Mellon Foundation Grant continues to fund undergraduate research

In 2012, Trinity was awarded a five-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for research opportunities for students in the arts and humanities. The research takes place throughout the summer with student-faculty pairs and interdisciplinary teams engaging in various research topics and ideas for a ten-week period. This year marks the second opportunity for students to engage in such research.

While research was conducted before the grant, it was on a smaller scale and not comparable to many other research opportunities on campus.

Rubén Dupertuis, associate professor of religion and program director for the Mellon Initiative here at Trinity, stated how the funding from Mellon marks a continued relationship with the organization.

“We are developing a good relationship with the Mellon Foundation and they are funding several programs here at the university,” Dupertuis said. “Last summer was the first time we implemented the program. The years before we had one or two projects in the arts and humanities, but we didn’t have the funding the way we do now.”

While the sciences have dominated student research at most undergraduate universities, Trinity included, the recent grant allows for humanities and arts students to take their academic skills to the next level in hands-on research experience. To senior and past Mellon researcher Nupur Agrawal, the experience allowed her to synthesize various skills she has learned at Trinity and use them in her subsequent research.

“I was able to combine my science skills with my critical reading skills, and to see them both combine I think is what Trinity really wants you to do,” Agrawal said. “Mellon made it possible for us to take our research beyond the classroom and bring our experiences back so others could learn through that.”

Agrawal, along with seven other undergraduates, was able to work with various professors during the summer of 2013 on a variety of topics, from Nupur’s work on rape in India to Taiwanese opera and religious diversity among Navajos. This year’s participants will explore a broad range of topics and get to work closely with respected professors in an incredibly personal experience.

“Research with Mellon is so personal and one-on-one; it’s just you and the professor. For those ten weeks you become co-researchers, rather than them being a supervisor and you being the student,” Agrawal said.

The opportunity presented through the program is beneficial, not only to undergraduates, but to the faculty as well.

To junior Isaiah Ellis, who participated in the program last summer, and will again this year, the ability to get involved in an esteemed professor’s work is something students should strive for.

“These fellowships are a total win-win,” Elllis said. “The professor is able to cover a lot more ground with a helping hand, and the student gets the research experience – any Trinity student who is motivated enough to submerge themselves into a subject of interest for two months should absolutely try to apply with a professor to do this.”

To many of the former participants, the chance for undergraduate research, be it in the humanities with the Mellon Initiative or in the sciences, is a great opportunity to get involved in an interesting topic and contribute to a major project.

“The research is beneficial because undergraduate students rarely have the opportunity to do things like visit and research in an archive, do field work or research a subject that intensively for a long period of time,” Ellis said. “It’s a huge advantage in terms of future coursework and post-graduate plans.”