Beloit College gave students access to $83,000 last summer to engage in internships, volunteer experiences, workshops, and other adventures. Funding for the Common Grant comes from 14 different sources, including Venture, Weissberg, and International Education, and various departmental and special gift funds.
This year's deadline for applying is March 19.
Jesse Wiles'19 was one of the students to participate last year. Jesse, a sociology major, sat down with the Terrarium to discuss two summer projects he completed using the Common Grant.
Jesse Wiles'19 walking Glacier Highway in Juneau, Alaska.
The Terrarium: Tell us about the motivation behind your common grant projects, exploring glaciers in Alaska and a separate research project with the Beloit Domestic Violence Shelter that led to a publication about how domestic violence is framed in women's magazines.
Jesse: My motivation for the Alaska research project stems from the quality time I've spent in Alaska, specifically Glacier Bay National Park. Climate change is rapidly changing the landscape in Alaska (and globally). The project focused on both glaciers and the Alaskan yellow cedar, which is declining at abnormal rates along the latitudinal plane that runs through Southeast Alaska and extends along the border of Canada and the United States.
Climate change and loss of snow pack is to blame, as the trees' root systems, which have been covered by snow for centuries, are now thawing out and being met by harsh conditions as the region undergoes a shift from snow to rain. Glaciers are such foreign objects to most people and they are disappearing at alarming, irreversible rates so I wanted to showcase their beauty and provide some insight into what's happening in the region.
Jesse coring Alaskan yellow cedars at Point Bridget State Park in Juneau, Alaska.
For the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivors Center project, I was interested in getting more involved in the sociology department, and I just happened to be meeting with Associate Professor of Sociology Kate Linnenberg. She mentioned that the center was looking for a student who was interested in doing a photography project for them.
The project was incredibly tough both emotionally and artistically. As a photographer, I didn't want to intrude too much and take advantage of the families' objects, but I also didn't want to just take photos of the items and not have any emotion involved. I contacted the center and they were interested in having me take photographs for the project originated by director Kelsey Hood. It was her mission to showcase how domestic violence occurs to people of many walks of life and to people in the Beloit community. I photographed objects, mainly children's toys, that the families felt were important to them following the violence.
For the second half of the project I launched an independent research project advised by Director for Community-Based Learning Carol Wickersham. She was incredibly helpful every step of the way and helped me come up with a project where I examined popular women's magazine articles published between 1999-2017 and dissected the discourse used when discussing violence. The project ended up lasting much longer than I anticipated. It began in the spring of 2017 and I'm still working on submitting it for publication to a sociological journal after submitting it to a student paper competition at the Midwest Sociological Society and the American Sociological Association's Honors Program.
Jesse walking up Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska.
The Terrarium: What did you learn from each project?
Jesse: For the Alaska project, it reaffirmed my love for the state and my disdain towards anthropogenic climate change. The domestic violence project made me realize how much control the media has in creating public perception around sensitive issues and how dangerous it can be when the media only shows one side of the story or attempts to distort the truth. The project also made me realize that I would love to continue doing research related to media, criminal justice or social policy in the future with sociology and has made the idea of grad school seem much more appealing.
The Terrarium: How was the Common Grant application process?
Jesse: It was surprisingly easy. If you have a good, concrete idea for what you want to do, the whole process takes no time at all. I think more people should apply for Common Grants. I'm not sure how many people actually apply but it's an awesome way to get to do cool things and tie it into what you're doing in the classroom.