As intercollegiate competition for Richter grants increases, Knox stands to lose more than funding.
“We bring students to Knox who are fabulous and often have pretty high need,” said Interim Director of the Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study Mariangela Maguire. “So some opportunities, like summer research, are not going to be available to them without funding and support from the college itself.”
While Richter funds have provided that support for many years, funding at Knox has been reduced by more than 50 percent in the past three years alone. Richter Memorial Funds notified the college earlier this week that Knox will receive $65,000 — an $8,000 increase over last year. But this figure remains lower than in recent years and does not match the amount for which the Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study applied.
Earlier this fall, there were concerns that funds would be further reduced or eliminated entirely after Richter discovered that some schools weren’t spending their total allocations, according to Maguire.
“[Richter] began to worry that the way they were choosing wasn’t working very well, because they didn’t want the money to go to waste,” she said.
The foundation invited additional schools to apply for the money, resulting in 18 colleges vying for 15 grants.
On Sept. 14 Maguire sent out a campus-wide email that elucidated Knox’s tenuous position. She explained that her office would be limiting Richter awards to select Honors and senior research projects until her office received word from Richter’s trustees.
Richter funds, which come from a trust fund held by the Bank of America, are distributed with the intent of supporting students doing independent work outside of the classroom. At Knox, these grants have traditionally provided financing for honors projects, senior research, independent studies and experiential projects.
Senior Hannah Steele has been using Richter funds to further her ambitions since her freshman year. A psychology and dance science double major, Richter helped Steele finance dance intensives, independent research and transportation to a conference in Seattle for the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science.
“It’s given me life experience as well as academic and creative experience so that I’m better equipped to go and do other things,” Steele said. “I’ve written about my experiences when I’ve applied to grad school. It’s improved me on paper and in real life.”
Unlike its competitors, Knox has always allocated the entirety of its Richter funds. Maguire hoped this distinction would benefit Knox’s application.
Referencing a recent New York Times article that named Knox as among the top 15 schools in the nation for low-income student access, Maguire explained that Knox has something special to offer.
Unlike some other schools, Knox normally funds close to 100 projects per year with the money allotted.
Junior Raeann Boero, who received $650 in Richter Funding for an internship in Rishikesh, India, said that the funds helped make her experience possible.
“It was an amazing opportunity that changed my life, and I would hate for students to not be able to take advantage of similar opportunities due to funding cuts,” Boero said.
Joe Miao ‘15 was an economics major heading for a career in finance when he received Richter funding to intern in a financial services firm called Market in New York. This opportunity inspired Miao to change his major to computer science.
“You got a sense of how the real finance world is different from your imagination,” Miao said. “I didn’t think I liked finance. So, I changed my career goal to graphic design and web development.”
With this year’s renewed funding, the Vovis Center can sign off on more success stories like these. Having expected not to receive word until late October, Maguire feels hopeful about the future of Richter funding at Knox.
“Now that they have a more defined application process, I think that we’ll know earlier in the year,” she said. “It means that, instead of just being renewed year after year, we’ve competed successfully against other schools to get the money. Next year, we’ll be … in a great position to say that the things that we do with Richter Funding are what Richter wants the schools to do.”
Richter History at a glance:
In the past, the Richter Memorial Fund has given identical amounts to the 13-15 schools in the cohort, including Knox.
The award in:
2011-12 was $118,623
2012-13 was $115,273
2013-14 was $92,216
2014-15 was $54,757
Currently, the Vovis Center is unsure whether Knox received the same amount as the other schools in the cohort. Knox was awarded $64,950 this year.
Information provided by Interim Director of the Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study Mariangela Maguire.