Undergraduate Research Stipends Enable Students to Chart Their Own Paths

The Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research supports students like Claire Vanderwood, CCAS ‘21, early in their academic experience, providing mentoring and funding so they can pursue their passion for particular topics.

July 13, 2020


Claire Vanderwood

Each year, GW’s Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research (CUFR), supported by the Offices of the Provost and the Vice President for Research, funds independent projects for a dozen undergraduates from diverse disciplines. These awards enable undergraduates to delve deeply into a topic of interest, working directly with a faculty mentor to conduct hands-on research. Students grow academically and professionally, have the opportunity to make original intellectual contributions, and help solve pressing social problems. 

Claire Vanderwood, CCAS ‘21, is studying New England merchant participation in the Pacific Northwest U.S. Indigenous slave trade from the late 18th to mid-19th century. She hopes to shine a light on this relatively uncharted and shameful piece of history. “There are many unresolved issues from the colonial period, yet no historian has explored this specific phenomenon in great depth,” Vanderwood says. “I want to uncover unacknowledged forms of slavery and racism and bring them into the national conversation.”

Because research is the heart of a history degree, Vanderwood chose GW for its proximity to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian museums. However, several critical primary sources, including ship logs and merchant records, are in New England. Fortunately, she has the CUFR stipend to cover her travel to review these unpublished pieces of history. “I am beyond grateful, as I could not do this project properly without this funding,” Vanderwood says. “Financial support for humanities research is integral to understanding our socio-political climate.”

Vanderwood plans to earn a doctoral degree in colonial North American history, continuing to challenge existing historical arguments “for the rest of her life.”