Students explore creative pursuits through Carson summer grants

Have you ever been to summer camp? What did you like about it?

Matt Faunt ’13 asked the audience these questions at the Carson Undergraduate Research Grant presentations on Nov. 14 in the Hatfield Library.

Though most of the crowd had attended summer camp, no one could recall exactly why he or she enjoyed it — a typical response for camp-goers, Faunt says.

“People find it difficult to define the summer camp experience,” says Faunt, who spent the summer interviewing directors from 12 Oregon camps. “The Carson grant was a unique opportunity to explore a topic that I am passionate about and couldn’t have experienced in a classroom.”

Carson grants offer Willamette sophomores and juniors the opportunity to undertake a scholarly, creative or professional research project during the summer. On average, 10 or more grants of up to $3,000 are awarded each year.

The latest Carson presentations featured Caroline Cahill ’13, Meagan Hash ’13, Lars Henriksen ’13, Michael Lukas ’13, Elena Wimberger ’13 and Faunt.

Faunt studied the programming of summer camps across Oregon, using his research results to propose a Willamette summer camp at Zena Forest. He hopes to make his Willamette camp proposal a reality by the summer of 2015 through a partnership with the Tsuga Community Commission.

Hash compared the wildlife management strategies of East African National Parks with the management of gray wolves in Northwest Montana, while Lukas analyzed the production techniques of Neolithic pottery at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney.

Wimberger interviewed Chilean student activists to determine the effects of historical dictatorship on student movements today, and Cahill evaluated the health changes of Willamette’s Asian international students.

The last student, Henriksen, traveled to Japan. While there, he compared Japanese and American newspaper coverage of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. He found that American reporters used words such as “crisis” and “disaster” to sensationalize the event, while the Japanese newspapers downplayed it as an “accident”.

“With the world turning towards clean energy and nuclear power as a viable option, it's important to examine how incidents like Fukushima are covered,” Henriksen says. “The Carson grant allowed me to explore the fundamental cultural narratives that influence interpretations, terminology and portrayal of events.”

Monique Bourque, director of Student Academic Grants and Awards, says the Carson Scholars program allows students to take on interdisciplinary projects that don't fit neatly into the academic curriculum.

“The breadth and flexibility of the program allows students to explore topics that can help them find their best academic direction at Willamette, and guide them into professional or academic training after they graduate,” Bourque says.

“I have heard from numerous alums over the years that they would not be doing what they are today if they had not received a Carson grant.”

Named after former College of Liberal Arts Dean Julie Carson, the grant program was created in 1988 through a gift from Bill Long ’59, a lifetime trustee for Willamette. The first scholars were chosen the following year.

The next deadline for Carson Grant proposals is Feb. 14. Learn more on the Student Academic Grants and Awards website.