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What’s up with the stuffed animals? Later today, we’ll reveal the answer in our first installment on Summer Scholars.

Since the Summer Scholars Program began in 1993, hundreds of students have devoted their summers not to sunnin’ and funnin,’ but to weeks and weeks of independent research on campus. And the majority of that research, even two decades after the program’s inception, has taken place decidedly in the science world. There’s a simple explanation, of course, but that’s buried within the story of the Summer Scholars.

As recently retired Associate Provost Keith Boone explains in this video, the story has a modest beginning. Back in the early ’90s, fewer than a dozen students were staying on campus through the summer to conduct research in the natural sciences. Another student asked Boone why similar opportunities weren’t available for work in disciplines.

The answer, of course, was a lack of funding available to support that kind of activity. Boone took the question to other campus leaders, and then-President Michelle Myers offered some discretionary funds for a three-year start-up program. If it were successful, she said at the time, then they’d seek additional funding from outside sources.

The idea, of course, took off among students, and within three years Denison fundraisers were in the hunt to make it work. As of today, the Summer Scholars Program draws support from three dozen endowed gifts from generous alumni and foundations to fund upwards of 120 student researchers each summer. Most of those funds come with requirements about a field or discipline, and as it happens most of those focus on the sciences.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t an impressive amount of scholarship and creativity taking place outside the science labs. In fact, between 2005 and 2010, 45 percent of all Summer Scholar projects represented the arts, humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary studies.

Over the next several weeks, TheDEN will offer a look at several “non-science” Summer Scholars in a series called “No Lab Coats Required.” Check back later today for our first feature on Taiyangzhi “Rebecca” Zhou ’13 and the marketing of American fashions in China.

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