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Undergraduate Research? SURE!

Undergraduate Research? SURE!

Meet the Recipients


Meet Mary Brandt 23 and Katie Wedderstrand 23. Katie graduated in Spring 2023, and Mary is working towards her upcoming winter graduation. What do these two have in common? They’re both recipients of the Stetson SURE Grant who chatted with me about their experience applying for and using their grants.


What is the SURE Grant?


For anyone unsure of what the SURE Grant is, the acronym itself is a good clue. Standing for Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience, the SURE Grant is a fund that undergraduate students are eligible to apply for once they have at least sophomore class standing. However, most students choose to apply near the end of junior year in order to apply the research experiences to their senior research. Dr. Reiter, chair of the Undergraduate Research Committee, dove into specifics, “We have had an average of 12 to 15 students per year receiving the SURE grant.” The grant provides $2000 for research over the summer, with additional funding available to present research findings. 


Applying for the SURE Grant


When asked about why she applied for the SURE grant, Mary was quick to point out that, “The opportunity to research as an undergraduate is something that not many universities offer.” This sentiment was echoed by Katie who spoke to future applicants, encouraging them to “just have fun, because it’s a very unique opportunity.”

Being aware of the SURE grant early on during your Stetson journey can be helpful since it allows you to pay particular attention to how you can connect with professors and expand on your learning outside of class. Since Mary had her eye on the ball since her first year at Stetson, she described herself as “ready and willing and prepared with finally my actual topic of research” once the time came to apply.

One element that Katie, Mary and Dr. Reiter all highlighted as essential to a good application is communicating with your potential SURE Grant advisor. Katie recommended that applicants “have a professor look over the application if possible” and Dr. Reiter went even further when she pondered on what would be best for applicants, “I would recommend that they work with their advisor starting as soon as they get back in January.”


Using the SURE Grant


Mary and Katie were both beaming with pride when I asked each of them to describe their summer research projects. 


Mary told me more about her exciting summer research experience escapades, traveling across the United States to collect data for her senior research paper:


“I used my money to go to eight different aviation museums this summer. And I spent days there researching, interviewing, taking 1000s of photos of the exhibits and the galleries and asking questions to directors, meeting really interesting people getting to talk with veterans and getting a whole array of perspectives on what those museums mean.”


Katie also detailed the places that they were able to travel to in order to gather primary sources in Summer 2022:


“I went to Drexel, Haverford, Yale and the American Museum of Natural History to research the history of paleontology.”


Dr. Reiter smiled warmly as she recalled some of the more unique SURE Grant projects from past years, “We have had somebody do explorations on whether left handed baseball pitchers make more in the major leagues,” She explained. “One of my favorites was a young combination religious studies and biology major, who used his SURE grant to live homeless for a month in Washington DC, to look at the health care facilities available to the homeless.”


When asked how the SURE Grant would help Mary in her senior research project she couldn’t be clear enough on its value. “I would not be able to accomplish my senior research without the SURE Grant, because so much of it was reliant upon my actual going to the museums. There’s only so much that you can get out of museum guidebooks” she said.


Towards the Future


Both Mary and Katie have exciting opportunities on the horizon thanks to the hard work they completed with their grant money. 


When asked about future plans, Katie already has a path in mind. Katie laid out their future plans “I’m looking to get a masters at the University of Maryland, in a few years.” Senior research continues to help with each of these steps and is an ongoing project for Katie with continuing opportunities to show off the project that began as senior research “I have another coming up in November. It’s the History of Science Society. So even after graduating, I’m still presenting this research and working on it.” 


Mary, who has her eye on graduate school, has a bright future as well, “I’m applying to Fulbright right now, Fulbright Taiwan specifically.”


Dr. Reiter summed it up best when she reflected on the enduring value of the SURE Grant at Stetson:


“It’s been an excellent way of recognizing creativity and innovation across the campus in all three undergraduate schools.”

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About the Contributor
Carlye Mahler
Carlye Mahler, Managing Editor

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