. The Dean of the student’s College also signs the application (the Dean pays for $2000 of the stipend) and the form is forwarded to Dr. Emily Moerer (Assistant Vice Provost, Undergraduate Studies), the cognizant administrator of the program, for approval and processing.
The first page of the recently-devised application form spells out the rules of the summer- stipend administrative procedures. Of these rules, the principal guidelines that faculty should know to constructively mentor students, are:
1. Only one stipend may be used in a summer.
2. Students must complete at least one full-time semester subsequent to the award.
3. Research and internships must be at least 300 hours in duration; study abroad must be
at least 4 weeks.
4. Supporting faculty must be full-time faculty at Temple.
5. Projects should be unpaid, and it is expected that students will not have outside
employment during the stipend period.
6. Stipends may not be used for tuition at U.S. institutions, excluding US-sponsored study
The application form is completed by the student, who must provide three sub-narratives: abstract, project proposal, and budget. The budget section in particular, which asks the student to “provide a detailed budget of the total estimated costs of the proposed project, including such expenses as housing, food, travel, personal expenses, and required fees”, might prove a source of anxiety and confusion. The cognizant administrator, Dr. Moerer, feels that freshmen will just “know,” in the situation where their itemized personal expenses fail to add up to $4000, that they will nonetheless receive their full $4000 stipend for an approved project. This author is not convinced that the freshman who carefully studies this form would automatically arrive at such a conclusion. Another odd omission in the application form is that neither the “budget” section nor the first-page set of instructions suggest that the $4000 stipend may be used as compensation for work done in an unpaid internship or a faculty’s laboratory.
However, irrespective of the application form, the University does indeed want to place any and every summer-stipend awardee who desires a research experience into a suitable faculty-mentored situation. It is the University’s intention that the students may use this summer stipend as compensation for summer research carried out under the supervision of a full-time Temple faculty member. So, it should be clear from this discussion (if not from the summer-stipend application form) that there is capable freshman summer talent available for PrincipaI Investigators in all disciplines, from the sciences to the social sciences to the humanities, who are willing to negotiate the institutional bumps.
Strategies for finding an academic-scholarship freshman. Say that you have decided to try to recruit a freshmen scholar into your research group this summer. How should you start? The summer-stipend scheme is new, and institutional mechanisms for linking faculty with interested student scholarship holders have yet to be devised in most Colleges.
In her correspondence, Dr. Moerer advised both faculty and summer-stipend students to utilize their respective College’s Undergraduate Studies officer for coordination purposes. Dr. Moerer also suggested that faculty contact their respective College’s Honors Program liaison (and your Undergraduate Studies officer should know if you have one). If your College has an Honors-Program liaison, provide that individual with a brief and non-technical description of the project (including any special skills or interests that may be required) and they, in turn, will distribute your information to Honors Program freshmen in your College who may be interested in your project.
However, suppose that one or more of these situations exist in your case: (i) your College has no Honors liaison, or (ii) your Undergraduate Studies officer is not able to help you, or (iii) your project is in fact suitable for freshmen in other Colleges as well as your own. In this situation you should definitely contact Dr. Ruth Ost (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Senior Director for University Honors, and give her your description of the project and its requirements.
Regardless of the College resources available to you, coordinating your summer-student search with Dr. Ost and her Honors Program advising staff is probably your best bet, because University Honors has established mechanisms for communicating with the Honors freshmen (who, as described above, are also summer-stipend awardees). Note that, at this writing, the University Honors staff has put together a FAQ sheet for the summer-stipend awardees, which: (i) clears up some of the application-process confusion, (ii) lists the Undergraduate Studies officers by College, and (iii) advises students on how to accommodate competing deadlines and regulations.
Faculty who are serious about utilizing the opportunities implicit in the freshmen summer-stipend program will almost certainly interact with the Honors program staff at some point. Consequently, a companion article “Part 2. Meet University Honors,” which will be published in the next issue of The Faculty Herald, more fully describes the University Honors program and the several ways it serves Temple University.
In summary, Freshmen Academic Scholars must compose their summer-stipend project applications, find suitable supporting faculty, and submit their completed applications by 1/March/2014. Thank you for your assistance, and good luck!