By Amanda Richey, Editor-in-Chief
Increased funding from the Office of the President to the Furman Advantage program last spring allowed more students to participate in summer research and internships with higher individual stipends this summer.
According to the director of undergraduate research and internships, Dr. Tim Fehler, the Furman Advantage budget increased by approximately 40 percent thanks to the expansion funding. This money contributed directly to summer internship and research stipends for students.
“One of the concerns my office has is the students who might not consider the possibility of doing something like this in the summer because they have to make so much money to be able to return,” Fehler said. “If the stipend is too low then some students can’t even consider doing it.”
Although the Furman Advantage budget has been a university priority—the budget was not cut during difficult economic times in 2009 and 2013—the stipend amount awarded to each summer student had stagnated in recent years.
“The stipend dollar amount hasn’t changed in about 15 years. So a lot more students are funded and a lot more resources are committed, but increasingly the dollar amount is proportionally getting smaller and smaller while housing costs are continuing to go up,” Fehler said.
More than 100 research students relied on the Furman Advantage stipend for housing and living expenses during the summer. The research stipend increased to $3500, up by $500 from previous years.
Reilly Mahan, a senior Elementary Education major, had not conducted research during previous summers, but she enjoyed her experience and credits the Furman Advantage stipend with her success in delving into her research material.
“It made it possible for me to stay here on campus and focus on the research,” Mahan said. “I think it promotes encouraging students, no matter what the socioeconomic background or fields of study, to really expand their knowledge and concentrate on things that they are passionate about.”
Mahan conducted research on diverse children’s literature and its effect on building empathy and identity in young readers.
“One of my old professors asked me about it because I was very passionate about the subject in her literacy class,” Mahan said. “We focused mainly on classroom libraries, research that had already been done and where the holes were in the research.”
Her research attempted to identify “windows, mirrors and sliding doors” in literature found in local classrooms and even in the Greenville public library system.
“So the kids can see themselves in the literature, they can see others’ perspectives through the literature and they can enter new perspectives through the literature,” Mahan said.
The increased budget also provided a Furman Advantage stipend to 125 summer interns, up from an average of 100 in previous years. The internship stipend increased from a range of $1500 to $3000 to a range of $2500 to $3500. Individual stipends vary based on a student’s financial need and expenses associated with the internship. The stipend increase helped a number of students pursue unpaid internships in places like Washington D.C.
Fehler is confident that his office will continue to receive support from the Office of the President to provide opportunities in undergraduate research and internships.
“She [President Davis] certainly sees the value in this and I think there’s a compelling argument to make: one of the ways of expanding opportunities for students is to increase the size of the stipends. So I am hopeful this is a first step as we go forward.”