Courtesy of Cornell University

Prof. Anthony Burrow, human development, chose to allocate 2/3 of his Engaged Scholar Prize to supporting undergraduate students' visions.

October 22, 2019

From $20,000 to 50 Ideas: The Contribution Project Funds Students’ Visions of a Better World

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In January, Prof. Anthony Burrow, human development, received $30,000 from the Engaged Scholar Prize. Nine months later, he’s given away $20,000 of the prize money to 50 projects created by undergraduate students.

The Contribution Project was born from Burrow’s desire to “support the ideas that young people have about a difference that they would make in the world,” Burrow told The Sun. From Oct. 4 to Oct. 18, the project accepted simple proposals from students who had an idea they felt could benefit from $400.

A team of undergraduate and graduate students, along with Professor Burrow, reviewed all submissions to ensure that they were feasible, clearly articulated and safe. When the application period was over, the team randomly selected 50 projects from those who met the qualifications.

“Projects are randomly selected — we don’t pick our favorite. This is not about me supporting things that I think make interesting contributions. It’s an opportunity to support what other people think is a contribution that they could make,” Burrow said.

The funding for this project came from Engaged Cornell, whose mission is “celebrating extraordinary community-engaged teaching, learning and research,” according to their website. Burrow is the fourth recipient of this prize.

“I felt peculiar about receiving an Engaged Scholar Award as an individual,” Burrow said. “Like, how do I get an Engaged Scholar Award without recognizing the people with whom I’m engaged?”

This question inspired the Contribution Project, which Burrow wanted to use to show undergraduate students that their ideas for positive contributions could be implemented.

Allyson Newman ’21, who is in Burrow’s Purpose and Identity Processes Laboratory and was one of the undergraduate students who reviewed submissions, said: “[Burrow] wants to show that undergraduate students are able to make a difference however they want, and they don’t have to wait until after college to do that.”

The submissions for funding ranged a wide variety of topics, including putting up lighting in Ho Plaza, donating backpacks filled with toys for children who are transported in ambulances, and buying SAT and ACT preparatory materials for a high school library.

The entire $20,000 sum has been distributed, but Burrow and his team look forward to the project’s future impact.

“A next logical step would be to actually study the impact of this funding on the people who received it and the communities in which they’re doing their work,” Burrow said.

The Project’s website will slowly turn into a tracking site, where students who received the grants can publish their progress.

According to Aaron King grad, who also reviewed submissions, the Contribution Project is different from other prizes and grants that are often distributed at Cornell. The goal of the project was “not making another competitive process, but really trying to give an opportunity out for anyone who had an idea to contribute,” according to King.

“Young people want to do things for the world around them,” Burrow said. “This is an opportunity to put a little support behind people’s aims.”