Benson Summer Research Fellowship Program

What are you doing next Summer?

If you’re interested in history, economics, business, health care, innovation studies, or a range of allied topics, 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.

Many students go on to present their work at regional or national conferences. In April 2023, Benson fellows Kara Atkinson and Fulton Bryant-Anderson presented their work at Central Washington University. Travel and conference funding was provided by the Benson Fellowship Program.

The materials below will help students and faculty prepare an application for the Summer 2025 fellowship. You are also welcome to review our Complete List of Research Projects and Abstracts, which lists program statistics and the 15 completed projects (2016-2023) in our fellowship program. If you’d like to see one of the completed papers or program artifacts, just let us know.

2024 Benson Summer Research Team

During Summer 2024, the Benson Summer Research team will be Katherine Gunter and Dr. Rebekah Mergenthal.

Katherine Gunter (right) is a History major and Dance minor completing her junior year at PLU. She is also an International Honors student and plays Flute in the university symphony orchestra. Katherine’s research project is entitled “‘No on Nine’ but Yes to Community: Lesbian Activists and Local Businesses in Portland, Oregon, in the late 20th Century.”

The goal of the project is to examine the relationship between the Lesbian Community Project and local business community in Portland, in order to understand how each group tried to shape the relationship over time. The focus will be on local businesses used as community spaces, including bookstores, small grocers, co-ops, and bars, because these community spaces tended to have more intimate relationships with local community members compared to corporate businesses.

Katherine’s faculty sponsor will be Dr. Rebekah Mergenthal, Associate Professor of History. Dr. Michael Halvorson will administer the fellowship and arrange for the research to be presented on the PLU campus during the 2024-2025 academic year.

Previous Benson Family Summer Research Fellows (and mentors):
Kara Atkinson (Peter Grosvenor, Global Studies, Sociology)
Austin Karr (Gina Hames, History)
Fulton Bryant-Anderson (Michael Halvorson, History, Innovation Studies)
Kristin Moniz (Michael Halvorson, History / Karen Travis, Economics)
Gracie Anderson (Peter Grosvenor, Global Studies, Sociology)
Ben Merrill (Ralph Flick, School of Business)
Zackery Gostisha (Rebekah Mergenthal, History)
Sarah Cornell Maier (Mark Mulder, School of Business)
Damian Alessandro (Michael Halvorson, Innovation Studies)
Abigail E. Welch (Rebekah Mergenthal, History)
Teresa Hackler (Karen Travis, Economics)
Michael Diambri (Beth Kraig, History)
Alex Lund (Rebekah Mergenthal, History)
Marc Vetter (Peter Grosvenor, Global Studies)
Matthew Macfarlane (Michael Halvorson, History)

Call for 2025 Summer Research Fellows in Business and Economic History

Deadline: April 1, 2025

Contact: Michael Halvorson (, Dept. of History


PLU is pleased to announce the availability of student research fellowships in Innovation Studies and Business & Economic History, funded by the generous support of the Benson Family Foundation since 2016. The purpose of this fellowship program is to encourage student-faculty research during the summer months. The program is administered by Prof. Michael Halvorson, Benson Family Chair.

The Benson Summer Fellowship Program has the following attributes:

  • 1-2 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 Innovation or Business & 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 innovation studies, business, economics, history, media studies, 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 ( 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 $2800. 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 the Fall.
  • 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 is approximate, only, and works out to be about 20 hours per week during the summer months (June, July, and August) with a few hours of additional 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 $1700 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 are typically linked to three project milestones and pay periods, ending June 30, July 31, and August 31. 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.
  • 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.

Project Completion

  • 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:

  1. A grade point average at PLU of 3.1 or better;
  2. 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;
  3. 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.
  4. Enrollment at PLU for at least 12 credit hours in the fall semester following the summer in which the fellowship will be granted.
  5. Students registering for a PLUS year or graduate school at PLU are eligible, as long as they meet the requirements above.

Proposal Format

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


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.