Scholarly excellence can be rewarded in a variety of ways. If you are a chemistry major, your possible prizes range from a certificate to a Merck Index. On the other hand, if you are majoring in government and legal studies, you can apply for the Philo Sherman Bennett Prize Fund and, if successful, could walk away with close to $200.
"There is no 'one size fits all' for departmental prizes," said Senior Vice President for Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley. "First, the terms of the prize may vary; one fund may designate the size of the prize, and another may leave the size of the prize to the discretion of the department. Second, some prizes, such as certain book awards, carry no monetary value."
Longley noted that the average monetary departmental prize is between $300 and $350, with one department last year awarding four prizes, each totaling between $500 and $1,000 dollars.
"Finally, the amount of funding available in any given year can vary; a department may decide for various reasons not to award a prize one year, leaving more funds available the following year for a larger prize or to award more than one prize," she said.
Longley went on to discuss the number of prizes and their nature. "There are approximately 90 departmental prizes awarded on Honors Day, of which 60 are supported endowment income and the rest are funded by gifts and other sources," she said
The 60 that are supported by the endowment are managed along with the College's regular endowment, which is a collective fund comprised of 1,600 different funds. These funds receive an annual distribution from the endowment based on a formula approved by the Board of Trustees. The annual distribution from the endowment is based on a 12-quarter lagging average market value of the endowment based on the prior June 30.
Chair of the Government and Legal Studies Department Allen Springer explained how endowment funds dictates the size of a prize more than the department does, or anything else for that matter.
"We just get a notification from [the Office of Development] telling us how much the prize is this year. We don't have regular departmental funds that we can use for awards so the only thing we would do is, say the fund generated $195 dollars for an award, we would probably add $5 to round it up to $200."
While Springer's department awards students monetary gifts for their achievements, the same cannot be said of the chemistry department.
Chair of the Chemistry Department Richard Broene explained that, while the department didn't offer any cash prizes, their awards still carry significant value.
"I didn't win any of these prizes as an undergraduate, but the guys I know who did, the actual prize they got was secondary to the fact that they were being recognized for their work," he said. "I haven't spoken with the students here but I think they're happy to be recognized as well, and I think it doesn't hurt to say when you're applying to a graduate school or a medical school that you won a department prize of any sort."
Broene went on to advise against cash-based prizes, saying that if a donor approached him with the idea of a solely cash based prize, he would accept but with certain conditions.
"If I were to be having the conversation with a donor, if they were serious about doing it in chemistry, I would ask that it wouldn't just be cash but that it would be something that would further the students interest in chemistry, whether it be journals, whether it be books, or attending a conference, I would ask that it would be target," he said.
Professor of Romance Languages Bill VanderWolk expressed a similar sentiment toward monetary prizes., thoughhe knew of three prizes, all cash-based, in the department, "I don't know how much they're worth, and I don't want to know. To me what's important is recognizing students here at Bowdoin for the work they have done." He also explained that there are no restrictions on how the money can be spent, and that sometimes a French book is included with the check.