Rusack Coastal Studies Fellowships

Phase One Application Deadline: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at noon
Phase Two Application Deadline: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at noon

Description. The Rusack Fellowships, made possible through the generous donation of Geoffrey Rusack ('78) and Alison Wrigley Rusack, support students engaged in summer research at the Coastal Studies Center or locations nearby that impact the coastal environment. Marking the boundary between the land and the ocean, the coast is a transitional zone that embodies a complex interplay of forces and human interests. Rusack Fellows conduct research projects or complete artistic works that explore the relationship between the forces affecting this transition zone. These fellowships are open to students of all disciplines and must be carried out under the direction of a faculty member(s) who is independently interested in the area of study.

Just as our liberal-arts curriculum seeks to expose students to different ways of viewing the world and encourages them to forge new connections between them, Coastal Studies explicitly recognizes that a better understanding of our college's location in coastal Maine requires different approaches to, and the formation of new connections between, the complex forces affecting our coastal environment. Toward this end, the Coastal Studies Committee, which makes Rusack Fellowship award recommendations to the Internal Fellowships Committee, seeks each year to support a cohort of Rusack Fellows that encompasses a range of interests and approaches to the study of the coast.

Please visit Recent Bowdoin Fellows to read about projects that have received Rusack funding in the past.

Eligibility. First-years, sophomores, and juniors may apply. Current seniors are ineligible.

Please note that there is limited funding available, and the application pool is extremely competitive. As a result, the Internal Student Fellowships Committee has to make very difficult decisions, resulting in some strong applications being left unfunded. An application, however, will be more competitive if it adheres to the following guidelines.

Selection Criteria. Members of the Internal Student Fellowships Committee review applications and base their award decisions on the following:

  • Fit with fellowship criteria. The extent to which the proposed project meets the aims of the particular fellowship to which the student is applying should be explicitly stated.
  • Relevance and significance of the proposed project. How the proposed activities relate and make an original contribution to the broader scholarly or creative field should be clear. 
  • Description of the proposed project. The research question or goal should be clearly stated and the methodology, processes and procedures plainly explained. The description should be concise, free of unnecessary jargon (or with specific terms defined) and easy to understand by a non-specialist. 
  • Feasibility/scope of the proposed project. Evidence that the student has sufficient expertise, gained through previous coursework or research experience, to carry out the proposed project should be clearly outlined. In addition, what the student aims to complete, and by what dates, should be evident. The project should have a reasonable expectation of being completed.
  • Candidate's academic record. No GPA minimum is required; however, the transcript should provide evidence of sufficient coursework in the area of the proposed project and grades should indicate a strong understanding of the subject matter and likelihood of being able to carry out the project.  
  • Potential for learning. How the project will significantly enhance the student’s academic development (e.g., completion of an honor’s project) and possibly career and personal development (e.g., presentation at a conference, preparation for graduate school) should be clearly stated.
  • Faculty mentor's letter of recommendation. The letter of recommendation should evaluate the student’s qualifications to carry out the proposed project and assess the appropriateness of the project’s scope within the context of the discipline. Letters should also describe the faculty-student mentoring relationship in some detail (e.g., how often will the mentor and student meet, what are the mentor’s expectations for the student) and why this plan is appropriate for the project. Faculty mentors will be expected to review student proposals before submitting their letters.
  • Budget (when applicable). The budget should be comprehensive, specific, and reasonable. All costs should be relevant and essential to the project and be justified in the budget narrative. In general, budgets demonstrating frugality will be more competitive (e.g., shared accommodations, use of public transportation). Information about domestic and international travel costs can be found on the websites of the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Department of State, respectively. Students are advised, however, that the rates provided on these websites are in the higher range of what the Internal Student Fellowships Committee would expect to see in a student’s budget. 

Frequent Problems

  • Proposed activity’s contribution to the broader field or community not clearly stated.
  • Procedures omitted, vaguely stated, or unrelated to the project; project unrealistic or unlikely to succeed.
  • Failure to speak adequately to the student’s development.
  • Failure to demonstrate the student’s and the mentor’s engagement in the project.
  • Inflated or unreasonable budget, or narrative or notes that do not clearly support the budget.
 

In addition to the above, please also keep in mind:

  • Inadequate attention to style raises questions about the student’s commitment to the project and likelihood to succeed.
  • Brevity and lack of detail in the faculty member’s letter of recommendation raise questions about the degree of faculty support for the project.

Please note that there is limited funding available, and the application pool is extremely competitive. As a result, the Internal Student Fellowships Committee has to make very difficult decisions, resulting in some strong applications being left unfunded. An application, however, will be more competitive if it adheres to the following guidelines.

