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Nazareth Earns National Award for SPARK Grant Innovation

Published April 26, 2019

Nazareth College’s SPARK grant is earning national honors for innovation as the winner of the 2019 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Chevron Award.

It recognizes outstanding achievement for innovative programs in the college career services field. Nazareth’s SPARK grant has significantly increased the number of students studying abroad and completing summer internships — helping them gain skills early in their college experience that are needed to be competitive and successful in their future.

“Nazareth is making its mark on the national map with the SPARK grant,” said Nazareth President Daan Braveman. “I’m so proud to see the success of SPARK, and the tremendous help it gives our students to take advantage of internships, study abroad, and research opportunities early in their college careers. Nazareth can stand proud with other prestigious winners in the past five years, including Carnegie Mellon and Stanford universities.”

Beginning in January 2018, Nazareth College launched the SPARK Grant (SPARK = Students Pursuing Academic and Real-world Knowledge). SPARK is open to first- and second-year students (and transfers in their first 12 months) and designed to encourage early experiential education. Students are supported by career coaches as they plan and “spark” learning, growth, and connections that can be life-enriching, door-opening, and career-enhancing. The grant provides $1,500 scholarships and tuition waivers for credit-bearing experiences, to help cover costs for international experiences or unpaid summer internships and research.

“If we believe careers are not linear and the future favors those who are curious, open-minded, change-ready, and able to experiment, then we need to look at how we structure experiential learning at our institutions,” said Emily Carpenter, executive director in the Center for Life’s Work. “If students wait until junior year to “test drive” a career, it is often too late to pivot without consequences. However, many of our first- and second-year students need assistance and structure making these experiences possible. The SPARK grant provides the encouragement and a path to pursue the activities that we know open doors and introduce opportunities.”

Overall, the SPARK grant is significantly increasing participation in the number of Nazareth students completing international experiences and summer internships (more than a 100% increase in international experiences and a 94% increase in summer internships from previous years). Undergraduate students from 42 majors and every division/school within the college participated in the program.

Since the inception of SPARK, the retention rate of SPARK participants is 98%, as compared to the most current first-year retention rate of 85.3%.

NACE will present Nazareth College the Chevron Award ($1,000 provided by Chevron) at the national conference in early June in Orlando, Florida.

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Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.

Biology major Erich D'Eredita '20, spent 6 weeks on campus last summer analyzing the caloric value and composition of northern crayfish. The role was paid, but commuting 45 minutes both ways from home would have been an obstacle — until he got on-campus housing at very low cost through Nazareth's SPARK Grant program.