Richter Program Guide
Since 1977, North Central undergraduate students from all majors have had the extraordinary opportunity to apply for grants up to $5,000 that support research beyond the regular curriculum. Richter grants have made it possible for high-achieving students to pursue ambitious independent studies and honor theses, travel to regions near and far, and conduct research that has enriched their learning while preparing them for graduate school and professional life. The prestige of earning a Richter stems from the competitive nature, the generous funding, and the review by an interdisciplinary committee of full-time faculty members. Roughly $40,000 in grants is awarded to NCC students each year.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE RICHTER GRANT PROGRAM
The Richter Committee consists of a faculty representative from each of the four academic divisions, as well as the Director of the Office of Academic Opportunities (OAO). The committee is responsible for reviewing students' proposal packets, providing feedback to applicants, and authorizing the distribution of funds for approved proposals. The OAO is responsible for administering the grants, tracking and collecting funded projects, and promoting the program.
Committee members are:
Sarah Lureau, Economics & Business Division
Office: 109 S. Loomis House 101, Phone: X5587, Email: email@example.com
Suzanne Chod, Human Thought & Behavior Division
Office: 330 E. Van Buren 101, Phone: X5245, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia Schacht (Committee Chair), Science Division
Office: Goldspohn 16C, Phone: X5331, Email: email@example.com
Alberto Fonseca, Arts & Letters Division
Office: Kiekhofer 101, Phone: X5126, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perry Hamalis (ex officio), Director of the Office of Academic Opportunities
Office: Kiekhofer 217, Phone: X5318, Email: email@example.com
Any committee member can be consulted for guidance on developing a proposal or with questions concerning the proposal and approval process; however, preliminary questions concerning the Richter Grant Program should be directed to the Director or staff of the Office of Academic Opportunities (Kiekhofer 214).
HISTORY & PRINCIPLES OF THE RICHTER GRANT PROGRAM
Established at North Central College in 1977, the goal of the Richter Grant Program is to provide funding for research that goes beyond the typical undergraduate experience. Originally funded by The Paul K. and Elizabeth Cook Richter Trusts, NCC was one of only twelve colleges and universities in the country selected to participate. In 2002, the responsibility for funding the program was assumed by the Office of Academic Affairs of North Central College.
In evaluating proposals, the Committee is directed by the following principles:
- Projects should provide a set of unique intellectual challenges and opportunities that extend the student's learning above and beyond the ordinary college curriculum;
- Projects should demonstrate a student's capacity for conducting undergraduate work of a very high caliber;
- Projects should be initiated and designed by the student through a process of close collaboration with and guidance by the project's faculty advisor;
- Projects should entail independent work on the part of the student that is supervised by a faculty member; and
- Results of the student's efforts should be a work of scholarship that is meaningful to a wider community and should be presented publicly.
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS, GRANT TYPES, & FUNDING
The Richter Grant Committee encourages proposal submissions from students in all disciplines, at all grade levels (first-year through senior), and on a wide variety of topics (including interdisciplinary projects); however, any student applying for a Richter grant must:
- Be an undergraduate student in good standing and enrolled in a degree-seeking program.
- Meet the college-wide eligibility requirements for an independent study (see page 2 of the independent study application)
- Enroll for academic credit for the Richter project as either an independent study within a department (e.g., PHL 399) or an honors thesis (HON 400, for College Scholars only).
- The minimum amount of credit allowed for a Richter proposal is 1 credit hour; however, most Richter projects carry 3 credits (either as an independent study or as an honors thesis).
- Richters for more than 3 credits may be awarded if the scope of the project merits the additional credits and if the number of credits is approved by the faculty advisor, department chairperson, and Registrar.
- Fulfill the requirements of the Research Ethics Committee at NCC if the proposed research involves working with human or animal subjects.
- Complete all requirements and submit a final product for any previous Richter project before funding for a subsequent Richter project is released.
- Complete all the requirements for a Richter project before graduation.
- Richter funding cannot be awarded retroactively - a proposal must be accepted by the Committee prior to the incursion of any covered research expenses.
Types of Grants
Richter grants are available in two categories. One category of grant provides funds for individual projects and the second provides funds for group projects that are initiated by NCC faculty members.
Individual Projects: This category of grant provides funding of $100 - $5,000 for independent projects of unusual merit and scope. While such projects may involve extensive travel and/or research off-campus, on-campus projects that go above and beyond the ordinary curriculum and require funding (e.g., for laboratory supplies, copying and mailing surveys, etc.) will also be considered. Individual grant recipients will  be enrolled in either an approved, credit-bearing independent study within a department (e.g., SPC 399) or in HON 400 (Honors Thesis);  work with a faculty sponsor who collaborates in developing the proposal, supervises the study, and evaluates the final product with a letter grade;  submit a final product to the Office of Academic Opportunities and to the college's electronic archive; and  devise a means to present the results to an appropriate public audience.
