For many Eagles, summer vacation may be a time for rest and relaxation, or perhaps a job. On April 15, the 2016 recipients of Advanced Study Grants (ASG) were announced, which means that for this select group of students, summer will mean immersing themselves in their academic disciplines, ranging from topics such as natural resource depletion, to "geolinguistics," to Reconstruction Era segregation.
While freshmen, sophomores and juniors alike are encouraged to apply, contending for an Advanced Study Grant is no walk in the park; the selection criteria are, well, selective. Students must have a faculty recommendation and are expected to present formidable project proposals—original, insightful ideas and questions for research or language acquisition within a given field of study—for review by faculty subcommittees.
ASGs are overseen and awarded by the University Fellowships Committee and provide undergraduates with funding along with room and board in order to pursue independent studies and research. Professor of Political Science and Directing Coordinator of the ASG Program, Alice Behnegar, explained that its purpose is to give promising students the opportunity to pursue projects that will "enable them to engage further in advanced work during their later years at BC and beyond than they might have otherwise.”
“They’re much like stepping stones,” added Behnegar, preparing students for the potential pursuit of senior theses in addition to graduate-level research grants or fellowships such as the Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman scholarships.
Thomas Toghramadjian, MCAS '19, one 2016 ASG recipient, will be examining major developments in our modern geopolitical landscape. His research project proposal is entitled, “Understanding Challenges to Syrian-Armenian Repatriation Efforts.” The Syrian Civil War has affected Armenian diaspora populations, numbering in the tens of thousands, within the fractured, war-torn nation. Laws enacted by the Armenian government have facilitated Syrian-Armenian immigration and naturalization to Armenia.
For Toghramadjian, an Armenian-American, the conflict resonates with his family particularly. "There have been barriers to full integration for the resettled Armenians," he said. "They’ve entered largely dispossessed into an nation where unemployment is already high, and there are linguistic and cultural differences between the Armenians of the Middle East and the Armenians of the Caucasus.”
For now, he also seeks to raise awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis and gain an understanding of how the involvement of non-governmental organizations have affected migration patterns to Armenia. In the longer term, Toghramadjian hopes that his project will help him build linguistic abilities, local connections, and regional understanding of post-Soviet states in the Caucasus.
Another 2016 recipient, Lea Nelligan, CSON '18, will travel to the Simon Bolivar Spanish School in Quito, Ecuador this May in order to jump-start her Spanish language acquisition for her project, “Care of the Whole Person: Medicine and Cultural Connection.” Because the program is immersion-based, she’ll be staying in a homestay and taking Spanish lessons daily for four to six hours.
"My greatest challenge is to remain courageous about the whole process," said an excited Nelligan. "Although, knowing that I will be stepping out of my comfort zone so drastically, is already paying off. This will allow for room to grow, and I strongly believe I’ll return from Ecuador having learned a lot more than just Spanish!" She intends on applying the third language to her career as a medical professional, ameliorating the negative impact a language barrier can have on access to quality medical care.
These students are only two of 54 ASG recipients from across BC’s four undergraduate schools. A full list of projects and recipients can be found on the BC website. All in all, the program and its coordinators are incredibly proud of this year’s turnout. Behnegar stated that “faculty members involved with it were very enthusiastic to see wonderful students with a lot of get-up-and-go coming up with some great projects.”
She concluded with a few words of advice: “Successful projects may or may not always answer their initial question, but they discover many new ways of how they might go about it the next time.” For students with genuine interest in delving into their respective fields, acquiring new languages, or learning specialized skills, this is only a very promising beginning to their exploration.