It is not often that someone gets money to study orange groves or to research in Guatemala. But five lucky students, four from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science and one from the Yale School of Management, received grants over the summer to pursue these projects and more.
The recipients were awarded Teresa Heinz Scholars for Environmental Research grants, scholarships given to students to enhance the quality of their dissertation or master’s thesis. Alissa Hamilton FES ’07 and Anastasia O’Rouke FES ’08 were two of eight doctoral candidates awarded $10,000 for dissertation support. Master’s candidates Ann Grodnik SOM ’06, Andrea Johnson FES ’05 and David Kneas FES ’05 each received $5,000 for their work.
Teresa Heinz — the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry ’66 — initiated the scholars program during her tenure on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund, said Kim O’Dell, coordinator of the Heinz Scholars program. O’Dell said Heinz realized there was not enough money going into the training of scientists and wanted to ensure that student research was adequately funded.
“At the professional level of science, there are a lot of grants available for research,” O’Dell said. “But at the student level, it gets to be very isolating when there’s no outside support and critique of what you’re doing.”
According to its Web site, the Heinz Foundation seeks research projects which inform the public about important environmental issues and provide “effective solutions for environmental problems.”
Hamilton researched the growth of the orange juice industry, compelling her to travel to orange groves in Florida. She said the grant relieves the financial burden of field research.
Hamilton credits the foundation in recognizing her research as relevant to the nature of her work.
“I was a lawyer, so I’m interested in legal policies relating to the environment, which may have helped in my being awarded the grant,” Hamilton said. “As a doctoral student, I am questioning every day if what I’m doing is relevant, which is why this is such an affirmation.”
Most doctoral students at the environment school receive a fellowship from Yale which provides an annual stipend of $17,000 and a tuition waiver for the first four years of their studies, according to the environment school’s Web site. The stipend covers only tuition costs, not field research expenses.
Kneas, who is researching the relationship between communities and international mining companies, said he could not have conducted his research without outside funding. But Kneas said he thinks the University should be the main source of financial support.
“In truth, without the Heinz support I am not sure how I would be able to afford living,” Kneas said. “However, as a recipient of such support I also worry that an emphasis on outside scholarships can hurt the push to find a more equitable financial aid system within our schools.”
O’Rouke said the funds are crucial in conducting the empirical side of student research. They enable scholars to interview in person, to access specialized industry data, to attend trade conferences and to work alongside industry and policy makers, she said.
After receiving the scholarship, each applicant must complete a budget worksheet detailing other sources of funds and expected use of Scholar funds.
Unlike most grants which require applicants to be U.S. citizens, the Heinz Scholar grant requires only that students enroll in one of seven specific academic institutions, one of which is the environment school.
“There are actually only a few scholarships I can apply for here in the U.S. because I am an Australian citizen,” O’Rouke said. “My research is interdisciplinary in focus and methodology. Luckily for me the Heinz Foundation is forward-thinking enough to recognize cutting edge and pragmatically applicable research in the environmental domain.”
The Teresa Heinz Scholars for Environmental Research grants are funded by the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation.