CHE Undergraduate Researcher Program

Each year between February and April, the Changing Human Experience awards a handful of summer research assistantships to undergraduates. These fellowships support full-time participation in one of the faculty projects funded by our Cultivating Humanities and Social Sciences Grants. Working closely with a faculty mentor, students have the opportunity to contribute to groundbreaking research in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, while also honing skills that will set them up for a future honors thesis or independent project.

CHE Undergraduate Researchers are expected to devote themselves full time—roughly 40 hours per week—to these experiences for 10 weeks during the summer. They receive a base stipend of $5,000, along with a potential financial aid supplement of up to $1,500, depending on need.


To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be on your Flex Term during summer quarter 2021. (The University does not allow students with a full-time summer research stipend to register for more than 5 units of coursework, which means you cannot accept this grant while enrolled as a full-time student. We also cannot fund students on a leave of absence).
  • Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors of any major are welcome. However, current seniors who will graduate before summer quarter cannot apply.
  • You may not accept any other full-time summer research or internship funding. (You may be allowed to accept another part-time fellowship, but you must clear this in advance with the Program Coordinator).
  • You must dedicate yourself full time (roughly 40 hours per week) to this project for a period of 10 weeks. Consequently, you may not work more than 10 hours per week in another job or register for more than 5 units of coursework. You may not attend September Studies, Bing Overseas Seminars, or any other full-time academic summer program unless you and your faculty mentor agree on a schedule that allows you to work for 10 full weeks around this experience.
  • Due to COVID-19, the University currently forbids travel of any kind for undergraduate research (including purely local “travel” to a nearby library or museum). For the time being, these research experiences must remain purely online. 

How to Apply:

To apply, have a look at the open positions below. If one catches your interest, send an email directly to the faculty member in charge of the project, and he or she will follow up with next steps. Each position has a different application deadline: see the descriptions below for details.

Note: You are welcome to apply for more than one position, but if you do, please notify Jeff Schwegman ( so he can coordinate if needed. 

Questions? Email the Program Coordinator, Jeff Schwegman:

Open Positions

1) Project Title: Recovering Shared Sacred Sites: Remapping Toleration and Religious Pluralism Across the World

Faculty Contact: Anna Bigelow (Religious Studies),

Project Description: In order to imagine a future in which people of all religions and none can coexist, we must have a more robust documentation of the various formations of peaceful and prosocial interreligious exchange that have existed and continue to thrive even in these polarized times. In particular we are concerned with the many sacred sites that were and still are shared by diverse religious communities and individuals all over the globe. Though conflicted and contested sites receive the most sustained attention from the media and policy analysts, our research shows that this is not the norm either historically or currently. This project aims to produce a multi-media visualization of shared sites including an interactive map, database of resources, video and photographic documentary projects, and narratives of interreligious accommodation, engagement, and devotion.

RA Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will assist in collecting, organizing, analyzing, and visualizing data about shared sacred sites submitted by scholars around the world and mapping them using Geographic Information Systems such as Esri. The RA will help to develop the database, identify key search terms and ways of visualizing and coding them, and network with contributors. The RA will use and improve their web development skills, especially those that produce short, effective narratives to supplement maps of the sites on Further, the RA will work with the graduate student researchers to find primary and secondary sources on shared sacred sites that supplement the data provided by the scholars in the network. The RA will be mentored by various faculty members from participating universities around the world and in various subfields, such as Anthropology, Religious Studies, History, Archaeology and Sociology. Through this project, the RA will gain experience in historical research, interdisciplinary methodologies (such as archival research, data visualization, and network analysis), communicating with scholars in a variety of fields, and translating research findings for the larger public.

Preferred Skills: Experience with GIS mapping and web design (especially Squarespace and WordPress) is highly desired.

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but only those received before April 15 will be guaranteed full consideration.

2) Project Title: Imagining Adaptive Societies

Faculty ContactJames Holland Jones (Earth System Science), To apply, please email Professor Jones, copy, and attach a resume and letter of interest.

Project Description: This project uses speculative fiction to help us imagine adaptable societies able to respond to the major challenges of our age. How do we imagine novel social arrangements that allow us to thrive sustainably in an environment of greater equity? Speculative fiction provides a remarkable set of tools for exploring such complex systems. The world-building of a novel-length treatment of the implications of climate change, for example, provides the space to explore what these consequences might be for the Earth, for social, political, and economic structures, and for the lived experience of people. There have been efforts to treat speculative fiction from the perspective of literature or social activism. This project is unique in its effort to intentionally bring critical social-science expertise into dialogue with contemporary speculative fiction writers who specifically explore the social consequences of change. Of particular interest to our exploration of adaptations to social, economic, and environmental crises are the works by Black and Indigenous authors and the sub-genre of Climate Fiction (CliFi). The project will culminate in a workshop featuring speculative-fiction authors and social scientists hosted at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University. 

