By Helin Gao
As Stanford in Government (SIG) approaches its 50th anniversary this summer, leaders of the public service group have cited the occasion as a significant opportunity for fundraising efforts to boost SIG’s fledgling stipend program.
Elsewhere, SIG’s fellowship program sustained a strong level of student interest from previous years, garnering 333 applications for 36 fellowships. The most popular fellowship opportunity received 26 applications, though SIG declined to identify that fellowship out of concern for the potential to prejudice future application pools.
SIG’s stipend program, which is now entering its second year, was first conceived in response to a 2011 undergraduate survey that found that most SIG fellowships had been awarded to students with previous internship experience and from majors such as public policy, economics and political science. According to SIG chair Elise Timtim ’13, the survey prompted concerns about unnecessarily limiting opportunities for the student body as a whole.
“We feel that the SIG fellowship program really preferences these really committed political science and public policy majors, who know for a while what they are interested in, so that makes these nontraditional major students a little bit disadvantaged in the process,” Timtim said. “We want to make sure that both audiences’ needs are addressed.”
Tenzin Sonam Atruktsang ’14, who was part of the first class of SIG stipend recipients last year and who worked in the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Health, applauded the stipend program’s purpose.
“Being a biology major, as in any major, you get exposure mainly to your own field of study,’ Atruktsang said. “I think the SIG stipend program allows me to explore other fields where I get to use my own knowledge in biology to have, obviously little, but some impact on policy.”
Last year, 10 other students from a wide variety of majors, ranging from French to earth systems, were selected from a pool of 43 applicants. The average endowment amount each student received was $4,500, according to Lina Hidalgo ’13, SIG’s vice chair of expansion.
Four applicants have already been offered stipends this year, ranging from $4,000 to $6,100 in value. Seven more applicants will be selected by the April 1 deadline.
SIG also recently obtained permission from the University’s Office of Development to raise funds to support up to 40 stipends in future years.
“[Last year] some of the funding was for particular sectors of public policy or political geographical location,” Hidalgo said. “This year the funding was just for the program itself. Therefore, we definitely have more funding ability.”
According to Hidalgo, $100,000 has already been raised for the stipend program this year.
“We’ve had numerous donations, mainly from SIG alums,” Timtim said. “We also have this support from faculty on campus. We’ve been pleasantly surprised about how fundraising is going, but we are still being very aggressive about fundraising.”
Celebrating 50 years
According to Timtim, SIG hopes to use its 50th anniversary celebration this summer as a platform for further stipend fundraising.
The yearlong celebration, which kicked off last fall during a reunion homecoming panel discussion on young people in public service that was moderated by Hoover Institution senior fellow Larry Diamond ’73 M.A. ’78 Ph.D. ’80, will feature a series of alumni webinars and regional reunions and will culminate in a gala in the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on June 19.
“The idea was really to build momentum and get people excited about the 50th in the summer,” Timtim said.
According to Timtim, the main difficulty of organizing the event— which SIG expects 100 to 200 alumni to attend—lies in planning it from afar.
“It’s kind of difficult to plan an event that is this formal and of this magnitude from California,” Timtim said.
She noted, however, the potential to re-engage SIG alumni with whom the group might otherwise have lost touch.
“Some people estimate that maybe we have [had] as many as 4,000 SIG fellows over the past 50 years,” Timtim said. “The fact that we are not quite sure about the number shows that we have so many alums that we don’t know where a lot of them are and what they are doing.”