The eligibility requirements for one of Miami’s most prestigious student awards are changing this year to increase engagement.

The Goldman Prize, a stipend of up to $11,000 awarded to students pursuing yearlong research, creative or academic projects, will be given to two rising seniors in spring 2018.

Since 1991, the prize had been given to one graduating senior, to be used in the year after they left Miami.

Making the prize available to two current juniors instead, Goldman coordinator Zeb Baker said, would resolve several of the hesitations students expressed about applying for it.

One of the primary concerns students had was whether they could defer their student loans during their year working on the Goldman project.

But because Goldman winners were not officially enrolled at Miami during the prize period, their student loans would still need to be paid off, a fact Baker said “scared students away.”

Students were also hesitant to take what they viewed as a “gap year” after college to work on a personal project.

“We have so many ambitious students that…are primarily focused on when they graduate from Miami, leaving here to go right into graduate school or med school or law school or go right into the workforce,” Baker said. “So a gap year between the end of their undergraduate experience and either going to graduate school or going into the workforce just isn’t feasible for a lot of students.”

Baker, who serves as the senior associate director of the University Honors Program, said that asking recent college graduates to live on an $11,000 stipend while completing their project was also unrealistic.

“It really made us take a look at, ‘How could we rethink this while still achieving the same goals which is to provide students with a really meaningful, unique year-long opportunity to pursue creative, scholarly or service projects? How could we do that, and do it for undergraduates while they’re still here at Miami?’” Baker said.

The solution, Baker and the Honors Program Advisory Committee decided, was to modify the program to become what Baker called “Summer Scholars on steroids.” Two members of the Class of 2019 (current juniors) will be awarded the Goldman Prize next spring, given a year to work on their project with the support of a faculty mentor and asked to present their results publicly at the project’s conclusion. Baker said students may combine their Goldman work with a senior thesis project or independent study credit.

Baker said that while all Goldman Prize winners have submitted high-quality proposals, the number of applications in recent years had dwindled to single digits.

As before, even though the Honors Program administers the prize, students are encouraged to apply regardless of their Honors status. The Goldman Prize is intentionally broad-based in the types of projects it considers; the application says recipients might use their funds to “compose music, write a work of fiction, conduct scientific or historical research, or gather material for a work on American civilization.”

Past Goldman winners have designed and implemented an after-school poetry program for area high schools, studied empathy in marmosets in Austria, written a study-abroad curriculum for Miami’s 2020 Plan and started a clothing company.

Baker feels confident the past winners would do Joanna Jackson Goldman, the award’s namesake, proud. Goldman was a 1943 Miami graduate who enjoyed involvement in a multitude of student organizations on campus before forging a successful career in music, publishing and the arts. Her husband, the late Eric F. Goldman, himself a Princeton University history professor and a consultant for President Lyndon B. Johnson, endowed the Goldman Prize in his wife’s memory.

“[The prize] does honor someone who really got the most out of her undergraduate career while she was here at Miami,” Baker said. “We really feel like by trying to help other students now get the most out of their undergraduate career, we’re still living up to the spirit of the Goldman Prize.”

Interested students are encouraged to pick up application materials from the Honors offices in Old Manse. Goldman Prize applications are due December 1, and recipients will be notified in February.

zahneime@miamioh.edu

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