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What Is a "Good Project"?

A good Project:

Addresses a demonstrated social need(s) or significant problem in a specific community or population.

Is an innovative approach to meeting that need or problem through the creation of a facility, an organization, a service or a new initiative for an existing organization. The innovative quality could be to serve a new community or population with a good approach from another location.

Has measurable goals that would be evaluated at the end of the project.

Builds on partnerships with other community organizations.

Continues to meet the defined need independent of the participation of the Lang Scholar and Lang resources.

Could be replicated at other locations.

Conforms to the allotted budget.

Is completed by the time the Scholar graduates.

Who Is a Successful Lang Project Proposer?

A successful candidate:

Is in good academic standing, with a B average.

Can complete the work before graduation. (The final report is due by the end of the summer following graduation.)

Has the time to devote to the project. Often it takes several semesters plus summers, or time off to do the type of work that is required.

Is guided by a mentor or small committee of people committed to the work.

Has the necessary skills and abilities before starting the project, such as language ability, knowledge of the community, knowledge of relevant research and similar projects.

Has developed contacts in or relationships with the community where the project is to occur, before the project starts.

How Do I Prepare for a Project?

It's a question that comes up a lot.... There are 4 main ways to prepare:

1) CLASSES: When creating your academic schedule, keep your possible project directions under consideration. If the end goal may be education, look into that department's course offerings (like Education 14). If you want to find a group to work with, in a local community, explore options like Political Science 38: Community Politics. If you need assistance with conducting research and observations in order to better understand your target group, look into classes like Soc./Anth 21: Research Design or 22: Field Methods. Public policy classes are also good starting points. Informal workshops and seminars help, too. Consider the CIVIC offerings, as well as workshops conducted by the Lang program or outside organizations, that fit your area(s) of interest.

2) PERSONAL ASSESSMENT: It's time to look at yourself and figure out what you envision doing and what you hope to give. Do you want to take as much time as is necessary to do a project, or would you rather do an internship as a means of making a contribution to the community?

Do you want to create a new organization or facility or would you prefer to enhance an existing group's offerings or effectiveness? Where are your passions? What social problems concern you the most? Look at yourself and your own experiences, and realizing your own skills and strengths-- from organizing people to generating movements. Make a list. See how your future goals fit with your past and present work. Consider the internship as an useful tool to evaluate yourself further.

3) MENTORING: An idea must be evaluated for its feasibility. It's a matter of asking: "Is this idea going to work here?" Here is where a mentor becomes of increasing importance. He or she can go beyond the visits, time spent in the community, phone calls, and faxes, in helping you assess your idea. He/she will ask you the hard questions about your idea, and in turn, hone it from a vision into a project.

4) INTERNSHIPS: The Lang program provides Lang Scholars with the opportunity to participate in an internship to become better acquainted with an issue or a community. It will give you expertise and help you understand the unmet needs of the community or social problem. The Swarthmore Foundation funds other student intership opportunities.

5) FEASIBILITY STUDY: Use Lang funds to explore a project idea & location to see if it can really be done. The Open Competition has 2 such grants, and the Scholars may use their Educational Enhancement funds for this exploration.

Any Lang project idea must meet a feasibility test. These are just some of the questions that the Lang committee may ask you, during their review of the proposal. It is wise to have investigated these queries before venturing into the proposal process. The way to do that is to find a mentor, bounce ideas off of other scholars, and acquaint yourself with your target community by spending time there and establishing a line of communication. In these ways, the questions will become simpler:

How can I establish a position of respect within my chosen community? (And more importantly, can I even work with the community and can its members work with me?)

Will the community be responsive to my effort? Have they articulated a need for it?

Will the population I want to benefit from the program, actually derive the benefits I foresee, or will the purpose be different from the results?

Am I prepared for the project-specific issues that will be confronting me? Do I have the necessary skills for this project?

Am I being realistic about time, resource, and financial requirements? Are these requirements in-line with what I have to offer?

Have I identified resources that will serve as a support function for me during the formulation and execution of this project?

Have I done or seen a test-pilot of my program idea, or at least essential elements in it?

Will this project have the marks of sustainability and longevity that are supposed to characterize a Lang project?

Is this idea original or can it be found within existing organizations and programs in an identical form? What new element am I bringing to this issue? The new part may be bringing a good idea to a new location. How do I know the program will fit the new location?

Recognition and Presentations

It's important to be able to talk about the Lang work in many formats--from formal presentations to brief explanations to family and friends.

Other places to talk about your work are in job interviews, future proposals for funding or projects, in applications, etc.

Presentations let people know what you are doing and accomplishing. It helps to gain support for your work, and gains recognition for your accomplishments. Usually, presentations take place at Lang dinners, receptions, and the prospective student's brunch.

It is recommended that you think about 3 types of presentations:

The 3-minute/paragraph sound bite

The 5-10 minute/1 page explanation

The 20 minute presentation/2-5 page discussion

The College realizes that the work of the Lang scholar is an important thing to reflect upon and acknowledge. Sometimes, the projects are featured in College publications and become news releases for outside media.

Scholars are encouraged to make presentations about their work at conferences or present their accomplishments in an academic paper.

Not all scholars have to make public presentations.

Other ad hoc ways of honoring special merit may be developed, including certificates of Merit or publication outside of Swarthmore materials. Ideas are welcome for these other opportunities!

The Final Report

No project is considered complete until a final report is submitted. This document should be a synopsis of the project, the goals that were intended and met, the results rendered, the sustainability of the effort, and other relevant information, including a budget report.

The reports and written materials of Scholars are available to the College for use in publications and publicity.

The report must be submitted before the end of the summer following senior year. Any remaining funds owed the Scholar or the College are to be completed at this time.