Social and Environmental Justice Research Grants

As part of our commitment to social justice, the Philosophy department, with kind support from the Irving Institute, will fund independent philosophical research on issues of social justice related to race, class, gender, energy, and/or the environment. We hope students become lifelong independent researchers, and these grants give you the chance to pursue a project of your own devising during a leave term or Winterim. They provide $1500 for projects that should take up roughly three weeks of full time work, which can be spread over the entirety of a leave term. The research done during the grant period is not a course and it cannot be used for credit.  

Eligibility and How to Apply

Eligibility
All Dartmouth undergraduate students are eligible to apply for these grants. Since they are intended to support research during leave terms or Winterim, they cannot be used while enrolled in Dartmouth courses. Recipients who change their D-plans to be in residence during a grant term must forfeit the grant, but may re-apply for funding during a later period. International students should consult OVIS to ensure that their visas permit them to receive funding for independent research while they are away from campus.

Applying
The deadlines for 2021-2022 are as follows, and will be updated yearly:

Winter term (& "winterim"):   November 1
Spring term:                            February 1
Summer term:                         May 1
Fall term:                                August 1

Interested students should contact a member of the Philosophy Department who is willing to serve as an advisor and formulate a research plan with their help. Since applications are due roughly at the fifth week of a term, contacting potential advisors in the first couple of weeks of the term is recommended. Applications for Winterim grants are due at the same time as Winter term grant applications. No late or incomplete applications will be accepted.

Complete applications include:

  1. An application statement (1000 words max) describing the intended research project, your reasons for pursuing it, and a tentative schedule of work. It is not required that students produce term papers on their selected topics. The end result could be an annotated bibliography, an instructional video, a short paper, a website, an op-ed, or a critical summary of the research undertaken.
  2. A bibliography containing at least ten sources, articles or books, that are relevant to the project.
  3. An unofficial transcript.
  4. The name of the faculty advisor consulted in creating the proposal.

Each of these parts should be combined into a single pdf, and submitted using the form at: https://forms.gle/RUVA35UQuPa3C13Z7.

Applications will be reviewed by members of the philosophy department. Members of the review committee are ineligible to be faculty advisors. Proposals will be evaluated in terms of their feasibility, topicality, and relation to philosophy, broadly construed.

Students are required to meet with their advisors at the beginning and toward the end of their projects. The faculty member's role is mainly to offer advice for how to proceed with the research. At the beginning of the term after the end of the project, students should submit their final work, whatever it happens to be, to their faculty advisor. We hope to host events highlighting the independent research our students have done.  At the end of each academic year, the Department will post a list of grant recipients and brief descriptions of their projects on our website.

Student Projects

Winter 2022

John J. Cho '22
For the Social Justice Research Grant, I am interested in studying the intersection of philosophy of race, Rawlsian theories of justice, and political representation. The research question I will look at is: what type of political representation does Rawl's theory of justice demand in forming the basic structure of society, especially concerning racial minorities? I envision my project interacting with two broad fields in political philosophy. First, I will look at the theory of justice as fairness by using Rawls and various Rawlsian philosophers. Additionally, I will also look at theories of political representation, especially focusing on issues of descriptive representation. Although both theories of justice and political representation are foundational ideas in political philosophy, they often do not interact. I hope to investigate ways in which these not so disparate fields can reinforce each other.

George S. Gerber '23
Historically, education has been a scarce resource reserved for the privileged and powerful; it has not even been 70 years since the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. Given that educational injustices exist, this research intends to study distributive justice and its intersection with educational equality. The project will also serve as a significant foundation for my data science research during the winter term. Through this research, I intend to accomplish three primary objectives. I want to learn about the context and history behind educational inequality for certain groups, familiarize myself with various theories of distributive justice that may offer a solution to these problems, and understand how these theories of distributive justice practically apply to the case of educational inequality.

Student Projects

Summer 2021

John C. Ejiogu '23
I worked on a research project titled "Beyond Being Black." This research stemmed out of a genuine curiosity to understand the complexities that surround the life of the black person in the United States. And I say genuine curiosity because I realized that my lived experiences, by virtue of the society in which I received formation, a predominantly black society, are fundamentally different from those of the average black person in the United States, the most recent space that I inhabit; a space in which I am faced with new experiences. Drawing primarily on the concept of double consciousness, it's most basic definition being "the sense of looking at one's self through the eyes of others," I sought to understand how the lived experiences of the black person affect both the way they view themselves and the way they interact with other members of the society, black and non-black.

