Undergraduates Receive SESP Opportunities Fund Grants

Undergraduates Receive SESP Opportunities Fund Grants

Each year undergraduate students benefit from the SESP Opportunities Fund, which was established to support the academic and community endeavors of undergraduate students in the School of Education and Social Policy. Joan DeGennaro, Jane Merrill and Sharona Sernik are the most recent award recipients, and applications continue to be accepted.

Jane Merrill
Jane Merrill

DeGennaro and Merrill each received $2,000 for their trip to Malawi to do international field work to address the high mortality rate in impoverished African nations. Their project, called “The Midwife Project,” involves on-the-ground research in midwife training facilities, studying the effectiveness of a dummy designed by Northwestern engineering students for midwife training. 

Jessica Holden
Jessica Holden

Both social policy majors, DeGennaro and Merrill are working on this project through a Kellogg School of Management program called Innovate for Impact. “Our aim would be to learn whether or not the dummy is an effective teaching tool, how it is best incorporated into a training curriculum and what potential it has to lower this mortality rate. However, we intend to look at other prenatal issues and maternal medical challenges in developing countries,” says DeGennaro.

Joan DeGenarro
Joan DeGenarro

Sernik received her award from the Opportunities Fund to support focus groups for the Student-Mather Collaborative, her capstone project for the Civic Engagement Certificate Program along with Jessica Holden and Arielle Sullivan. Because of the lack of interaction with older adults on campus, the group seeks to develop an opportunity for intergenerational learning at Northwestern.

Sharona Sernik
Sharona Sernik

After researching programs at other universities, the group is holding focus groups to explore opinions of students and older adults regarding intergenerational learning. Surveys based on these focus groups will determine if a trial class can be held.

“The classroom is an ideal medium for forming continuous and mutually beneficial relationships between students and older adults in the area. When older adults share insight into the topics covered in class discussions or when students demonstrate what they have learned to the older adults, stereotypes and ‘unigenerational’ bubbles will begin to fade,” says Sernik, a sophomore majoring in human development and psychological services.

Arielle Sullivan
Arielle Sullivan

Established by alumni and friends of the School, the SESP Opportunities Fund supports undergraduates’ special projects, such as attending conferences, initiating community service or developing extracurricular organizations.

Students may apply to the Opportunities Fund for items that support or advance their project, such as expenses associated with an academic conference, travel or a community initiative. Opportunities Fund projects may be under the direction of a faculty member or an endeavor of the student’s own choosing, such as those undertaken by undergraduate student organizations. Applications are available from the SESP Student Affairs Office. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/30/11