Exploration Scholars

Through the Exploration Scholars Program, the Honors College encourages and facilitates scholarship in the arts, music, humanities, journalism, and other fields dealing with qualitative, creative, or exploratory scholarship methods.

The program also encourages research in business, law, public health, social work, education, and other under-represented fields in undergraduate research. The student should have active and substantial intellectual input to the direction and focus of the project. Ideally, the student's contributions would be sufficient enough to warrant co-authorship on any resulting publications. Frequently students are able to become co-authors on published work.

Interested in applying for an Honors College Exploration grant?  If so, please be sure to carefully read the following requirements.

Please note, all students are required to attend a workshop each time they plan to submit a grant application (even if the application is for a renewal of an existing grant).  In addition, all students are required to schedule an individual meeting with Dr.Alexander after attending the workshop.There is an appointment book placed outside of Dr.Alexander’s office. Grant meetings cannot be scheduled through Genbook or any other electronic method, students will need to sign up in the appointment book on the table outside of Room 224, Harper College.  
We strongly urge interested candidates to keep checking the Undergraduate Research page regarding workshop dates and grant deadlines, as these may be subject to change depending upon the finalization of the University dates for advisement.  Please see below for additional information.

All SURF and Exploration Grant Workshops will be held in the Gressette Room, 3rd floor, Harper College on the following dates and times:

Monday, August 28th at 4pm
Tuesday, August 29th at 6pm
Wednesday, August 30th at 12pm

Deadline for grant submissions is September 29th, 2017, for funding effective October 15, 2017.


Program History

The Exploration Scholars Program was created to encourage the action it is named for—exploration. Creative projects are welcomed, and, unlike traditional research projects, the Exploration Scholars Program values students gaining research skills and an understanding of the realities of scholarship over groundbreaking discoveries (though those are, of course, always welcome!)


Choosing a Project

The Exploration Scholars Program was designed to allow Honors College students to work with a mentor on a project in the mentor’s discipline. Ideally, projects will be initiated by the student or conceived jointly by the student and mentor. For students in the early stages of their development as scholars, however, their work may serve to directly facilitate the mentor’s ongoing research. But while a student’s project may directly contribute to the mentor’s research, it must always be remembered that it is the student’s project, not the mentor’s; the student should have a clear sense of involvement and ownership. The Exploration Scholars Program is for undergraduate research, not work-study or student employment.


Choosing a Mentor

It is very important to find a mentor who will provide guidance and support for the duration of the grant. Through many years of experience, we have found that full-time faculty at the USC-Columbia campus and the Medical School are the most reliable and qualified mentors. As a result, we expect all mentors to be a full-time faculty member at either of those institutions. 

There are many ways to find a mentor. Oftentimes, students develop an interest in the work being done by a professor teaching one of their classes. Alternatively, some students search for keywords on the Office of Undergraduate Research and USCera databases of faculty research interests. We also encourage students to explore departmental websites and read research papers written by a prospective mentor in their search—not only will it provide better insight into their research, will also lend credibility to anemail inquiry a student may send to a potential mentor.

If a student wishes to be mentored by an individual lacking the preferred credentials, he or she should explain the situation to Dr. Alexander, who will consider it on a case-by-case basis. Similarly, a student who wishes to change mentors after the grant has been approved must contact Dr. Alexander.



Over the course of their college careers, students are eligible to apply for a maximum of $4,500 in Honors College Undergraduate Research grant funds. In any given year, the maximum amount for which a student may apply is $3,000.

Exploration Scholar funding is awarded exclusively as a student stipend, which provides $10/hour for undergraduate researchers.

Students cannot receive funding for an Exploration grant while they are enrolled in SCHC 499: Senior Thesis. We do, however, allow Exploration Scholars to receive funding from the USC Magellan Scholars program concurrent to their SCHC Undergraduate Research Project.


Project Budgets

A detailed budget must be submitted as part of the application. This budget should include a breakdown of the hours the student plans to work throughout the year.

Funds cannot be carried over into the next funding cycle; any funds not utilized during the grant period will remain with the Honors College. Please note, however, that money not utilized over the course of the project will not be counted against the student’s $4,500 maximum and can be re-applied for during the next funding cycle.