Group Projects: Initiated by a faculty member, this category of grant provides funding for a group of students participating in independent research within the context of a larger group effort. Group projects may involve from 3 to 5 students, with a funding limit of $750 per student. The group application is to be completed and submitted by the faculty organizer, with each participating student writing a section of the application (approx. 2 pages in length) related to his or her research question and unique contribution to the project. The participating students' experiences and contributions must not be identical, and often aim at interdisciplinary exchange and reflection. While shorter than an Individual Project proposal, each student's proposal section should be grounded in and informed by academic sources. Group grant recipients will each  be enrolled in an approved, credit-bearing independent study within a department (e.g., SPC 399);  work with the faculty sponsor who designs the project, supervises the participating students, and evaluates the final product with a letter grade;  contribute to a final product that is submitted to the Office of Academic Opportunities and to the college's electronic archive; and  participate in sharing the results with an appropriate public audience.
The maximum award for a Richter project is $5,000 for an individual grant and $750/student for a group grant, and only certain types of expenses are covered (see details in "Budget Guidelines" below). Faculty expenses for a group grant are not covered by Richter funds. Students may be awarded more than one grant; however, no student may receive more than a total of $8,000 for any combination of Richter grants over the course of his/her academic career. In addition, students must complete all requirements for one grant before receiving funds for a subsequent grant.
Proposal packets are reviewed by the Richter Committee three times a term. In order to be considered by the Committee, proposal packets must be received by the Office of Academic Opportunities, located in Kiekhofer Hall Suite 214, by 12:00 noon on Wednesday of the 2nd, 5th, or 8th week of the term. Only complete proposal packets, including cover sheet, Independent Study Application Form or Thesis Proposal Form, project proposal (sections III-VIII), supporting documents, budget, and letter of support from the faculty sponsor (submitted by faculty member directly to OAO), will be considered. Incomplete proposal packets will be held until all materials are submitted and then will be considered in the next round of reviews. Committee decisions are typically communicated electronically within a week after each submission deadline (see "Criteria and Process for Evaluating Grant Proposals").
It is strongly recommended that students developing proposals for individual projects plan to submit the completed proposal packet well in advance of the time they wish to conduct the project; two submission rounds in advance is a useful guideline. Thus, if a student is planning to conduct research over the summer, submitting before or on the Spring week #2 deadline is recommended. Early preparation by applicants allows greater opportunity to carefully craft the proposal, which will increase the likelihood of its success, as well as allow more time to arrange any necessary travel plans. In addition, allowing sufficient lead time may permit an unsuccessful applicant to revise the proposal and resubmit to the Richter Committee for reconsideration in time to gain approval and carry out the project within the original time frame. However, each proposal submitted should be complete, well-developed, and polished. Students should not submit proposals early simply in hopes of resubmitting in the future. Incomplete and under-developed proposals may be rejected by the Committee. Please keep in mind that Richter grants are highly competitive and funds are limited. Only proposals that meet the high standards of the program will be accepted and submitting early does not guarantee a successful application. Students should not "count on" being awarded a Richter when planning a research trip or study abroad experience, since a proposed project may not be accepted for funding.
Preparing the Individual Project Application
The following provides elaboration of the items to be covered when preparing a proposal packet for an Individual Richter Project. When preparing the text the student should carefully consider each of the items requested. Typically, items III-VIII together total 7-11 double-spaced pages (12 point font) and should not exceed 12 pages.
I. Signed Grant Application Cover Sheet: All information fields must be completed.
II. Signed Independent Study Application Form or Signed Thesis Proposal Form: Every Richter project must carry academic credit as either an independent study or an honors thesis. If the Richter will carry credit as an independent study, a copy of the Independent Study Application Form - signed by the faculty member and department chairperson - must be submitted with the Richter proposal. It is not necessary to include the supporting materials requested on the Independent Study Application Form (items 1-8), since the Richter proposal provides these details; however, a copy of the signed form itself must be included. If the Richter is for an honors thesis, then include a copy of the signed Thesis Proposal Form.