RA Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will help curate a list of speculative fiction judged to be relevant to specific social problems. This will include compiling the list, reading the materials, and generating brief summaries. We are particularly interested in how speculative fiction imagines innovative partnerships between humans, nature, and machines. The RA will thus develop skills to engage in interdisciplinary conversations and play an integral part of a research team including the faculty mentor, the co-principal investigator, and the CASBS program director who is helping plan the project.

Preferred Skills: A familiarity in any or a combination of the following would be ideal: speculative fiction, earth system science, political economy, African-Futurism, and Indigenous studies.

Application Deadline: Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

3) Project Title: Aftermaths of Enslavement: Curating Legacies Publicly 

Faculty Contact: Grant Parker (Classics),

Project Description: As an initiative in commemorative justice, this project seeks to better understand enslaved pasts via two paths: (a) by curating materials that advance scholarly research but are not easily available, using technologies that promote access and utility; and (b) by developing learning materials, including a film, for schools and popular audiences, working with heritage professionals and teachers. We focus on the Indian Ocean World to enrich global and comparative frameworks for the study of enslavement. A pilot project involves Trials of Slavery: selected documents concerning slaves from the criminal records of the Council of Justice at the Cape of Good Hope, 1705-1794, edited by Nigel Worden and Gerald Groenewald (2005). These texts will be mined for geographic, demographic and other data, so as to create interactive maps that reveal spatial relations around enslavement. Trials of Slavery provides a unique opportunity to reconstruct enslaved lives in ways that are rarely possible in the Indian Ocean World, which is much less studied than the Atlantic. Though there have been several recent books and articles on unfree labor in the Cape there are currently no detailed maps of Western Cape sites of bondage.  

RA Responsibilities and Leaning Outcomes: The RA will contribute to various aspects of the overall project, including the construction of a website that presents its different elements in relation to each other. Specifically, the RA will develop a database curating the 87 court reports published in Trials of Slavery, as well as further data that comes to light.  Since the database will also contain maps linked to the trials, experience with GIS systems such as ESRI would be a plus. Part of the work would thus be very specific – focusing on the court documents, their data mining and online presentation – and part will be more abstract and system-wide – helping plot a balance between elements of the historical Indian Ocean World, its economy and labor diasporas. Regular zoom meetings of research partners in South Africa, Mauritius, the Netherlands etc. will contribute to both of these goals, and the RA should be someone that relishes an environment of collaborative research. 

Preferred Skills: familiarity with Natural Language Processing; web design; mapmaking, e.g. Esri; and/or historical document research and archaeology. Any combination of experience/familiarity would be welcome.

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but only those received before April 15 will be guaranteed full consideration.

4) Project Title: Mourning and Art in the Wake of COVID-19

Faculty Contact: Laura Wittman (French and Italian),

Project Description and RA Responsibilities: I am seeking an assistant to do internet-based research about contemporary expressions of mourning during COVID. The bulk of the work will be combing through newspaper and magazine archives—with my guidance of course —in search of instances where the mourning had any sort of artistic, public expression, and building a database of information about such events/works of art. I will ask you to use EndNote as a database and can teach you how to input data in it and provide you with a copy to use. I will also teach you to analyze the articles, with an eye towards things that stand out, and to summarize the relevant information for the database. I am especially interested in how different communities, racial, national, gender-based, have approached mourning in different ways. If you have some foreign language experience, what would be great, but it is not required; Spanish, French, Italian, or German would all be very useful, as the main focus is Europe and the US; I am also interested in comparing to global trends, so other language/culture experience is always welcome. If you have interests in the following areas, these are some of the themes we will be working with: the role of art in grief, trauma, and healing, for individuals and communities; justice and cultural differences in health care (bias in medicine, in policy, etc. as it relates especially to cross-cultural communication); how mourning is a meditation on the past that is also a blueprint for a better future (so, COVID mourning and diverse types of activism that point to specific ideals for recovery).

Preferred Skills: Some foreign language experience in Spanish, French, Italian, or German would be useful, but is not required.

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but only those received before April 15 will be guaranteed full consideration.