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Senate will hear update on graduate fellowship program

Charles Kruger had a hunch that the proposed Stanford Graduate Fellowship program would be well received when he set out last spring to form an eight-member steering committee to oversee the initiative.

"Every person I asked agreed to serve before asking how many meetings they were going to have to attend or how much work they were going to have to do," the vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy said recently.

"The steering committee consists of senior faculty who are probably among the busiest people on campus, with multiple responsibilities ranging from being department chair and program director and laboratory director to chair of the National Science Board," he continued. "The chances of getting them to serve on an ordinary committee would be less than 10 percent, yet every one of them agreed immediately."

Indeed, reactions from faculty, both inside and outside Stanford, to the fellowships has been overwhelmingly positive, said Kruger, who will provide the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Jan. 9, with a nuts-and-bolts update on the program.

Even current graduate students who are not eligible for the program because they are well into their doctoral programs have expressed enthusiasm for the initiative, Kruger added. "They see this program as a real positive statement on the part of the university in support of graduate education," he said.

At a time when federal support for the sciences and engineering is shrinking, the new fellowships proposed by President Gerhard Casper last spring are designed to augment federally funded research assistantships.

Students who are nominated by their departments and selected by faculty committee will be given a tuition voucher of $12,000 and stipend of $16,000 for each of three years. They can use the money for the lab or research group of their choice, rather than be forced to select a research project or adviser based on available funding.

The fellowships will be available in the natural sciences, mathematics, statistics, engineering, the basic sciences in the School of Medicine and those social sciences, including education, that are now dependent on federal assistantship support for their doctoral students, Kruger said.

Stanford will offer 100 three-year Ph.D fellowships each year beginning with the 1997-98 academic year. During the first two years, the fellowships will be financed with $10 million allocated by Casper from presidential funds. The Office of Development is in the process of raising a minimum of $200 million in endowment to provide for the continuing support of the program.

According to a memo sent by the steering committee to deans, department chairs and chairs of Ph.D. granting programs last June, approximately two-thirds of the fellowships will be made available to entering doctoral candidates, with the remaining third allocated to second- or third-year graduate students who are enrolled in, or are applying to, eligible doctoral programs.

The first step in the process of granting these fellowships begins with the allocation of nominations, Kruger explained. To initialize the program, the steering committee made 150 allocations of nominations to departments on the basis of their dependence on federal research assistantships and the number of Ph.D.s awarded in the department. In the future, Kruger said, the allocation of nominations will be based mainly on the quality of fellows selected by the departments the previous year.

"We want to make sure that departments are allocating these fellowships to departments that can attract the very best students," he said.

Departments were notified of their allocations in mid-summer, nominations are due in late February and awards will be allocated in early March.

Students and applicants are being encouraged to continue applying for national fellowships such as NSF fellowships. If a student is a recipient of both a national fellowship and a Stanford Graduate Fellowship, the department will advise the student to accept the former. Such recipients, Kruger said, would receive a dual designation, for example, National Science Fellow and Stanford Graduate Fellow, and the university will supplement the stipend and tuition of the national fellowship to bring it to the level of the Stanford Graduate Fellowship. Kruger hopes departments will use nominations for Stanford Graduate Fellowships as a recruitment device.

Departments will submit a list of acceptances and declinations of the awards to the steering committee in mid-April, initiating a second-round competition for the remaining awards, which will include nominations for second- and third-year doctoral candidates.