A new fellowship in sociology, created with a $150,000 gift from Richard J. Greisch ’72, P99, will give the College’s most motivated students a chance to conduct scholarly research during the summer months, under the close direction of faculty members.
The gift is a major step forward in Holy Cross’ aggressive campaign to expand summer research opportunities in a wide range of disciplines, as students seek opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom and engage in challenging independent projects using sophisticated research methods.
Beyond enriching and advancing the students’ educational experience, such fellowships serve to develop strong bonds among research students and their professors, which in many instances will continue after the students receive their degrees from Holy Cross.
A different mindset
“The idea that for the very best students the traditional two-semester academic year may not provide sufficient training in academic research has been gaining momentum for the past 15 years or so,” says Timothy R. Austin, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. Getting “real-world” experience prepares students to be more effective in their chosen fields, and helps encourage them to visualize careers in research.
By engaging in summer projects, students become accustomed to the ebb and flow of long-term projects. “Students may understand what it means to do an experiment in a lab for four hours—but what about conducting research for four straight months?” Austin remarks. “The dynamics of that are quite different.”
In contrast to lab experiments or term-paper assignments, which usually are designed to produce a certain result, Austin notes, “Long-term research can sometimes be ugly. Sometimes you work on something for two months and you don’t get anywhere. Students have to get used to that, and to discover that, in many cases, learning to think your way out of that corner is what makes you a great researcher.”
A wider range
Holy Cross has traditionally offered summer projects to students in scientific fields, but as the value of fellowships becomes increasingly apparent, the College seeks to expand summer research activities across the board. In addition to the sociology fellowship, the College also recently began offering summer fellowships in economics. As a result, students have published articles in collaboration with faculty members.
Regardless of whether students plan to pursue careers in industry or academia, Greisch says, summer projects are a valuable enhancement to the curriculum and a constructive prelude to intellectual life after college. Greisch and his daughter Sarah White ’99, both sociology majors at Holy Cross, agree that their study of sociology—and liberal arts education in general—prepared them well for careers in business. “The whole world of social behavior, and how people organize themselves in groups, is an integral part of what people in the business world do every day,” Greisch explains. “Sociology forces you to think creatively and critically; it forces you to write cogently; and, in the true spirit of a liberal arts education, really develop the high-level understanding of a wide range of topics.”
Beyond their appreciation for the subject matter, the Greisch family recognizes the importance of providing students with a wide range of hands-on learning experiences to reinforce and extend what they learn in the classroom. “When it came down to it, the subject matter wasn’t as important to us as creating greater opportunities for enterprising students to engage in independent study and to interact with faculty outside of the traditional academic year,” Greisch says.
Following his graduation from Holy Cross, Greisch earned an M.B.A. in accounting at Rutgers University and went on to work for Arthur Andersen for nearly 30 years, including 17 as a partner, before joining Ernst & Young in 2002. He recently moved to Ernst & Young’s Cleveland office as partner in charge of one of the firm’s large global clients.
Money from The Greisch Family Summer Research Fellowships Fund for Students in Sociology allowed Alexandra Leichthammer ’10 to work with Professor Edward Thompson Jr., of the sociology and anthropology department this summer. Through interviews, the two conducted a study of men suffering from or survivors of breast cancer. “Given the gendered nature of the disease,” Leichthammer says, “we’re hoping that through allowing these men to narrate their experiences, the psychosocial consequences that piggyback the physical disease will be brought to light.” Male breast cancer is an extremely rare form of cancer, the psychology major and Longmeadow, Mass., native explains. “Yet it serves as an intriguing platform for analyzing the way in which multiple masculinities exist and can shift as a personal means of coping.”