By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Lafayette College is piloting a new program to provide funding to students for travel related to their senior honors thesis research. Seniors who are still working on their honors theses—as well as juniors who plan to write senior honors theses—who would benefit from travel are welcome to apply for the Assante Program for Honors Research Travel, which is made possible by the generosity of Linda Assante ’90 and Marc A. Carrasco. 

The Assante Program for Honors Research Travel is part of the Global Learning and Community Engagement Fund.

“I am excited that the funds are applied to supporting independent student research projects that the College encourages and celebrates in its honors theses, which many students take on each year in a wide variety of disciplines,” says Markus Dubischar, associate dean of the curriculum. “There is tremendous alignment with Lafayette’s academic priorities, particularly faculty-mentored research by students and global education.”

Deadline for full consideration for travel in summer 2021 is April 1, though students may apply after that date subject to availability of funds. For winter travel, all applications must be submitted by Nov. 1. If approved, students will receive funding that covers all or most of their travel expenses.

Priority will be placed on projects for which the research will clearly benefit from the student’s travel and that address current developmental, economic, educational, environmental, political, social, or other related issues at the destination. Preference will be given to projects that involve international travel and direct engagement with the local population or agencies, institutions, or other stakeholders. 

Faculty travel to accompany students may also be supported depending on the destination,  nature of the project, and availability of funds. Time and length of travel are open and determined by the research goals. Applicants should be aware of travel restrictions (such as those related to COVID-19), which will be taken into consideration in the review process.

Rochelle Keesler, director of international and off-campus education, encourages any and all eligible Lafayette students whose research has a global focus to apply—especially if they are considering post-graduation international research opportunities, such as the Fulbright Program.

“Our students are already engaging in academic research on these themes,” she says. “Access to funding will allow motivated students to conduct research that leverages their own international networks, and the international networks of our faculty, in ways that will enhance their research with different institutional and cultural perspectives. Having the opportunity to engage in research beyond Lafayette’s campus will also broaden their perspectives and add texture to their theses.”

“The opportunity to travel to relevant destinations will give the students’ research additional depth and dimension,” Dubischar echoes. “It brings an experiential and hands-on component to the research questions students ask, the methodologies they use, and the results they achieve.”

The program’s accessibility, Keesler explains, puts the opportunity for international travel for thesis research on more students’ radars, even if they aren’t currently considering it as a possibility. The experience that the fund could provide to students, she adds, is important now more than ever, especially in the current state of world affairs.

“In this moment of intersecting international challenges, our students need more exposure to different ways of thinking, studying, researching, and living in the world,” Keesler says. “Providing Lafayette students with funding to realize that in a tangible way through their research is one way we’re making sure our students receive a global education.”

“Traveling has the power, as only few other things do, to open you up to the world’s diversity and richness and to propel you toward greater intercultural competency,” Dubischar adds.

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