Kaitlyn N. Kelley '22
With the social justice research grant, I was able to research the question of why many women engage in an internal debate as to whether an encounter should be considered sexual assault or not. This question was important to me in the context of philosophy as it concerns a woman's autonomy in the aftermath of sexual assault. It is up to the victim of sexual assault to determine to report the incident or not; however, we are also socially constituted and are subject to influence from social conditions that might not align with our individual beliefs and desires. Through my research, I was able to delve into historical misconceptions of sexual assault ("rape myths") and potential social repercussions of reporting an incident (e.g. embarrassment, shame). I'm hoping to take what I've learned this summer and use it in my roles on campus as an Undergraduate Advisor and participant in Greek life to support those who have experienced sexual assault.

William M. (Max) Lawrence '24
My research starts with the proposition that universal adequacy and quality in the public school system in the U.S. is a forgotten dream.  From the observation of extreme educational inequity that seems to be a result of the existence of private schools, I considered the option of the national prohibition of private K-12 education.  My final output was a paper which concluded that the federal government ought prohibit K-12 private schools. Overall, the social justice research grant gave me an extremely valuable opportunity to practice and develop my skills in conducting deep and thoughtful research and slowly and methodically forming my thoughts and arguments in the field of education research.  Having the time to research and write over the span of multiple months has opened up aspects of the philosophical research process which were simply not available to me or possible in the conventional class paper timeline of 1-2 weeks.  Because of this, the extended process of proposing, researching, and then writing my final research paper has been one of the most intellectually enriching educational experiences I have ever had.

Rine Uhm '22
I researched how notions of justice, equality, and family have been theorized in the Western canon as part of an effort to better understand the canon upon which John Rawls formulated his theory of justice. Second, I engaged with some of the feminist critiques of Rawls, and specifically those given by Susan Moller Okin. I'm interested in the politics of gender, family, and sexuality, and wanted to know more about how Okin and some of her feminist contemporaries theorize these concepts, and in particular how their theories align with or challenge the views that we find, implicitly or explicitly, in Rawls and the tradition in which he was working. Third, after getting clear on the shape of this debate, I turned to several questions: How might Rawls (or a Rawlsian) respond to his feminist critics? Is feminist theory consistent with Rawls's theory of justice? To what extent is liberalism a useful political philosophy for a feminist agenda?

Student Projects

Spring 2021

Jesse Ferraioli '23
My research focused on water ethics in North America, specifically regarding how water is governed on indigenous lands in North America. In the past 20 years, the Canadian government has begun to recognize the ethical importance of the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities and how "interjurisdictional collaboration" with them is key for effective political solutions to protecting water resources. In the U.S., economic equity is still the base point for valuing water, whereas in Canada, policymakers are attempting something new. Recognizing the importance of the bias of knowledge that goes into policy can allow policy-makers to avoid the marginalization of Indigenous governance over their own natural resources: something that happens too often in the United States. The philosophical bases I considered were ethics and epistemology, and I used this research grant as a jumping-off point to begin research into a larger project or thesis down the road. The scope of my research combines both of my academic focuses on philosophy and environmental studies.

Anthony Perez '23
The goal of my research will be to learn more about the way that anti-discrimination law plays into current political topics like affirmative action and reparations for African-Americans. First, I considered the legal philosophy question as to how anti-discrimination law interacts with our notions of fairness and equality. In other words, in what ways, if any, should the law be used to promote perceived societal progress? Second, I considered the normative question specifically regarding affirmative action and reparations. I am interested in how greater integration might plays into something like affirmative action since one consequence of affirmative action is, ideally, greater racial integration within certain institutions.

Connor Roemer '23
Environmental justice is the idea that there should be a just distribution of costs and benefits amongst parties privy to environmental issues. Often times, many of the worst ecological and environmental effects disproportionately impact marginalized groups or those in developing countries. Environmental justice can be witnessed on both a local, domestic, and international level. In this period of rapid global change, environmental justice is becoming more important than ever. Additionally, the climate crisis is exacerbating these issues on an unprecedented level, bringing the climate justice to the forefront as well. My research project focused on these issues, as well as the resulting ethical questions. Who has moral duties when it comes to environmental justice? Do we as individuals have a moral obligation to reduce these environmental disparities? Do the United States and other developed nations have a moral obligation to remedy the global inequalities? How can we best go about it?