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University of Virginia UVA Arts & Sciences Default

BOV Approves Transforming Doctoral Education Initiative

Mar 12, 2018 |

On Friday, March 2, the UVA Board of Visitors approved $15.8 million of funding from the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) to support doctoral education in Arts & Sciences. “This support from the Strategic Investment Fund will help to bring further national distinction to our Graduate School that befits a global research university of the 21st century," said Ian Baucom, dean of Arts & Sciences.

Science and Engineering Library in Clark Hall
Jane Haley / University Communications

The SIF funding will be awarded over five years and support two major initiatives in the Graduate School; $13.5 million was allotted for Grand Challenge Fellowships for 2019-22, and $2.3 million to pilot a PhD Plus career development program for 2018-20.

The primary role of Grand Challenge Fellowships will be to facilitate and accelerate research by current and incoming graduate students, said Dinko Počanić, professor of physics and associate dean for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “We will also be able to support advanced Doctoral students and recruit exceptional new PhD students interested in interdisciplinary work, and who conduct research in areas of priority across the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Sciences.”

"The fellowships will benefit graduate students working on emerging transdiciplinary fields, especially those who have set their sights on the grand challenges of the modern world which require deep and diverse historical and cultural perspectives as well as advanced technology, new media, and computational analysis," said Francesca Fiorani, professor of art history and associate dean for the arts and humanities.

The funding will ultimately support 100 highly competitive PhD fellowships by 2022 (recipients will receive $30,000 in annual support and a $7500 research allowance). A faculty committee will advise the Dean’s Office in the further development of the program.

“The immediate and major impact of these fellowships is truly exciting,” said Edward Barnaby, senior assistant dean for graduate programs.  “We will be able to mobilize our most ambitious students with enormous flexibility during their dissertation years to visit field sites, obtain datasets, identify collaborators and write. Coupling this with the new PhD Plus career development program, we expect to see remarkable results for our students within the next few years that will be of great interest to prospective applicants.”

The PhD Plus pilot program will offer cross-field educational opportunities and career development for doctoral students seeking traditional academic research careers, as well as those looking to work in fields outside of academia. “Their knowledge and skills can be used both in the academy and in the private sector, NGOs, public service,” Počanić said. The program will entail elements of field-specific internships and professional development in addition to academic work and research.

Since 2009, Arts & Sciences has worked to reform its graduate program by standardizing support of its 1000 graduate students; upon admission, all departments now offer five years of support, made up of fellowships and teaching assistantships.

This is the second SIF investment in the Graduate School. In 2016, Arts & Sciences received $4.8 million to increase support for doctoral students to nationally competitive levels. The funding allowed Arts & Sciences to standardize support across disciplines and guarantee summer funding for the first time in the school’s history, as well as boosting research funds and offering sixth-year dissertation completion fellowships to a highly competitive cohort of students.

“This second SIF award will help us solidify and deepen that support,” Počanić said. “We can focus further on excellence and building a stronger graduate program overall.”