Emerson Enhancement Fund kicks off second semester

The college announced on Oct. 3 that the Emerson Enhancement Fund, which provides grants for students to work on projects outside of classes, is open for a second semester of applications.  

The money can be used by “students with an identified financial need to enrich their collegiate experience by securing additional funding for extracurricular programming, event attendance, creative and/or research projects,” according to Emerson’s website.

The EEF was created with $2 million gift donated in July 2013 by college trustee Leo Hindery Jr. and his wife, Patti Wheeler Hindery. 

Fourteen students received grants from the EEF in the spring, according to Ruthanne Madsen, associate vice president for enrollment.

Over 100 students applied for the EEF, Madsen said, who were then selected in the spring based on an application, financial need, enrichment opportunities for the student, benefits to the college, and ability to complete the project with the amount of money asked for.

Jennifer Villalobos, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, received around $1,500 from the fund in the spring. She said she used the money to leave her job at a sandwich shop for a month to attend a seminar with Ayad Akhtar, who served as an artist-in-residence at the college last semester and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013.

Villalobos said she was invited by a professor to take part in the seminar of about nine students. She said that they focused on the concept of story and narrative in biweekly meetings throughout March.

“It was a really awesome way for me to delve into some more analytical [and] deconstructive knowledge about writing, outside of a classroom setting,” Villalobos said.

She said that without the funds, she wouldn’t have had time to have this experience while attending school full-time, working, and being involved with groups on campus.

“Unfortunately, I’ve always had to hold a job down during college,” Villalobos said. “I haven’t always been the student that could take on as many internships or extracurriculars.”

Donovan Birch, a senior political communication major, attended the 26th Annual Conference of the International Academy of Business Disciplines in April. He said he presented twice, once on public diplomacy and cultural competency based on a trip to Barcelona, and once on the 2013 GLOBECOM Symposium, an integrated marketing competition which he said his team won.

To Birch, the conference was a valuable chance to learn and network.

“It’s a group of communication professionals from all over the world who present either their research or what they’re doing in the field professionally,” Birch said. “As a student, you definitely want to see what people are doing so you can have an idea of what you may or may not want to do once you leave college.”

Birch said he received about $800 to cover his flights, hotel, registration fee, and transportation to and from the airport for the two-day conference.

Ryan Sweeney, a senior performing arts major, spent the summer working at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. Its website describes it as the largest arts festival in the world, with 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows in 299 venues in 2014.

Sweeney said he worked for the Pleasance Theater Trust at the front of the house, helping people and providing information. He said that the Pleasance had 23 stages, with about 10 performances on each stage every day.

“I would love, love, love to organize a fringe festival,” Sweeney said. “That would be one of my dream jobs.”

Sweeney said he had attended the festival in high school as a performer, but wanted to experience it as a worker. When he met three other performing arts majors at Emerson who had worked for the Pleasance, he said they gave him tips on applying for a work visa.

While the Pleasance provided accommodations and a budget for food, Sweeney said he received $1,400 to cover his flights and work visa application.

Sweeney said that the funds allowed him to do something outside of what he could typically do at Emerson.

“One of the things that I most enjoyed about the EEF is that it allowed me the creative freedom to go to Scotland and work their fringe festival,” Sweeney said, “which … doesn’t fit into the traditional Emerson definition of a project.”