III. Project Definition: Describe the problem, topic, or issue(s) you wish to investigate as clearly and coherently as possible. Move quickly from the general to the specific angle or focus of your proposed study. Include how your study fits in with existing scholarship on the topic. Clearly state the questions that this project will attempt to answer or the thesis being investigated and describe the relevance of this project to the current field of study. This section should include references to some of the sources cited in your annotated bibliography, should demonstrate your foundational knowledge of the subject matter, and should express how the current project will add to and advance any existing research on the topic. [Typically 3 - 5 pages double-spaced]
IV. Methodology and Timetable: Clearly describe the project methodology and procedure in a way that makes sense to a general audience outside of your discipline. In other words, how will you go about answering your research question(s) or testing/defending your thesis? Will you be analyzing texts? Conducting interviews with experts? Observing people's activities or works of art? Distributing surveys? Experimenting in a controlled laboratory? Methodology for Richter projects should be academically approved research practices and should coincide with guidelines set forth by the discipline in which your project is based. Work closely with your faculty advisor to design and articulate a methodology appropriate to your project goals. For example, the methods section should include information on participants, types of measures and materials used, procedures for collecting data, how data will be analyzed and interpreted, etc. Additionally, provide a detailed and feasible timetable for completing the steps of the project. If applicable, sample materials/measures should be included in appendix (e.g., sample interview questions, survey questions, etc.). [Typically 2 - 4 pages]
V. Results: Describe the final product of the project (e.g., a paper of approximately 20 pages, a short documentary film, etc.) and how the results of the project will be communicated to a larger audience. All Richter recipients are expected to submit to NCC's Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research and should consider other forums (e.g., National Conference on Undergraduate Research, honors conferences, undergraduate or professional journals, campus presentation or performance, etc.). [Typically ¼ to ½ page]
VI. Relevant Experience: Students who seek Richter grants should demonstrate excellent academic abilities and have a solid foundation in the subject matter in advance of proposing their projects. Discuss these qualifications and identify relevant coursework / experiences that will demonstrate your ability to complete the project. [Typically ½ page]
VII. Personal Application: Articulate how conducting the project will affect your short-term and long-term intellectual, professional, artistic and/or personal goals. [Typically ¼ page]
VIII. Annotated Bibliography: Prepare a list of at least five books, articles, or other resources you expect to use, and state their relevance to the project. Sources relevant to the project definition and methodology should be included. An annotated bibliography should include a brief description of how each source is related to the overall goals of the project. [Typically 2 - 3 pages]
IX. Any Necessary Supporting Documents: When applicable, identify contacts that will provide assistance in the research (e.g., letters/email messages granting permission to conduct the research or expressing a willingness to help). Rather than submitting ALL emails, please submit a summary of the email communication along with the name and title of the contact.
IX. Budget Sheet: See "Budget Guidelines" below.
X. Faculty Sponsor and Letter of Support: Students must seek feedback from their faculty sponsor as they prepare their proposal. We ask that students submit their proposals to their faculty mentors at least one week prior to the Richter submission due date. The faculty letter of support is an essential component of the proposal packet. It should address the significance of the project, the soundness of the proposed methodology, and the student's potential to complete the project as proposed. If a proposal is being resubmitted for consideration, the faculty sponsor should provide an updated letter of support.
PLEASE NOTE: If your research involves human or animal subjects, any award of Richter funds is contingent upon approval by the Research Ethics Committee (REC). For more information on the REC, visit their website. You should apply for approval from the REC simultaneously with your Richter grant application, and should include confirmation of your application for approval in the "Necessary Supporting Documents" section of your Richter Proposal.
When integral to the research project, the Richter Committee will consider funding the items listed below. If the need for an expense is not obvious, please justify it in the budget section of the proposal packet. The student is expected to investigate the most cost effective means of travel. You may consider consulting with a faculty member who has traveled to the area you expect to visit. Typically, the college issues the grant recipient a check prior to the start of the project for the full amount requested in an accepted proposal. Keep in mind that submission of an expense report and receipts for all expenses (except meals) is required. A financial hold will be placed on the account of any student who does not submit an expense report and return unused funds within an agreed upon timeframe.
Flights: Please make an effort to find the most affordable airfare possible.
Rail: Many countries have rail passes, often with student passes available. Be sure to explore their availability and cost.
Ground Transportation: The use of public transportation is expected. Subway and bus passes are available in many cities.
Auto Mileage: Automobile rental is generally not an acceptable expense; full justification for such an expense must be included. Use of a personal vehicle is permitted if it is the most cost-effective method of travel. Receipts for gas should be saved for reimbursement.
As a general guideline, $75 per day (less at a weekly rate) is the maximum that will be approved. In high cost areas, it may be more cost-effective to stay farther out and commute. Options such as YMCA's, college housing, and youth hostels should be considered. Many countries also have family guest houses and government inns that can provide an alternative to a standard hotel.
The standard meal allowance is $15/day. It is not necessary to keep receipts for meals. Any meal expenses beyond $15/day are the student's responsibility.
