By Namita Nabar
After seven years of fundraising, the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowships (SIGF) program, spearheaded by President John Hennessy, has reached its goal of attracting donors to fund over 100 new graduate student fellowships.
According to an article published on the Stanford Benefactor website, 65 donors, including many Stanford alumni, have committed to financing years of future research for graduate students in various disciplines through the project.
The University began this effort in 1997 when the school launched Stanford Graduate Fellowships in Science and Engineering. These endowments allowed Ph.D. students to pursue individual research projects across a diverse range of topics in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The creation of SIGFs expanded the scope of this early initiative to include research in business, law and the arts. The fellowships emerged from the 2006 Stanford Challenge, a movement that sought to give students and faculty the financial backing to tackle real-world problems. SIGFs formed a critical element of this initiative by providing a form of support that was more reliable and more flexible than traditional government funding.
Today, over 1,100 students from all seven Stanford graduate schools have applied for SIGFs to continue their research. Fellowships have been granted to 142 students, out of which 63 have graduated with Ph.D.s and established themselves in esteemed positions in academia and global industries.
Recipients of SIGFs use the fellowships to work with institutes like Stanford Bio-X, the Stanford Neurosciences Institute and ChEM-H, an interdisciplinary program that combines chemistry, engineering and medicine to solve human health issues. Other SIGF scholars choose to work with the Precourt Institute for Energy or various other humanities research projects.
In addition to the financial benefits, SIGF recipients gain the opportunity to form connections with students from other fields and backgrounds, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration.
“SIGFs are intellectual pioneers,” vice provost for graduate education Patricia J. Gumport, who serves as the program’s chief director, said in the Benefactor article.
“The fellowship provides a passport to cross disciplinary boundaries, and the fellows are leading us to entirely new lines of inquiry and fields of study in uncharted terrain,” she added.
Contact Namita Nabar at nnabar ‘at’ stanford.edu.