Project Duration

As these projects often take place during the academic year, the Exploration Grant can include a flexible schedule. Students may begin working as early as July 1, and may continue working on their projects until June 30 of the following year.

There are restrictions on how many hours students can work in a week. During weeks in which class is in session, students are allowed to work a maximum of 15 hours a week. During breaks, students are allowed a maximum of 40 hours a week.

Please note- student employees of the university are allowed a total of 20 hours while classes are in session. As a result, students with a university job in addition to their research grant must cap their total time to 20 hours. For example, a student working 10 hours at the provost office would only be allowed to report 10 hours on their research grant.


Reporting Hours

Reporting hours is a two-step process.

First, students must fill out a paper copy of their time card and have it signed by their mentor. This timecard must be handed into Michael Davis in the Honors College offices at Harper 122. Students must then enter their hours in ITAMS.

Once both of these steps have been completed, the student’s hours will be approved in ITAMS by Michael Davis and then processed for payment.


Final Report and Presentation

As with other funding agencies, the Honors College requires a written report of the results of a given project.

The final report should be approximately two pages long and is due three weeks prior to the end of the funding period. Please include a description of the project, a summary of the conclusions drawn from the project, and a description of publications or presentations of the project (e.g. at Discovery Day), and a description of the guidance provided by the mentor.

Additionally, students are strongly encouraged to present their project at the Discovery Day Research Fair in April. Some students are also able to co-publish the results of their project in a peer-reviewed journal with their mentor.


IRB Approval

Any projects involving the use of human subjects must receive approval from the Institutional Review Board. More information can be found on the website for the Office of Research Compliance: http://orc.research.sc.edu/irb.shtml


CITI Training

Prior to beginning work on any grant, students are required to take a Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) course. A specific course will be chosen by the student and their mentor. Proof of completion must be sent by email to Dr. Alexander before funding can begin.



The following conditions apply:

  1. A student may apply for funding for a single term or a full year at a time. Funding is capped at $1,500 per major semester or $3,000 for the summer with a maximum of 40 hours/week during the summer. Faculty mentors must be available to meet or communicate with the student at least once during each two-week pay period, including in the summer.
  2. Students will be required to report their time through ITAMS and provide a matching written time card signed by their faculty advisor to the Honors College each pay period. Written verification of the hours must be provided before the hours will be approved on ITAMS and a paycheck generated. It is incumbent upon the mentors to let the SCHC know immediately if there is a problem with the student's work or time. Please note that hours not reported in a timely manner cannot be reported and paid later. Hours may be reported up to a maximum of one month after the hours were worked. Hours reported later than one month will not be paid.
  3. All research requiring USC Institutional Review Board approval must include the student's name on the relevant protocol. All research involving vertebrate animals must have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol and the student's name must be on the protocol.
  4. The mentor is responsible for making sure that the student is appropriately informed, trained, and supervised for all work with hazardous materials, and that all relevant tutorials and permissions are completed and that students are sufficiently trained or supervised to provide a safe working environment.
  5. Any work supported by the Exploration Scholars Program subsequently presented or published should cite the support as: "This work was supported in part by the South Carolina Honors College Exploration Scholars Program."  Student initials must be appear at the end of the statement.
  6. Upon receiving an Exploration or SURF grant, students will be expected to complete a CITI training course (more information: http://orc.research.sc.edu/training.shtml). Students will be assigned a course based upon the specific details of their projects.

How to Apply

Interested students are required to attend a research workshop on one of the following dates before the Fall or Spring deadline.

All Fall workshops will be held in the Gressette Room, 3rd floor, Harper College on the following dates and times:
Monday, August 28th at 4pm
Tuesday, August 29th at 6pm
Wednesday, August 30th at 12pm
Deadline for grant submissions is September 29th, 2017, for funding effective October 15, 2017.


These workshops last approximately 30 to 45 minutes and will teach students how to properly complete the application form, what is and is not an acceptable project topic, and how to select a faculty mentor.  Any students unable to attend any of the three workshops due to class conflicts are encouraged to contact Dr. Alexander at susan@schc.sc.edu at least one month before the first scheduled workshop.





Please expect 30 days from the time you submit your application until notification of award decision. Please also be aware you need to allow two weeks for the paperwork to be processed.



For More Information

Susan Alexander, Ph.D.
Director of Service Learning/Undergraduate Research