"It prepares our students quite well for further research, distinguishing themselves from other graduates, and positions them very well for certain major national and international scholarships," Emert said. "Our scholarship winners have quite often first been Honors fellows."
For students like Lucas Clay, a senior natural resources and environmental management (NREM) major, one fellowship project has lasted for five semesters. Clay is finishing up a research project with Dr. John Pichtel that began during his sophomore year at Ball State.
"In the beginning, it was more of [Dr. Pichtel’s] project. He definitely showed me what to do, and exactly what he wanted me to do, but then left me alone in the lab. I was the sole researcher for most of the project," Clay said.
For other students, like senior vocal performance and creative writing major Valerie Weingart, the span of one year can hold two separate fellowship research projects. Weingart is currently working with Dr. Heather Platt on a music history research project, and will work alongside Professor Beth Dalton of the Honors College next semester.
"I had expressed some interest in studying history and musicology as a potential grad school thing. She is working on a project and [Dr. Platt] said if you want to get some hands on experience you can help me with the project," Weingart said.
Next semester, Weingart will work on an expansion of her Honors thesis project, which aims to incorporate opera into the Honors humanities sequence.
"Beth Dalton was my professor for the whole humanities sequence, so it's exciting to come back and work with her and hopefully have an impact on the class,” Weingart said.
Clay’s project, which he will build upon for his Honors thesis, involves studying phytoremediation--a process which uses living plants to clean up contaminated soil, air, and water--and informed his own decision to pursue a graduate degree in soil science.
“I don't think that a normal experience in the natural resources department would have led to this type of knowledge [and] this type of expertise in my field,” Clay said. “As I'm applying to grad school right now, it's really opened doors, I think, in terms of having some research experience, basically. It's also helped mold what I want to do . . . I don't think I would have gone into [soil science] had I not had this experience.”
While Weingart is preparing to pursue graduate school in creative writing, she says that her research for Dr. Platt fulfills her as both a writer and a vocalist. Over the course of the semester, Weingart will analyze newspaper articles about Marguerite Hall, a famous opera singer from the 19th century who no one has ever written anything about, and compile the first biography of the singer.
“It's so cool because I am a writer, and we create characters. This is what we do. It's like I'm meeting [Marguerite Hall] and I'm bringing her back, and it's the same process you go through when you write something creatively: you meet this characters in your mind and then you bring them to life,” Weingart said of her research.
With such abundant advantages, there are also sacrifices, as both Clay and Weingart mentioned.
“It's 10 hours of research per week, and that's hard to fit into your life,” Weingart said.
Clay says although scheduling time for research is difficult, time management skills and “forward thinking,” makes fitting in the extra research possible.
Selecting a topic which interests you will serve as an internal motivator for this undertaking, according to Clay and Weingart. Students are often given the chance to select their own topic, and can work with their faculty advisor to decide what research will entail.
“Make sure the topic is something that you find interesting and that you're passionate about because that makes it much easier to do the independent work and to be self-motivated,” Weingart said. “I look forward to it. Everyday when I go [look at] the newspapers, I wonder what I'm going to find."
Choosing to work with a professor who you have a strong relationship with can benefit both parties involved.
“Make relationships with your professors,” Clay said. “If the professors know what you're interested in and you know what they're doing in their own research fields, that might be a good chance to put two and two together and you can figure out something where you can help them with their research and they can help you with yours.”
Both The Honors College and Ball State pride themselves on providing students with immersive experiences that go beyond the traditional bounds of a classroom. Taking on a fellowship during your time as an undergraduate allows for this experiential learning.
"Overall . . . it's just been a really immersive experience to help you learn about your field,” Clay said. “I would suggest it for any Honors College students who want to learn more beyond the classroom. I think that's absolutely huge for understanding what you're getting yourself into."
Honors College Fellowships are open to any Honors College student who has completed two semesters, completed two Honors courses, has an overall GPA of 3.33 or higher, and is eligible to work as a fellow for 10 hours per week under university guidelines. Currently, fellows are compensated an average of $1,080 per semester for their work. To apply for an Honors College Fellowship, download the application here.