Christopher Diak ‘18.5 had a 2015 Explore Grant to conduct research on bioengineered proteins at Harvard Medical School.

MIDDLEBURY – All first-year students, including the “Febs” who arrived on campus less than two months ago, are now eligible to apply for grants of $1,000 to help cover the cost of taking unpaid internships this summer.

Administered by the Middlebury Center for Careers & Internships and called “Explore Grants,” the program “helps first-year students explore an idea, a passion, or an academic interest – anything that connects to their exploration of what life after Middlebury might hold,” said Peggy Burns, director of CCI.

For the past two academic years, first-year students have identified “career planning” as one of the top five stress-inducing factors of college life, Burns explained, “so one of the things we did in 2015 was to create a grant program for first years and first-year Febs only.”

It has been more traditional for Middlebury students to take internships after completing their sophomore or junior years. But the new Explore Grants program is prompting students to think about career options earlier in their undergraduate lives, Burns said, and it is proving to be a promising experiment. It’s giving first-year students an opportunity to try something new and discover what things they enjoy or don’t enjoy, she added.

The new program is in addition to the $2,500 grants that rising sophomores and juniors are eligible to seek for unpaid internships later in their undergraduate careers. Funding from CCI can be used by Middlebury students for food, lodging, transportation, or simply to pay themselves a stipend for unpaid summer work.

Priyanjali Sinha ‘18 designed workshops on the subject of gender for school-age children in New Delhi, India, with her 2015 Explore Grant. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

For the summer of 2015, CCI received 40 applications for Explore Grants and funded 25 of them for internships with Christie’s in New York City, Bread & Puppet Theatre in Vermont, University of Minnesota Medical School, the Israel Service Corps, and other for-profit and non-profit organizations. For the summer of 2016, CCI is prepared to grant as many as 50 worthwhile applications from members of the first-year class.

First-year students, regardless of whether they matriculated in September or February, have until April 6, 2016, to apply for an Explore Grant. To read more about the program or learn how to apply, see the summer funding web page or contact Cheryl Whitney Lower, the associate director for internships and early engagement, at CCI.