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Graduate Fellowship, Overseas Studies discussed at senate

The Stanford Graduate Fellowship Program must develop into a nationally recognized program if it is going to achieve its goal of attracting the very best graduate students to the university, said Charles Kruger, vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy on Jan. 9.

Kruger, who presented the Faculty Senate with an update on the proposed initiative, said that reaction to the program, both inside and outside the university, has been "rewardingly positive."

"For me, the two defining characteristics of a great university are a strong undergraduate program, in which the very best young minds are challenged by leading scholars, and a program on the forefront of research and graduate education, both taught by the same faculty," he said.

Together the Stanford Graduate Fellowship Program and Stanford Introductory Studies ­ two initiatives proposed by President Gerhard Casper last spring ­ offer a unique opportunity for Stanford "to lead from strength in very troubled and uncertain times and thereby enhance our position as a great university," Kruger said.

Stanford will offer 100 three-year doctoral fellowships each year beginning with the 1997-98 academic year. Students who are nominated by their departments and selected by a faculty committee will be given a tuition voucher of $12,000 and a stipend of $16,000 for each of the three years.

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.

Following Kruger's nuts-and-bolts report, senate discussion on the graduate fellowships centered on how best to publicize the program.

Kruger said he has asked departments to highlight the program "in their own local way," because when he receives a flier from "some university with some blanket description of a program, the flier goes from my mailbox to the circular file very quickly."

Alexander Fetter, professor of applied physics, suggested that a description of the fellowship program be included on the Stanford web page, a point of first contact for many students interested in graduate study.

Pat Jones, professor of biological sciences, said that her department has recently questioned whether the fellowships have "sufficient prestige or recognition" to attract students to Stanford who also have received offers of admission from competitors such as Harvard and MIT.

"We are starting to worry about what we can attach to this to make it an additional attraction to the student," she said. Ideas that have been suggested include attaching additional travel funds and/or journal funds to the fellowship as an added incentive to get top students to choose to come to Stanford, Jones said.

President Casper said he found "this exchange very interesting" and was "wondering now whether we have been too understated about this [program] so far."

Kruger agreed that more should be done to publicize the graduate fellowships but added that "there is some reason to be cautious about that until we know if it's a permanent program or not."

During the first two years, the fellowships will be financed with $10 million allocated by Casper from presidential funds. The Office of Development currently is in the process of raising a minimum of $200 million in endowment to provide for the continuing support of the program.

Steven Chaffee, professor of communication, asked whether Kruger or Casper could comment on the prospects of meeting this "very ambitious" endowment goal. Kruger deferred the question to Casper, who said he planned to give the senate a detailed report on fundraising progress for the initiative within the next two months.

"I am not prepared to do so at this moment," the president said, "but I'm quite upbeat."

In other news, the senate heard a report on the Overseas Studies Program from director Russell A. Berman.

"When I last spoke here in 1993, the memory of some rather significant retrenchments in overseas studies was still very fresh," Berman said. "There was a question about the degree of undergraduate commitment to the program."

Over the past four years the number of students involved in the program has stabilized and, last year, there was a significant increase in undergraduate participation in the program.

"Whether this is a pattern or a fluke, I do not know, but we will know more by the end of this year," Berman said. Applications submitted during the winter quarter for study during the fall of 1996 were nearly 30 percent higher than the previous year, he noted.

Over the past 10 years, Berman said, overseas studies has shifted from being a largely generalist study-abroad program to offering a set of specific academic opportunities for Stanford undergraduates, Berman said. The program, for example, now offers a number of successful internship programs of academic or preprofessional character.

Other developments in the program include an expansion of centers, once exclusively in Western Europe, to other areas of the world including Santiago and Kyoto; a revitalization of the Florence program; greater coordination between the home-campus curriculum and the curricula at the overseas centers; participation in overseas studies by a wider cross-section of students; and the addition of high-speed, dedicated Internet connections at all seven of the overseas centers.


-By Marisa Cigarroa-