posted April 11, 2011

Major Gift from Dow Foundation Endows Undergraduate Research

A major gift from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation of Midland in support of science education has provided Hope College with extra cause to celebrate during national Undergraduate Research Week.

The foundation has awarded the college $1 million to create an endowment to provide ongoing support for students conducting collaborative research with members of the faculty in biochemistry, chemistry and molecular biology.

Hope College President Dr. James Bultman announced the gift on Monday, April 11, while welcoming audience members to the opening of the college's six-day celebration of undergraduate research week.  The event was a keynote address in the DeWitt Center main theatre by Dr. Nancy Hensel, executive officer of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).   Bultman noted that the award continues a history of support by the Dow Foundation that extends more than three decades and has had a major, lasting impact on the college.

"We are so very grateful for the continuing partnership between Hope College and the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  The gifts of the foundation to the college have been transformational," he said.  "This most recent endowed gift will help to perpetuate one of Hope's primary distinctives, namely, collaborative undergraduate student/faculty research."

When the endowment has matured fully, four students each year will be selected as "Dow Scholars," receiving a stipend and additional support to conduct research with a faculty member full-time during 10 weeks for two summers and part time during the intervening school year.  Dr. Moses Lee, who is dean for the natural and applied sciences and a professor of chemistry at Hope, noted that the awards will be specific to the student recipients and not the research groups; thus, the students will be bringing their own support to whatever project they join.

"Our goal is to attract the best and brightest students to Hope College, and when they're here to provide them with the best education in the nation in biochemistry, chemistry and molecular biology," Lee said.  "The Dow Scholars program will recognize students of exceptional ability, and will guarantee them the opportunity to become fully engaged in Hope's nationally respected undergraduate research program."

"By working with their faculty mentors in conducting cutting-edge research, the Dow Scholars - like all of the students involved in research at Hope - will be gaining first-hand experience with how to do science that will serve them exceedingly well as they pursue their careers after Hope," Lee said.

The first group of Dow Scholars will be selected for the summer of 2012, with another group added the next year so that there will eventually be eight in the program at any given time.

The students will be participants in what Lee noted is the largest of such programs at an undergraduate college in the country.  The summer program regularly hosts some 170 students, including not only students from Hope but also students from other colleges and universities and from area high schools.  Hope has received recognition in a variety of ways through the years for its model of teaching and learning through collaborative faculty-student research.

As one recent indication of the high regard in which Hope's program is held, CUR selected Lee, joined by faculty colleagues from across campus, to present a national webinar on Tuesday, April 12, scheduled in conjunction with the national week, to help educators across the country to better take the same approach.  Among other honors, Hope holds five awards through the National Science Foundation's "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" program, in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and physics, more than any other liberal arts college in the country.

The Dow Foundation's gift provides key support as the college seeks to build endowment for the research program.  Traditionally, Lee noted, much of the support for the summer research program has come from external competitive grants, often federal, won by faculty, a source that is always uncertain, particularly in challenging economic times.  The secure funding provided through endowment, he said, will help assure that the college can accommodate the increasing number of students interested in conducting research.

The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation was established by Grace A. Dow in 1936 in memory of her husband, Herbert H. Dow, founder of The Dow Chemical Company, who died in 1930.  The foundation, the fifth largest in the state, seeks to improve the educational, religious, economic and cultural lives of Michigan's people.

The college's Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Health and Physical Education Center, which opened in 1978, is named in honor of a leadership gift from the foundation.  Other major gifts from the foundation have included funding for endowment in 1982 and for additional construction projects including the Van Wylen Library, which opened in 1988; the renovation of Van Zoeren Hall in the early 1990s; and the A. Paul Schaap Science Center, which opened in 2003.