Students attending an academic conference during the current or summer semester may apply for travel expense funding as part of the David Lavallee Student Travel Fund until Friday, Feb. 24, according to Interim Provost Cheryl Torsney.
The awards are named in honor of the school’s provost from 1999 to 2009. Its creation was a campus-wide initiative in 2009 to help students cover the costs of traveling to academic conferences to present, exhibit or perform their scholarly work.
“Student research, along with studying abroad, internships and other work outside of the classroom, really changes students’ lives,” Torsney said.
Approximately 30 students applied for the first round of funding in 2010, and about 50 students applied the following year. Recipients must be third or fourth-year undergraduate or graduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and can receive up to $400.
Torsney, who also serves as the vice president of academic affairs, called upon faculty and staff to donate toward the fund. Ideally, she said, the fund would be an endowment that generates annual interest, but currently its existence depends solely on donations made through the SUNY New Paltz Foundation.
“There is a real problem, because it’s such a small amount in the grand scheme of things,” Torsney said. “So in my last call to faculty and students for accepting applications for the fund, I reminded people that this is not an endowed fund, donations need to be made.”
Torsney said, attending a professional conference can be a “first step into a professional position or into graduate school.”
Dr. Maureen Morrow, a biology professor and director of the school’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Program (RSCAP), said she donates to the fund because “it’s important for students to have that opportunity” to attend an academic conference.
“The Student Association gives money, but not much,” she said. “This award gives a greater number of students the opportunity.”
Morrow said one of the problems with funding through the RSCAP is that the money comes from the state, so it is attached with restrictions. The Lavallee funding comes from private donations, she said, it affords more flexibility in dispersal.
“There are students who have graduated, and there’s a conference one month after they graduate,” she said. “New York state funds don’t cover them unless they’re currently enrolled. So, it’s a bridge for recent alumni, and there’s other flexibilities available to graduate students.”
Morrow said because of the high costs of travel, accommodations and conference registration fees, students will sometimes apply for multiple awards and still have to pay for expenses out of their own pockets, Morrow said.
“It’s always tough. There’s never enough money to go around,” she said.
Helen Gutfreund, a fourth-year art education major, is applying for the Lavallee award for the first time this semester. She will be giving two presentations at the National Art Education Association Convention in Manhattan March 1-4.
“I think my attendance at this conference will provide me with invaluable artist and teacher experiences and resources as I enter the field of art education,”she said.
Gutfreund said although the NAEA provides substantial discounts for registration and accommodations for students, it will still be expensive to attend. Aside from applying for the Lavallee award, she has already received an Academic Year Undergraduate Research Experience award through RSCAP and may also apply for funding through the Student Association.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to present my research findings to this prestigious national organization, whether I receive the funding or not,” she said. “But being reimbursed for hotel accommodations and travel expenses in New York City would relieve me of a large financial burden I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”