The Earhart Foundation
In the autumn of 1930 the Earhart Foundation (a family enterprise established by H. B. Earhart of Ann Arbor) offered the president of the University a sum of money to finance an experiment in the training of a selected group of University students for more intelligent and effective leadership in the affairs of the modern American community. The sum assigned by the foundation was not to exceed $10,000 annually, and the period of experimentation was set at four years.
The president decided that the Department of Sociology was the logical unit to set up and administer this project. R. D. McKenzie was assigned the position of director of the enterprise by the president and the Board of Regents.
The plan of operation proposed and followed throughout the four-year period was as follows: a limited number (from eight to twelve) of advanced graduate students from the various social science disciplines were chosen each year on the basis of scholarship and personality, and were awarded fellowships in the Graduate School, each bearing a stipend of $500 for the academic year. In addition, a somewhat larger number (from twenty-five to thirty) of selected undergraduate students, most of them in their senior year, were awarded scholarships averaging around $100 for the academic year. Both fellows and scholars thus selected were required to devote a stipulated minimum amount of time each week to the investigation of some community problem in the field, primarily in the Detroit metropolitan region. The problems selected were carefully chosen, and the scholars, for the most part, worked under the field guidance of the fellows. Two seminars, each meeting for a two-hour period once a week, were set up, one for the fellows and one for the scholars. The two seminars were closely interrelated. The scholars working under the direction of a particular fellow always attended the senior seminar when the fellow in question reported on his work, and frequently the fellows made reports in the junior seminar.
One feature of these seminars was rather unique; namely, the participation in them by members from the various social science departments and also by invited persons from the outside community. As each student reported in the seminar, those most closely associated with his research project, both professors and outsiders, attended the seminar and took part in the discussion. This, together with the fact that the student members of the seminar represented different social science disciplines, and were engaged in the study of different types of community problems, made for a cross-fertilization of ideas and for a broader perspective of the interrelationships of human activities in our modern social order. It tended to break down the narrow academic divisions which characterize university specialization and to focus attention upon the interrelationships of social phenomena.
The period of this experiment terminated at the close of the academic year 1934-35, but in recognition of the value of this type of activity, the University has continued the project, though on a somewhat more limited scale, by setting aside a number of specially designated fellowships in the Graduate School to be awarded to students selected for this work.
Aside from the student-training feature of this work, which, of course, Page 733was the main objective, a considerable amount of research material has been collected which is made available to interested parties and which, when amplified and interpreted, will be presented in published form.