By Aline Batawi
During their time at Alma, every student is given the opportunity to apply for a Venture Grant. The program grants each approved student up to $2,500 of support for an applied learning experience.
In order to receive the grant, a student must meet the requirements, as well as complete the application process. A student can reapply as many times as they wish if they are not approved.
According to Carla Jensen, assistant director of the Center for Student Opportunity for the Venture Program and Off-Campus Studies, the program was designed so that more students are able to take advantage of potentially life-changing experiential learning opportunities.
“Students can apply to the program for support for an applied experience that is at least 150 hours in duration,” said Jensen. “The most common types of experiences include internships, applied spring term courses, study abroad, research on or off campus and clinical experiences.”
The program allows students to pursue academic endeavors with less financial strain, according to Jensen. It has helped many students take part in experiences that would be otherwise impossible.
Despite the life changing experiences it offers, some students have struggled with the process of applying for a Venture Grant.
“I got denied the first time I applied for the grant for my spring term to China last year,” said Natalie Murrey (’18). “The CSO gave me notes on what I should fix and I went into the CSO where they helped me adjust some aspects of my application.”
The Venture committee and advisors in the CSO are available to help students with their applications at any point throughout the process.
“Most often if an application is not accepted, students are invited to revise and resubmit their proposal,” said Jensen. “We most commonly ask students to more clearly demonstrate their engagement in the learning process and to connect more clearly the experience to their goals.”
According to Jensen, a strong application will demonstrate the applicant’s understanding of what the experience will entail and articulate a connection with the student’s personal, professional, and academic goals.
Some students feel that the Venture committee should be clearer with what they are asking.
“I wish the application could have been done in person, because the directions and criticisms weren’t always clear and it was frustrating at times,” said Bergen Jome (’18), who was asked to change a few things about her Venture application. “It should be made clear from the beginning what the committee is looking for so you’re not in the dark about it.”
Jensen said that the application process was designed to help students think through their goals for their learning experience and articulating the professional value of their experience.
Other students believe they were wrongly denied the grant, despite the quality and content their application.
“I worked really hard to get my application approved,” said Francescha Beningo (’18). “I went to the CSO for edits before I turned it in and had it peer reviewed several times.”
Beningo said that she was accepted into a spring term traveling to New Zealand much later than the other students and because of that she had no time to reapply for the grant.
“If the Venture committee would’ve accepted my application, they would’ve reimbursed me after the spring term,” said Beningo. “I understand that I was late in the process but I needed the grant right away.”
According to Jensen, it is important for an applicant to express why the specific experience is right for them and why it is better than other experiences.
Another scholarship that is affiliated with Alma College and supports experiential and research opportunities around the world is the Posey Global Program. The Venture Program and Posey Program are two separate scholarships.
According to Kilee DeBrabander (’17), she was not informed that if a student chooses to do a Posey Global first, they cannot apply for the Venture Grant for another experience later.
“I did a [Posey] Global my freshman year, and I found out later in my sophomore year that I could no longer apply for the Venture Grant,” said DeBrabander. “I didn’t get to do a travel spring term because I don’t have the money and the grant would have allowed me to.”
DeBrabander said that the CSO claimed that there was a miscommunication. She said she felt frustrated when she applied again to fund her senior thesis and was denied a second time.
“I don’t think they should justify denying someone because they tell us it’s our money to use,” said DeBrabander. “The money could change a student’s life.”
Another student, Breana Robertson (’17), says she was never told that she would receive only part of the grant.
“Since my parent works here I only get $1,000 instead of the full $2,500,” said Robertson. “I talked to the CSO and they said that since only a small percentage of students are affected by this it is not a widely known fact.”
Roberston said that she wishes that she had been told of the discrepancy up front rather than finding out on her own.
However, despite the difficulties these students faced, these programs still offer financial assistance that can help make dreams come true.
“I would encourage students to come talk with me and to talk with their academic advisors about what might be the best option for them,” said Jensen.
Through the support of the Venture Grant, a student’s academic, professional and personal goals could be realized.