On May 9, a rush of last-minute applications will flood the Office of the Dean, as students vie for the increasingly competitive summer stipends.
Several weeks later, successful applicants will receive checks for up to $1,000, which will either fund independent research projects or serve as compensation for not-for-profit internships.
In the past, administrators have sometimes been surprised at the low number of applications for the stipends, called Richter grants. But receantly, students have been applying for internship grants in greater numbers, according to Katherine Karvunis, associate dean of the College and overseer of the Richter grant selection committee.
“We would like to have far more proposals, but some students think that this grant is designated just for particular disciplines, when in fact a broad range of disciplines are represented,” she said.
Karvunis said that the increase in applications may be due to expanded nonprofit summer opportunities in the 1990s.
Last year, research grants were awarded to 15 of the 29 students who applied for them. Only three of the 39 applicants who applied for internship funding did not receive it.
Two competitions for funding take place during the academic year. The first competition, in November, awards money for winter projects. A second competition, in May, allocates grants for the summer or fall.
Karvanis pointed to the diverse group of project titles as evidence of the broad range of applicants. One student finished a project on Pentecostalism in the Chicago area, while another student studied the algal nutrient physiology as an interface between biotic and abiotic processes.
The internships, which students must secure on their own, also represent a varied field of subjects. One student interned at the Northeastern/Illinois Planning Commission, while another student helped guide rape victims toward emotional recovery while volunteering at a rape crisis center. Yet another student cultivated her love of music and her talent for history by working at the New York Philharmonic archives.
“There are so many possibilities, students just have great ideas,” Karvunis said.
In order to apply for internship funding, students must submit a letter verifying their summer plans. Applicants must also supply details of the internship that demonstrate how they will benefit from the experience.
The money granted for the internship is meant to cover living expenses. In contrast, students applying for research funding must show that they will be covering research costs with the money they receive.
But some students try to take advantage of the fact that so few apply.
“We don’t combine the two,” Karvanis said. “Although some have tried, it’s either a research project or an internship.”
The selection committee is made up of four anonymous faculty members representing the Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities divisions.
The names of the winners are not published. Instead, they are submitted in a report to the Richter foundation, which includes information about the faculty members’ recommendations for funding.
The Richter Fund was established at the University of Chicago in the 1970s, and has been helping provide learning opportunities for students for over 15 years. Funds are distributed equally among 12 colleges, including Yale University and Wake Forest University. The Bank of America is the sole trustee of the fund, established by Ed Richter in 1967, shortly before his death. He left his entire estate in two trusts to be distributed to private colleges as support for independent study projects and related travel.