Benson Summer Research Fellowship Program
What are you doing this Summer?
If you’re interested in business history, economics, innovation, art & design, computer science, or an allied field, you may want to consider a Benson Student-Faculty Summer Research fellowship, which will pay you for conducting research with a PLU faculty member.
Benson research fellowships are sources of funding for undergraduate students who want to work 20 hours a week with faculty members on a project of mutual interest. The application deadline is April 1st each year.
The Summer 2019 fellowship application closed on April 1, 2019. The materials below will help students and faculty prepare an application for the Summer 2020 fellowship. You are also welcome to review our Complete List of Research Projects and Abstracts, which lists all completed projects and who participated in them.
2019 Benson Summer Research Team
During Summer 2019, PLU History major Zackery Gostisha will work on a Benson Summer Research project with Professor Rebekah Mergenthal. The project is entitled “Commodified Knowledge in the Early Colonization of the Pacific Northwest.”
The topic investigates what Gostisha describes as the ‘rhetoric of commodification’ in early documents of explorers of the Pacific Northwest region, including Robert Gray, George Vancouver, James Cook, David Thompson, and Charles Wilkes. The team is hoping to understand more deeply the economic foundations of the region, including conceptions of profit and resource use.
Gostisha will complete his Summer research and then head to the University of Oxford for the Fall Semester with the PLU IHON program. He’ll present his research on campus when he returns in early 2020.
Previous Benson Summer Research Fellows (and mentors):
Sarah Cornell Maier (Mark Mulder, School of Business)
Damian Alessandro (Michael Halvorson, History / Innovation Studies)
Abigail E. Welch (Rebekah Mergenthal, Dept. of History)
Teresa Hackler (Karen Travis, Dept. of Economics)
Michael Diambri (Beth Kraig, Dept. of History)
Alex Lund (Rebekah Mergenthal, Dept. of History)
Marc Vetter (Peter Grosvenor, Dept. of Sociology / Global Studies)
Matthew Macfarlane (Michael Halvorson, Dept. of History)
PLU is pleased to announce the availability of student research fellowships in business and economic history each summer, funded by the generous support of the Benson Family Foundation. The purpose of this fellowship program is to encourage student-faculty research at PLU in the area of U.S. business and economic history. The program is administered by Michael Halvorson, Benson Family Chair, and operates in a similar manner to the Kurt Mayer Student Research Fellowship Program in Holocaust Studies.
The Benson Summer Fellowship Program has the following attributes:
- 1-3 student research fellows each summer, defined as June 1 – September 30.
- Each student research fellow must be a current PLU student in good standing with a PLU faculty mentor. The program is designed to encourage faculty-student research and collaboration, in which both faculty and student are engaged in the research process.
- Students may approach faculty mentors from any PLU department, as long as the topic fits the research criteria of investigating business and economic history in the United States. (Comparative projects which compare the United States with other countries or regions are also encouraged.) Proposals from the disciplines of business, economics, history, business ethics, health care, and the natural sciences are strongly encouraged.
- A formal, written proposal is required for the fellowship. The required components of a proposal are listed at the bottom of this page. Contact Michael Halvorson (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional support if you are creating a proposal and need support or clarification.
- The deadline for Summer Benson Research Fellow proposals is typically April 1. All applicants will be notified by April 15. Under certain circumstances (for example, if a student or faculty member is considering other summer work, travel, or fellowship responsibilities) a decision on your application can be made earlier. Please contact Professor Halvorson if you would like to request an early decision.
Fellowship Amount and Expectations
- The amount of the student fellowship is $2500. This level of financial support is designed for full-time work during the Summer months (June, July, and August) with September reserved for finalizing written work and presenting a public lecture on the research project. The student completes the written portion of the research project and gives the presentation. The faculty mentor guides student research, reviews the project as it goes through its stages, and attends the public presentation. (The faculty mentor may also help arrange the venue for the presentation, in collaboration with the Benson Chair.) Typically, the research presentation takes place in October.
- The expectation is that approximately 250 hours of work will be completed by the student between June 1 and September 30 on the research project. The figure of 250 hours works out to be about 20 hours per week during the summer months (the 12 weeks of June, July, and August) with an additional 10 hours of work in September. Each student-faculty team should work up a plan showing how the research and writing time will be organized, and where the research and work will be taking place.
- The faculty mentor receives $1500 for their assistance and mentoring in the project. Faculty participate with the student in establishing research questions, reading all materials, and helping the student define the format and content of the final research project. Faculty mentors do not need to be on campus all summer, but generally available to the student, especially in the critical months of August and September.
- Payments to student and faculty will be linked to four project milestones and pay periods, ending June 30, July 31, August 31, and September 30. If a project is cancelled or not completed, the student and faculty member may retain only the first fellowship payment.