Photocopying: If necessary for your research, then copying of surveys, mailings, archival materials, etc. are allowable expenses.
Videotapes, Film, and Processing: If necessary for your research.
Equipment, Cassette Recorders, Cameras: In rare circumstances, equipment may be purchased via a Richter grant. Students should first seek to borrow equipment owned by NCC or to rent the necessary equipment. If an equipment purchase is approved by the Richter Committee, then the equipment must be given to the college for subsequent use by students once the project has been completed.
Museum, Exhibitions, Other Admission Fees: If necessary for your research.
Telephone and Postage Expenses: If necessary to communicate with the project sponsor(s) and or external contacts.
Gifts: In most circumstances gifts for people who assist with a student's research, who complete surveys, or who are interviewed are not covered by a Richter grant. Most study participants are willing to help without payment, and students are encouraged to collect data and express their gratitude without gifts.
Other: Depending on the nature of the project, additional expenses may be funded. On such occasions the need for the expense should be clarified within the proposal packet, and each request should be clearly itemized on the budget form.
A Note on Combining Richter Funding with a Study Abroad Experience: Projects embedded within larger travel experiences (e.g., study abroad) need to estimate the amount of time actually devoted to the independent study, and the budget should reflect accordingly. Given the fact that study abroad students are enrolled in classes full time, Richter projects embedded within larger study abroad experiences should not exceed three weeks total of research time. The cost of your flight, if necessary, will be funded regardless of the number of days you are staying; however, expenses such as lodging, meals, other transportation, etc., will only be considered for funding for the number of days required for completing the proposed research. Given the pre-designed character and set schedules of D-Term study trips, only in rare circumstances will the Committee approve a proposal for funding participation in a D-Term trip.
CRITERIA & PROCESS FOR EVALUATING GRANT PROPOSALS
Members of the Richter Committee are eager to meet with prospective applicants and faculty advisors to provide guidance on designing projects and to answer questions about developing a successful proposal. To satisfy the principles of the Richter Program, the Richter Committee utilizes the following guiding questions in evaluating grant proposals:
- Is there evidence of the self-directed, creative, and ambitious nature of the project?
- Is the proposal well-written and edited, showing evidence of careful review by the student and faculty advisor?
- Does the applicant articulate a clear and developed project definition-one that situates or frames the project within the existing relevant scholarship (citing works from the annotated bibliography) and that states the research question or thesis that will be explored?
- Does the applicant's annotated bibliography show evidence of sufficient familiarity with major resources necessary for the successful completion of the project?
- Has the applicant delineated a clear and rigorous methodology or process by which the project goals, articulated in the project definition, can be met (including - if applicable - information on measures, participants, and procedure for data collection)?
- If applicable, has the applicant taken the initiative to contact resource persons at the research site that could aid in data collection and completion of the proposed project?
- Is the project feasible in the proposed amount of time and has a reasonable timetable for conducting the project been provided (including when project will take place, what will be happening on assigned days, etc.)?
- Is the student's academic background sufficiently strong for conducting the proposed study?
- Will the project provide a highly valuable learning experience for the student and is it meaningful to the broader academic community?
- Has an ambitious plan been articulated for sharing the project results with the North Central College community and/or a wider public audience?
- Does the faculty advisor to the project express clear support for the proposal and is it evident that the student has worked closely with the faculty advisor in developing and preparing the proposal?
In addition, for group project proposals the committee asks:
- Is the rationale for a "group" approach articulated and defended well?
- Does each student's contribution to the project cohere with the project overall goals, and is each student's role different?
- Has each student written a section of the proposal (approx. 2 pages in length) that clearly defined his/her research question and framed it within existing scholarship?
- Has each student articulated how she or he will contribute to the final product?
After meeting to discuss all submitted proposals with the committee members, the Richter Chairperson composes a letter that communicates the Committee's decision to the applicant. There are 4 possible decisions: "Accept," "Conditional Accept," "Revise and Resubmit," and "Reject." A high quality proposal may be accepted on its first submission. If it is not accepted, the committee may suggest that the student submit a revised proposal at a subsequent deadline.
"Accept" the proposal has been approved as is and the applicant should meet with the OAO staff to arrange for funding and to review and sign a "Terms for Grant Acceptance" form.
"Conditional Accept" the committee seeks minor clarification(s) or elaboration(s) as a condition for acceptance. As soon as the requested material is submitted, funding and review/signature of the "Terms for Grant Acceptance" can be arranged.
"Revise and Resubmit" the committee believes the proposal has potential for being accepted, but revisions are necessary. Suggestions from the committee for improving the proposal are provided.
"Reject" The committee does not believe that the proposal can be funded unless significantly reconceived and revised.