TINKER FIELD RESEARCH
Since 1979, the Tinker Field Research Grant (FRG) program has provided support to graduate students in U.S. universities to conduct pre-dissertation or master’s thesis research in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America. Through its funding, matched by universities, the Foundation has supported more than 9,000 individuals to conduct field research in Latin America.
In selecting universities to receive FRG funding, the Foundation considered:
FRG PROGRAM EVALUATION
2019 marked the fortieth anniversary of the FRG program. Tinker used this milestone as an opportunity to assess the continued relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of its field research grantmaking. The evaluation conducted independently by the Institute of International Education, concluded that the program is “a highly useful, cost-effective, and impactful opportunity for graduate students.” The evaluation also provided recommendations, drawn from student and Center feedback, on potential strategic and administrative improvements. Tinker considered these recommendations as well as its own grantmaking experience in the decision to create the Tinker Field Research Collaborative.
The program was funded jointly by the Tinker Foundation and each university, subject to these guidelines:
As a low-income, first-generation college student, I did not have the opportunities that many of my wealthier cohort members had to go and visit the places we wanted to do research in. Tinker was instrumental in giving me that “first look” experience where I could get the lay of the land, meet people, and develop a research project for my dissertation that was community-defined.
The cultural exchange and my understanding of the complex cultural aspects of environmental issues that I gained through the Tinker FRG has been transformational in how I view my work and environmentally related work broadly… I have taken these lessons to heart and draw on them daily, even if the majority of my work is now focused on the United States.
The FRG experience put me in touch with academics (in Latin America) who helped me rethink my project entirely. I would not have the dissertation topic I have without that rigorous mentorship.
The fieldwork that I was able to conduct in El Salvador thanks to the Tinker FRG was a real turning point. It allowed me to throw myself into a sink-or-swim situation where it was up to me to figure out whether I could really construct and carry out a coherent research project independently.
The experience gave me tools that I use in my research today. And although I cherish the time I spent in the Amazon, the experience forced me to reflect on my personal goals, and I realized I did not want the career of a tropical biologist, as I always had thought.
I was able to discover that my original idea for dissertation research was not viable and adjust accordingly.
It was the seed grant that opened up my academic career.
The Tinker FRG provided the catalyst for my future studies and research in Latin America. From that initial project, I was able to develop a research program that produced valuable collaborations, three journal articles, and two chapters of my dissertation. I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and several additional field research grants which have helped me pursue my career goals.
The research contacts I have established, the inspiration I gained through them, and my fieldwork in Peru have all been crucial for shaping me as a researcher.