Selection Criteria. Members of the Internal Student Fellowships Committee review applications and base their award decisions on the following:

  • Fit with fellowship criteria. The extent to which the proposed project meets the aims of the particular fellowship to which the student is applying should be explicitly stated.
  • Relevance and significance of the proposed project. How the proposed activities relate and make an original contribution to the broader scholarly or creative field should be clear. 
  • Description of the proposed project. The research question or goal should be clearly stated and the methodology, processes and procedures plainly explained. The description should be concise, free of unnecessary jargon (or with specific terms defined) and easy to understand by a non-specialist. 
  • Feasibility/scope of the proposed project. Evidence that the student has sufficient expertise, gained through previous coursework or research experience, to carry out the proposed project should be clearly outlined. In addition, what the student aims to complete, and by what dates, should be evident. The project should have a reasonable expectation of being completed.
  • Candidate's academic record. No GPA minimum is required; however, the transcript should provide evidence of sufficient coursework in the area of the proposed project and grades should indicate a strong understanding of the subject matter and likelihood of being able to carry out the project.  
  • Potential for learning. How the project will significantly enhance the student’s academic development (e.g., completion of an honor’s project) and possibly career and personal development (e.g., presentation at a conference, preparation for graduate school) should be clearly stated.
  • Faculty mentor's letter of recommendation. The letter of recommendation should evaluate the student’s qualifications to carry out the proposed project and assess the appropriateness of the project’s scope within the context of the discipline. Letters should also describe the faculty-student mentoring relationship in some detail (e.g., how often will the mentor and student meet, what are the mentor’s expectations for the student) and why this plan is appropriate for the project. Faculty mentors will be expected to review student proposals before submitting their letters.
  • Budget (when applicable). The budget should be comprehensive, specific, and reasonable. All costs should be relevant and essential to the project and be justified in the budget narrative. In general, budgets demonstrating frugality will be more competitive (e.g., shared accommodations, use of public transportation). Information about domestic and international travel costs can be found on the websites of the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Department of State, respectively. Students are advised, however, that the rates provided on these websites are in the higher range of what the Internal Student Fellowships Committee would expect to see in a student’s budget. 

Frequent Problems

  • Proposed activity’s contribution to the broader field or community not clearly stated.
  • Procedures omitted, vaguely stated, or unrelated to the project; project unrealistic or unlikely to succeed.
  • Failure to speak adequately to the student’s development.
  • Failure to demonstrate the student’s and the mentor’s engagement in the project.
  • Inflated or unreasonable budget, or narrative or notes that do not clearly support the budget.
 

In addition to the above, please also keep in mind:

  • Inadequate attention to style raises questions about the student’s commitment to the project and likelihood to succeed.
  • Brevity and lack of detail in the faculty member’s letter of recommendation raise questions about the degree of faculty support for the project.

Stipend/Research Related Expenses. The Rusack Coastal Studies Fellowship carries a $3,200 stipend. Summer fellows agree to commit eight weeks full-time toward the completion of their proposed projects and to refrain from employment during their period of appointment. The Rusack Coastal Studies Fellowship is not offered during the academic year.

If requested and approved during the application process, summer fellows may also be reimbursed for up to $500 for justified research related expenses (e.g., laboratory/art supplies, analytical costs, and travel beyond the local area to conduct field work or to visit an archive).

Should a faculty mentor feel that a fellow is not making sufficient progress toward the research goals set forth in the fellow's proposal, the College reserves the right to discontinue funding.

Housing. Summer Fellows, who are in good disciplinary standing with the College, are eligible to stay in campus housing during the summer. If you elect to live in campus housing over the summer, the College will cover the $600 cost and you will not pay rent. (Please note that for some students this benefit may be taxable.) Summer fellows who live off-campus, whether by choice or due to their standing with the Office of the Dean of Students, will not receive any support for their housing costs. Academic year fellows do not receive any support for housing.

Human/Animal Subjects. Bowdoin College is committed to the proper and humane treatment of all human and animal research subjects.

  • Research involving vertebrate animals must be covered by a protocol approved by Bowdoin's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before any research can commence.  Often a student’s research project will fall under the auspices of a faculty member’s existing protocol.  Talk with your faculty mentor and visit the IACUC website to learn whether you must submit an application to Bowdoin’s IACUC.  If you are required to submit an application, it must be approved prior to beginning your research and before you can receive your first stipend payment.  Please plan to submit your application two months prior to beginning your research.
  • If your research involves human subjects, you may be required to submit a protocol application form to Bowdoin’s Institutional Research Board (IRB).  Please talk with your faculty mentor and visit the IRB website to determine if your project requires IRB review.  If IRB review is required, your application must be approved prior to beginning your research and before you can receive your first stipend payment.  Please plan to submit your application two months prior to beginning your research.

If you are unsure whether your project needs approval, please contact either the IACUC or IRB chair, depending on whether your research involves vertebrate animals or humans, respectively.  The chairs can be contacted via the IACUC and IRB websites.