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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Tisch Summer Fellowships promote active citizenship globally

TischScholarships_JessLaporte
The Tisch Summer Fellows Program allows students like Jessica Laporte, LA'14, to take on international projects. Laporte and Emma Wells, a junior, completed their project in Haiti.

Running a water sanitation training program in Haiti may seem out of reach, but it has become a reality for Jessica Laporte (LA '14) and junior Emma Wells, thanks to funding from the Tisch College's Tisch Summer Fellows (TSF) program.

For many Tufts students, designing and completing a research project in a real-world situation is a dream that has come true, in large part due to grants from the TSF program. Although there are fellowships available in Washington, D.C., New York and Massachusetts, the program also includes a grant for international work.

According to the Tisch College website, the aim of the program is to allow students to promote the idea of active citizenship through projects. While the domestic programs are completed through internships, the international program requires students to take on a project of their own design.

“We’ve actually been doing the international award for a few years now,” Tisch College Program Administrator Danica Fisher said. “It’s been really exciting because we’ve attracted students not just at the undergraduate level but also graduate level students.”

Participants are not limited to the Medford/Somerville campus, either -- students from both the medical school and dental school have applied in the past.

Fisher also noted that there is not a specific major or discipline that applicants are coming from.

“It’s exciting because we’ve got so many students from across the campus -- a cross-section of students -- who are applying for this award,” she said. “I think that Tufts students by and large are civic minded.”

Students who have worked with the TSF program have tackled a wide range of global projects, according to Fisher.

“Last year we had four projects, two which were in Haiti, one was in Zambia, one was in Peru,” she said.

One of the projects in Haiti, titled Haiti Global Health Summer 2014, is a continuation of work that has been done over the past four summers.

“I really see the work that we’re doing as important, because it’s providing an opportunity for students to continue the good work that we’re doing all over the world ... and also to expand and think about new ways that Tufts students can touch other areas of the world in really impactful ways,” Fisher said.

Laporte  and Wells were able to fund their water sanitation project this summer, titled "The Archimedes Project: Community Chlorinators (Haiti)," with assistance from TSF. The project trains local entrepreneurs in water sanitation and chlorine distribution.

“[The entrepreneurs] work with women in the community to train them,” Wells said. “Those women then go out and do household-to-household distribution of chlorine products.”

Laporte, who is still currently in Haiti working on the project, found out about the Tisch Fellowships through working with LIFT, a community-based nonprofit organization that works to "lift" people out of poverty for good, during her freshman and sophomore years.

“I found out that they had broadened [the fellowships] … and you could propose your own summer project,” she said.

Applying for the grant involves submitting an application, which consists of logistical details like a timeline and budget, in addition to two letters of support.

“Originally, Emma and I applied to the Tisch College's Active Citizenship Summer Grant for an evaluation,” Laporte said.

After all the proposals were evaluated, Wells and Laporte were selected as one of the four groups to receive funding for a summer project.

“We were going to do a full research evaluation of the pilot this summer,” Laporte said. “Unfortunately, due to Institutional Review Board approval and timing, we weren’t able to go through with that evaluation."

According to Laporte, however, the Tisch College remained highly cooperative despite this change in plans.

“They were really flexible with us even though we didn’t end up doing exactly what was originally planned,” she said.

Laporte added that a lack of restriction in the use of funding was useful for the project.

“I think the unique opportunity that this grant provides is the flexibility of the funding," she said. "A lot of other grants that you can get are really restrictive with the funding. [For example,] I got a grant where I could only use a really small proportion of it for travel expenses. Tisch has a great balance between project funding and also personal funding for international travel.”

Wells also attested to the flexibility of the TSF program.

“When we hit the ground there were definitely a couple of hiccups, and Tisch was so flexible and understanding of that," she said. "I think internationally you just don’t know what’s going to come up no matter how much work you do. [Tisch] also does a lot in terms of building a community and checking in.”

According to the TSF International website, students may apply for up to $4,000 in funding for their projects. There are some stipulations -- for instance, the project must be accomplished during the summer, and it needs to be led by two or more Tufts students -- though generally the TSF grant aims to be lenient.

“We like to be flexible in providing the kind of funding that is oftentimes not funded by other kinds of grant-making bodies,” Fisher said.

According to Fisher, interested students should keep an eye out for advertisements for the program this fall or visit the TSF website.

“I think that next year we’ll continue to grow the program,” she said.