Mountaintop

Call for Proposals

We invite proposals from members of the faculty or staff to serve as mentors for Mountaintop projects during the summer of 2017, with the option of continuing into the Fall semester. Faculty/staff members may submit ideas with intent to recruit students, or may submit on behalf of students who have already conceived of projects they wish to undertake. Students who have developed their own ideas for Mountaintop projects must identify a member of the faculty/staff who will embrace the project, commit to serving as a mentor, and submit in the students’ behalf.

Pratt faculty interested in proposing a project, and Pratt students seeking a faculty mentor for their projects, should contact Peg Fox (mfox@pratt.edu) in Pratt’s Office of the Provost.

Whether conceived at the outset by faculty/staff or by students, Mountaintop projects have enabled students to define their own goals and determine how to pursue them, to configure and keep their workspaces and to substantially focus on their projects for a period of time. Students have been surprised by the changes they have seen in themselves when taking full ownership of their work and operating outside familiar classroom structures. Mentors have been impressed by how, when intellectual and creative freedom is conferred consistently and sincerely, students become accountable to each other and to the work.

Mentors have also valued the experience of facilitating a process rather than seeking to cover particular content. Despite students’ notable independence – key elements of the experience are that students are not given a script to follow and are expected to make critical judgments about their own work – the mentor’s role can be critically important and highly rewarding. Part of the mentor’s role is to determine that students’ initiating questions or goals are likely to start them on a substantive intellectual path. Thereafter, mentors should be prepared to cede full ownership of the project to students, while observing their progress and guiding or prompting appropriately.

As noted below, funding is available for support of student stipends and necessary expenses. In addition, faculty/staff who devote effort as mentors will be provided with funding to their discretionary accounts for academic use. We also invite and encourage those who have existing support for summer experiences to propose ways in which they can participate. We welcome proposals from those who seek co-funding in order to expand the number and variety of students involved, and from those who simply seek use of space and involvement in the Mountaintop community.

We strongly encourage continuity of projects through the academic year and specifically invite proposals in which (as examples) students continue lines of inquiry begun or prepared for in Spring semester courses, or continue their work for academic credit during the Fall semester.

More on past student projects and observations by students and mentors may be found here and in summary reports from the summers of 2013 (PDF) and 2014 (PDF).

Proposal Guidelines

Mentors should facilitate and support student agency as they engage in substantially self-defined and self-directed work. Mentors may, as mere examples, identify a topic ripe for exploration, a question or possibility to be explored or tested, a mode of inquiry or of expression, or any combination of these. In doing so, mentors should seek to create and maintain circumstances whereby students are likely to be surprised and challenged, and perhaps to take interesting turns in their paths. To a significant degree, students should be free to modify the focus of their work and their goals as they progress in their understanding.

A project may have a fairly specific endpoint in mind as long as students will have plenty of intellectual and creative latitude and ownership of the process. Projects must not be pre-scripted, and should be unlikely to present a clear, linear path from conception to completion. We specifically discourage projects based solely upon participation in organized competitions, as these are often too tightly structured. Relationships with, or derivation from, faculty research programs, including dependence upon techniques, materials, ideas, facilities, etc. are welcomed as long as students will be substantially self-directed. Mentors may include one or more graduate students to unburden undergraduates of the need to master technical details prior to undertaking independent work.

A hallmark of a quality Mountaintop experience is that students have healthy encounters with the limits of their knowledge and capabilities and are naturally motivated to address them. Students’ responses may naturally include library research and similar means of taking in already-codified material. It should not be the case, however, that students’ experience is dominated by retreading of already well understood material or replication of work already done by others. Academic outputs such as journal papers are not requirements as they would be for faculty and advanced graduate student research. In the absence of such fixed expectations, Mountaintop teams do often produce works worthy of publication and exhibition.

