Independent Research
The Scholars Program


The Scholars Program offers students the chance to maximize their study abroad experience by engaging in an individualized research project under the mentorship of an Umbra Institute professor and utilizing the unique resources of Perugia and the surrounding region. The goal is to push students to expand their intellectual and personal boundaries to explore, discover, learn, and create new ideas in an international setting. Features of the Scholars Program include enriching coursework and field experiences, enhanced cultural immersion, and collaboration with other highly motivated students.

The Scholars Program is designed for students who want to:

Tailor their curriculum to their specific needs and interests;
Pursue advanced research with a faculty mentor;
Strengthen their analytical and research skills;
Increase their ability to work independently;
Advance their personal and intellectual growth, confidence, and motivation.
Individualized Research Project
Food & Sustainability Studies Research Project
Multicultural Psychology Research Project
Italian Language and Culture Research Project
The Individualized Research Project path gives students the highest degree of flexibility to create their own curriculum. From their initial application, students work with the Scholars Program Coordinator and their Faculty Mentor to develop their project and a plan of action for the semester. Students complete their academic programs with elective courses of their choice and a required Italian language class at the appropriate level (beginner to advanced). The Scholars Program Coordinator is available to assist students in selecting elective courses that may complement their research focus.

Scholars Program Requirements
The Scholars Program includes the following requirements:

IR 497: Independent Research Project (4 credits)
Students register for 4 credits of Independent Research at the advanced, 400-level with their faculty mentor in the appropriate discipline.

The duration of a project may be for the semester, meaning that research, relevant field experiences, and writing all occur during the semester at the Umbra Institute. In such cases, by the end of the semester, students produce a final written research essay that is typically the length of a standard academic article (8-10,000 words depending on the discipline). The student may also propose a project that is part of larger project (i.e. senior thesis) that will be continued once the student returns to the United States. Students choosing this option must obtain approval from their home institution and include in their Umbra Scholars Program application a summary of how the research they will undertake during their semester in Perugia connects with their larger project.

IR 400: Research Writing & Methodology Workshop (2 credits)
This workshop is required for all students pursuing the Scholars Program. It is designed to familiarize students with the basic methods and techniques of research writing within a workshop setting that provides students with faculty support throughout their project.

“The Research Scholars program provided me with a unique opportunity as an undergraduate student. Not only was I able to engage in direct ethnographic research—it was in a global setting. Working directly with a faculty member mentor exponentially improved my academic writing skills, while interviewing locals helped me pick up Italian quickly.”
Gabriella Paiella, Northeastern University


Elgin K. Eckert, Ph.D.
Elgin K. Eckert is a professor of Italian Literature and Cultural Studies and enthusiastic about guiding undergraduate students in conducting original academic research during their time at the Umbra Institute. She teaches the Umbra Scholars Program’s Research Writing & Methodology Workshop and advises program participants from pre-departure, throughout their stay, and beyond their Umbra experience. Students should contact her to discuss their research interests and for assistance in choosing the curricular option that best fits their needs.

The Scholars Program Coordinator is the scholar’s primary contact person and works closely with the student and their home school advisers and faculty, discussing the student’s academic requirements and interests to develop a customized program. The process begins with a pre-program consultation, which includes an academic assessment, preparation of an approved project, and development of an overall curricular plan. Upon arrival and for the duration of the program, students enjoy ongoing guidance, counseling, and tutoring as needed. Upon completion, they can count on continuing post-program assistance and support for ongoing research, including senior theses.