Numbers provided by Career Center Administrative Assistant Lindsey Steele, who also serves as the Power of Experience Coordinator, showed that 34 student applicants for the grant were approved for experiences in the summer and fall of 2019. Three additional students had already used their Power of Experience funding.
The Power of Experience Grant is available to all students who entered or transferred to Knox in the fall of 2017 or later. Through the grant, students are eligible for up to $2,000 in funding for an experience of their choosing. It can be used in a student’s junior or senior year, if they have attained a minimum of 16.5 credits.
Steele stated that the majority of applications for the grant, all of which were approved, requested the maximum $2,000 in funds. In total the 34 approved students this cycle were granted $65,477, with approximately $1,926 being the average awarded per student.
Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich was involved in the development of the Power of Experience program, which she explained grew out of the Knox 2018 Strategic Plan. The goal of the grant was to help remove financial burdens as a barrier for students looking into opportunities like internships and study abroad.
“We know there’s a lot of students that are thinking, ‘I would love to do an internship, but I really can’t afford to because I need to go home and work over the summer,’” Ehrlich said. “… We just wanted students who maybe considered doing experiential learning but felt like there was an obstacle, to not feel like that was an obstacle anymore.”
Ehrlich stated that funding for the program came from outside donations and the existing resources the college has set aside for experiential learning. She suggested covering the cost of a plane ticket on a study abroad trip as one way the money could be used, but emphasized it was intended to be broad in nature.
“It’s really up to the student to decide how they want to use it, as long as there’s a faculty or staff member who says ‘yes we think this is a good idea,’” Ehrlich said. “As long as the student can explain why this is going to help their educational experience, we want to give them the money to use it. “
Among the 34 grant requests, Steele shared that off-campus study was the most popular use of the funds, with 26 students in that category of request. An additional five students applied for the grant to support an internship, while there were three applicants in the research, scholarship or creative work category.
Ehrlich described the amount of students utilizing the grant so far as approximately in line with expectations. In looking at other schools that have introduced similar initiatives, Knox found on average around 80 percent of eligible students utilize such funding.
“I’m hoping it’s going to grow as students hear more about it and how easy it is to access. I think the numbers will increase,” Ehrlich said. “We would love it to be a 100 percent, but I think we think we’ll land at about 80 percent.”
While Knox has held info sessions and emailed eligible students about the grant, Ehrlich acknowledged further marketing to students might be necessary to make students aware of the opportunity.
“I think a lot of the marketing is going to come if you use it for a free plane ticket, and then your roommate finds out É word of mouth is one of the best marketing strategies around here,” she said.
She noted that the process of applying for funds at Knox was one issue administration hoped to look at over the summer to improve on going forward, in order to make it less confusing for students.
“There are a lot of opportunities for funding for students to do these kinds of things É and we need to make sure the process is as clear and as streamlined as possible,” Ehrlich said. “So students aren’t going from the study abroad office to the Richter office to the Power of Experience office.”