Jennifer Cook’s Contributions to FURSCA at Albion College*

Jennifer Cook

Jennifer Cook, who died February 1, 2018, was the first Coordinator of Albion College’s Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA), hired to oversee the program in 1999. In 2004 she was appointed to the position of Associate Director, and in 2006 she left the program (more below). While with the College, Cook built a successful program of support for undergraduate scholarship that won national recognition and advanced the education and career goals of a very large number of our best students.

 

 

 

 

An important component (perhaps the most visible component) of FURSCA’s activity is providing stipends to students for summer research with Albion College faculty. From 2001 through 2006 FURSCA supported an average of 68.5 projects each summer. In March of 2003 Cook and Anne McCauley (Art and Art History) co-authored the cover article for the Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, describing FURSCA and its impact on the College. Again in 2005 Cook and Wes Dick (History) had a cover article in the CUR Quarterly describing the value of interdisciplinary research as encouraged and supported by FURSCA. Both articles won national acclaim, and resulted in many inquiries to FURSCA about how other schools could implement a similar program. Cook and various faculty directors of FURSCA gave several presentations related to this topic.

From 2005 – 2006 Cook was co-Prinicipal Investigator in the writing of a three-year, multi-center grant ($435,000) from the National Science Foundation to support course, curriculum, and laboratory improvement in support of undergraduate scholarship, to be awarded beginning around January 2007. Albion’s share of these funds would have been around $180,000.

 

 

Leaving FURSCA. [This account was reported to me by Cook; I have no reason to doubt its validity, but I cannot verify it.] Over the course of 2006 Cook noted discrepancies in FURSCA’s budget. Funds that she was counting on to fund upcoming student projects were disappearing from her records overnight. Funds in place to pay for the 2006 summer program were being reduced. She made frequent inquiries to the College’s “President-in-Training” (he ultimately became President elsewhere) who was also serving as VP for Finance and Management: he instructed his staff not to answer her questions, but instead to forward all of her calls to him. His response (as told by her) could best be characterized as, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about this – we know what we’re doing.” Eventually, as funds continued to dry up and she continued to ask about it, he reduced her position from full-time with benefits to 1/3 time without benefits, in essence forcing her out of the position. The Dean at the time, in a closed meeting with her about this, suggested that she should be happy about it because it meant she could have more time with her young children—she replied with a few choice words, including making it clear that the time she spent with her children was her choice and should not be mandated by the College.  She chose, very sadly, to leave FURSCA.

In the time since her departure FURSCA has continued, but with a part-time coordinator for many of the years since. There have been no more national publications describing the program’s successes. The number of projects supported over each summer from 2007 – 2015 (last year for which data are available) has averaged 44.3, down more than 20 projects per year. Our share of the $435,000 grant never came to Albion—it is unlikely that anyone in administration followed up on it.

Of course I am deeply saddened by Jennifer Cook’s death—she was my spouse, mother of three great kids, and stepmother to two. I wrote this because, except for a much appreciated public email from the Assistant to the Provost, there has been no recognition by the College of her passing or of her important contributions to its academic life, and I would like her role in the early years of FURSCA to be documented. (I would also love to know what happened to the huge grant that she made available to the College but that we never collected.) Please feel free to add comments below clarifying, amplifying, or correcting any of the information that I have provided.


*Prompted by my disappointment that her passing was not noted by the Provost at today’s Faculty Meeting–the first one to occur after her death.
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