From individuals to organizations to entire academic departments, Southwestern University runs on an immense money exchange, both internally and externally, though the majority of students on campus are left in the dark (and economic hole). Many of the academic departments on campus are making use of grants to supplement their dwindling budgets due to the shrinking endowment this last year. Over $1.2 million was awarded to the Environmental Studies program this semester through an assimilation of funds from the Kendra Foundation, the Associated Colleges of the South and the ever-present Mellon Foundation, according to Laura Hobgood-Oster, Paden Brown Chair in Religion and Environmental Studies.
“[This] amount will really assist us in solidifying and enhancing the Environmental Studies program and environmental activism on campus,” she said.
These funds are currently being used for the postdoctoral faculty member, Jinelle Sperry, to teach courses in environmental studies, and will in the future be used to employ a full-time faculty for the department as well as developing a program to provide financial support for students studying abroad with this focus. Hobgood-Oster said those environmentally impassioned continue to keep an eye on this money. “Soon we will be putting together a call for proposals for student-driven activist projects on campus.”
For those less environmentally inclined but still desperate for funding, the pocketbooks open to organizations include Community Chest, the McMichael Student Experience Enrichment Fund and Emergency Funding. All organizations must go through the Student Fees and Allocations Committee, as posted in the SU Organization Handbook. Community Chest is one of the least-tapped sources of funding on campus and unfortunately so as it is stated in the handbook to be “available to any University ‘budgeting-unit’ that sponsors events geared at improving the quality of social life and interaction on campus.” Funds appropriated are generally over $1,000. The McMichael Fund is a more widely accessed source of funding, intending to “enrich student life as a whole” through fostering co-curricular or extracurricular experiences. Emergency Funding is allocated by Student Congress and is mainly reserved for existing organizations that have run over their budgets or new organizations on campus that need start-up funds, according to Brian Tidwell, current Student Congress Treasurer.
But what if you are simply an un-tethered budding academic seeking a little investment in your intellectual capital? Individuals on campus may seek funding from the McMichael fund as well, but often turn to individual departments or the King Creativity Fund to finance their bright, liberally-artistic ideas. Intended to stimulate out-of-the-box thinking, the King Creativity Fund awards usually nine to 11 individuals and small groups financing between $200 and $2,000, according to Christine Vasquez, who manages the fund. This money can be seen throughout campus as previous scholars have done a variety of things, including implementing the recycling program on campus (those blue bins had to come from somewhere), many of the independently done theater projects, SU Radio and a gamut of scientific experiments.
Remington Robertson, a current bidder for the fund, finds the process “straightforward and encouraging—though until I began to dig for funding, it was unclear how to access these funds and find financial support for my project.”
Andrew Dornon, also contending for the fund, is concerned with the competition and lack of alternative options should his bid not be rewarded. “With the rate of acceptance well under half, we’re looking at back-up plans. We’re also applying for the McMichael Fund and approaching our department directly, but we have a few alternative plans, just in case.”
This level of dedication to innovative, experimental and often expensive ideas is what drives the campus and sheds light on the continuous need for capital in the enrichment process of our liberal arts educations.