Work Schedule and Resources
- Rather than an “independent study” course, summer fellowship projects are envisioned to be roughly equivalent to a capstone project in the discipline shared by the student and faculty member at PLU. (For example, in the History department, the fellowship project should be based on a thorough reading of primary and secondary sources and culminate in an original essay that is a minimum of 20 pages, not including bibliography.) Each discipline will have its own procedures and best practices for what constitutes a successful capstone project.
- It is not necessary for students to spend each week of the summer on the PLU campus; however, the work plan should specify where the student will complete their work, how often they will meet with their mentor, and where project research materials will be located. The expectation is that mentors will meet with students about once every two weeks.
- Projects that establish connections with local businesses, or that establish relationships with regional archives and/or research institutes in the Pacific Northwest, are strongly encouraged. These connections will strengthen the program and may lead to additional research opportunities for PLU students and faculty.
- One or two summer “workshops” are also envisioned for this program, schedules permitting, which will gather the year’s Benson Summer Fellowship recipients and their mentors together to share readings, ideas, and resources. The first workshop will be scheduled for early summer, and the second take place at about the time of the Fall Faculty Conference (the last week of August). Professor Halvorson will organize and host the workshops on the PLU campus.
- Significant library resources are available to Dale Benson Summer Research fellows. A complete reading list of all books purchased by the Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic history is available upon request, and will be provided to each student-faculty team.
- The written portion of the summer research project is due by September 30. A significant presentation related to the project will also be scheduled on campus during the coming year; for example, at the PLU Student Research Colloquium in April. The presentation may also take the form of a “guest lecture” in a PLU class related to business or economic history, or a formal “seminar” type event hosted elsewhere.
- No academic credit is given for summer fellowships, nor are grades assigned students. However, students and mentors will be formally acknowledged on the Business and Economic History program website, and a lasting record of fellows will be maintained. Periodically, reunions of fellowship program alumni will also be organized.
- Student-faculty research fellowships are an important mark of distinction for the portfolio and CV of students as well as faculty members. They are viewed very positively by graduate schools, prospective employers, and scholarship committees. Most importantly, they can be stepping stones to successful capstone projects, professional publication, and (ideally) identifying and addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Student Qualifications / Requirements
Who can apply?
PLU students who meet the following qualifications at the time of application are encouraged to apply:
- A grade point average at PLU of 3.1 or better;
- An academic record of interest in U.S. business and economic history. This could include, but is not limited to, having completed a Business and Economic History course at PLU, or related coursework in Business, Economics, or Innovation Studies;
- A total of 64 total credit hours toward graduation earned prior to the summer in which the fellowship will be granted; typically students will be completing their sophomore or junior year when they apply for the fellowship.
- Enrollment at PLU for at least 12 credit hours in the fall semester following the summer in which the fellowship will be granted.
Your Benson Summer Fellowship proposal (or prospectus) should be organized in a document containing the following elements. Discuss the contents of your proposal carefully with your faculty mentor, and then email it to Michael Halvorson at email@example.com.
An introduction to your proposed research topic, the problem or subject you are addressing, the questions that you want to ask, and your general approach. This should be a few paragraphs long and should emphasize the major questions or problems that you are investigating.
A prose discussion of the sources or data that you plan to use to investigate your questions. A tentative bibliography at the end of your prospectus should list several promising candidates for sources, but this is the place where you offer how you might use the sources and where any gaps might be. It is good to be candid about your sources, and to differentiate between primary sources (original documents or data that you plan to gather) and secondary sources (analytical documents written by scholars who also have written about your subject). The type of sources that you use will vary from discipline to discipline. For example, Art & Design students should emphasize their use of visual media and how their project relates to business, economic, or historical trends.
Organization and Approach
A short discussion about how you will conduct your research and organize your concluding paper or project. It is not necessary for you to write up a tentative table of contents here. Instead, write a few paragraphs about what you hope your project and written results will accomplish, and perhaps the ways that you will present your arguments, evidence, and other media. This is only tentative because you haven’t completed your research yet!
A weekly schedule of what you plan to do in the months June-September. Consider that you will be working some 20-hours a week on this project, with some gaps for breaks or short vacations. How will you spend your time? Will you travel? Be gathering data or visiting local sources of information? Will your faculty mentor be travelling or teaching at times? This does not need to be exact, but think about how you will actually get your work done, and come up with a proposed plan.
A preliminary list of the books, journal articles, databases, microfilm, interview collections, archives, websites, news sources, visual media, artwork, etc. that you plan to evaluate as you plan and complete your research. (The exact mix will vary from topic to topic and discipline to discipline.) Every source in your bibliography does not need to be used in the final paper, but we would like to know what basic materials you have read and based your ideas on.