We provide the following criteria and guidance, which are intended to encourage flexibility and creativity:

  • Students may work individually or in small groups. If working individually, students should be members of a cadre or at minimum should be encouraged and supported in engagement in the larger Mountaintop community.
  • Projects must involve undergraduate students and may also involve graduate students. Involving one or more graduate students on a team is particularly advantageous, and recommended, when a project has elements that are methodologically challenging.
  • We encourage involvement of students at any point in their formal studies. We encourage bringing students together across levels of formal learning, including undergraduate students from different class years as well as graduate students. More experienced students can bring domain knowledge and comfort with ambiguity and risk, while less experienced students may ask the most interesting questions.
  • We encourage projects that bring students together across disciplines, wherein they are expected to inform, challenge, and support each other. Disciplines may be chosen based on the nature of the project, or simply to bring a diversity of perspectives to the project. Projects that by their nature require students from multiple disciplines and perspectives to work together, rather than going about their parts entirely independently, tend to be particularly fruitful.
  • Students may be guided by an individual member of the faculty/staff or by multiple members of the faculty or staff. One member of the faculty/staff must take responsibility as contact for the group and for the project budget. In creating continuity with the Spring or Fall semesters, mentors may work individually or in concert.
  • We invite proposals regardless of whether the planned activities require new or different space or can be conducted within Mountaintop building. Some work may require special facilities that exist elsewhere, and some naturally will occur in the community or in the field. With the goal of intellectual exchange and influence across groups, we do expect each group to foster connections with the others, at minimum through eagerness to be involved in exchanges with other groups and if possible by maintenance of a visible presence in the shared space.

Proposal Submission

Proposals for summer/fall 2016 Mountaintop projects should be submitted as a single PDF, by email to mountaintop@lehigh.edu, no later than February 10, 2017.. Each proposal must be submitted by a faculty/staff member, and must include the following:

Description. Describe what you intend to offer your students, e.g., the topic, question, problem, possibility, mode of inquiry or expression, etc. Allowing for the expectation of student ownership of their projects, describe the independent intellectual and creative paths likely to be open to the students. With the understanding that what you determine to be most valuable about the experience may change, provide your expectations of what students will take with them from the experience. As applicable, describe relationships between summer and academic year experiences. Please limit this description to a single page.

People, space and time. Please provide

  • the names and departmental affiliations of faculty/staff mentors, identifying one as the key contact for the project. If mentoring responsibility is not to be evenly divided among mentors, please state the percent effort of each.
  • the name and departmental affiliation of an administrative contact, typically the departmental coordinator for the key faculty/staff contact. This person will act as point person for student contact and offer letters.
  • the number of undergraduate and graduate students, and intended or likely disciplinary backgrounds.
  • your space needs. If planning to work in one of the open bays in Building C, describe approximately what space you expect your students will need to call their own. The open bay space is available for use in the Spring, Summer and Fall.
  • the duration of the Summer experience, not including any pre-summer preparatory time you intend to spend with your students. Past experience indicates that a summer experience should last for at least eight and preferably ten weeks. We ask groups to work within the ten-week period from May 29 to August 7 and prefer that all groups start on May 29.
  • any plans for beginning or preparing for the experience in the Spring, in a course context or otherwise, and/or continuing through the Fall, including plans for credit-bearing courses.

Resource needs. List the resources you need, as follows:

  • Specify the number of undergraduate and graduate students who will be engaged full-time in the project and for whom support is needed. During the summer, student may be enrolled in at most one course or equivalent in parallel with the Mountaintop experience.
  • List necessary expenses, not to exceed $1,500 per student. Those with computing needs should obtain pricing from their college computing consultants. Durable equipment such as computers, tablets, 3D printers, etc., may be provided from existing stock and all will be returned at the completion of the project.

Student fellowships and faculty/staff discretionary funds. The following will be provided. Do not include them in your budget.

  • Students devoting full time to summer projects will be provided with a weekly fellowship stipend of $460 per week for undergraduates and $610 for graduate students.
  • Faculty/staff mentors will be provided with discretionary funds of $750 per student (shared among multiple mentors on a team) to support academic activities.

Selection

As necessitated by proposed projects in excess of available funds, a committee of faculty members from the four colleges will review all proposals. Final selections will be made by the Vice Provost for Creative Inquiry / Director of the Mountaintop Initiative based upon the committee's recommendations and in consultation with the Provost.

Selection will be based upon

  • fit with the Mountaintop paradigm as described in the PROPOSAL GUIDELINES above.
  • variety of topics, of disciplines represented among mentors and students, and of modes of inquiry, synthesis and expression.
  • opportunities for interaction and synergy among groups, with communities of practice, and other communities outside the university.
  • creating continuity, and bringing the Mountaintop paradigm, into the academic year
  • available budget

    "If you give a Lehigh student a problem, they’re going to find a way to solve it. If you give 100 Lehigh students a problem, they’re going to find a really interesting way to solve it."
    - Alex Derish, '15

    STUDENTS

    If you have an idea for a Mountaintop project, please approach a faculty member to learn more about the proposal process.