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Equalizing resources across disciplines

April 20, 2018

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

As students solidify plans both for the coming summer and, in the case of graduating seniors, for their careers, the College provides invaluable resource, whether in the form of the Office of Career Planning, the Office of Institutional Fellowships and Research, or through informal information networks. Although students from all disciplines and with a variety of career goals benefit from this support, there is a noticeable imbalance in the number of opportunities available to students in the humanities and social sciences compared to those available to students in the hard sciences and mathematics.

Of the 67 institutional fellowships potentially available on an annual basis, 24 are available to students conducting research in any discipline, 31 are available exclusively to students in STEM fields, while only 12 are set aside specifically for student research in the humanities and social sciences. The distribution of departmental fellowships is also imbalanced, though certainly less so, with eleven STEM departmental fellowships and nine humanities and social science fellowships.

We acknowledge that many institutional fellowships are funded by outside donations, giving the College limited control over the distribution of these funds. However, the College should recognize the existence of this imbalance and reach out to donors who could support additional fellowships in the humanities and the social sciences. One such example of a recent success in this regard is the development of the Public Service Initiative, which provides opportunities and guidance to students interested in government work and public service.

In part, STEM fields allow for more opportunities for students, as professors often conduct ongoing research projects which benefit from student assistants. In the humanities and social sciences, research opportunities are almost exclusively driven by students’ ideas, since high-level research in these fields does not often benefit from additional labor, or requires skills and experience that undergraduates do not yet have. This distinction, though, should not create as significant a barrier to entry as it does now. Humanities and social science departments should expand their recruitment efforts for fellowships and offer greater aid to students in the process of shaping a research project.

An imbalance also exists in the programming offered by the Office of Career Planning. Tech Trek, an annual networking trip to Boston-area tech companies, and West Trek, a similar trip to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley funded by alumni donations and the Office of the President, have no counterparts in the humanities or social sciences. Similar trips geared towards industries such as journalism, publishing or non-profit work, exploring career opportunities and offering alumni relationships to students interested in these fields, would be a step in the right direction.

In the spirit of the liberal arts, we challenge Bowdoin to think creatively about how to expand research and career opportunities for all of its capable students.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh and Ian Ward. 



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