Excel research increasing on campus

Excel+research+increasing+on+campus

Katherine Weeks

Alena Principato ‘15 researches library history as an EXCEL scholar for the English Department.

Photo by Christina Shaman ‘16

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The popular EXCEL Scholar program is slated to receive a huge financial boost as a result of the college’s ambitious $400 million capital campaign.

The proposed allocation would give EXCEL $10 million, according to campaign administrators. EXCEL— which is accepting proposals for the summer scholar research program until March 9— has a current annual budget is $500,000.

The extra endowment is predicated, however, on the college’s fundraising campaign reaching its target goal. Called Live Connected/Lead Change, the campaign had already passed the halfway goal of more than $200 million when it went public last fall.

If received, the funds would go towards expanding the program, potentially increasing wages and covering travel expenses for students doing research in the field, head of the EXCEL program Dean John Meier said.

“I hope it goes towards employing as many students as possible,” Blair Gallante ’15 said, who completed cerebellum development research with visiting professor Cathryn Kubera in 2013. “Lafayette’s never going to be a leader in huge research, but they are a leader in undergraduate research and preparing their undergraduates for the future.”

By underwriting the opportunity for students to assist professors in research, EXCEL encourages and illustrates “Lafayette’s commitment to student-centered learning.” It also provides “unique academic opportunities,” according to the program’s website.

“I think the capacity to do independent research with faculty is a distinctive and critical element of our undergraduate curriculum,” President Byerly said. “I think that it’s one of the main reasons that I would advise a student to go to a liberal arts college rather than a university.”

To participate in EXCEL research, a student must first be nominated by a professor. They then work part-time during the academic year or full–time during summer and interim sessions. They currently receive $8-10 an hour depending on their specific situation and free on-campus housing.

Alena Principato ‘15, an English and Art major, began her EXCEL work as a first year student with English professor Christopher Phillips as her mentor. Principato has been helping to create an online database of historical records for the Easton Library Company throughout her time at Lafayette and does similar research with Skillman Library.

“I’m applying to graduate school for Library and Information Science,” Principato said. “This is a library history project, but also a digital humanities project, which is exploding in the field of library science right now, so all that experience is great for me to have.”

Professors said they find the work with students equally rewarding.

Economics professor Chris Ruebeck worked with Sam Kalra ’16, an economics and engineering studies major, the past summer to make improvements to an economic simulation that models innovation in the cell phone market.

 

“There are often things that I didn’t expect to learn, that I learned,” said Ruebeck, who has been involved in the program for over 10 years. “Developments occurred during the summer that I couldn’t have predicted.”