Stanford University: Stanford invests in doctoral students with new RAISE Fellowship

Stanford’s scholarly communities are poised to lead the Long-Range Vision “to accelerate our purposeful impact in the world.” At the Oct. 21 Faculty Senate meeting, Stacey F. Bent, vice provost of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, announced the Research, Action and Impact for Strategic Engagement, or RAISE, Doctoral Fellowship, providing an innovative and inclusive mechanism for doctoral students to participate in realizing the university’s vision.

“Many Stanford students are deeply compelled to pursue research in order to address some of the toughest social problems and are motivated by the potential contributions their research can offer.”

—STACEY BENT

Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs

Three people working on laptops at the same table
The Research, Action, and Impact for Strategic Engagement (RAISE) Doctoral Fellowship Program awards three-year fellowships to doctoral students who are motivated to make positive contributions to the world through their research and scholarship. This photo was taken at El Centro Chicano y Latino, during the Dissertation Writer’s Group led by doctoral students in the Graduate Scholars in Residence Program. (Image credit: VPGE)

RAISE aims to shift how students apply their skills, capabilities and scholarly expertise to address issues of concern to their communities and to the world,” shared Bent, who is also the Jagdeep and Roshni Singh Professor in the School of Engineering and professor of chemical engineering. She added, “Many Stanford students are deeply compelled to pursue research in order to address some of the toughest social problems and are motivated by the potential contributions their research can offer. This program seeks to legitimize and aid those ambitions without compromising their training as rigorous scholars and researchers.”

RAISE will welcome first cohort in 2022-23 academic year
In winter quarter, the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) will open applications to first- and second-year doctoral students across campus for a competitive three-year fellowship. RAISE fellows will receive direct support for experiential learning and skill development to advance community partnerships and impact-focused research. This training is centered around a cohort experience, providing a community of like-minded scholars to share learnings as they both progress and confront challenges in efforts to transform their research and academic pursuits into action and public impact.

RAISE fellows will receive direct support for experiential learning and skill development to advance community partnerships and impact-focused research.

RAISE builds upon existing programs across Stanford, intending to amplify and strengthen those efforts while also broadening support for more disciplines and larger numbers of doctoral students. Leaders from the Haas Center for Public Service and Stanford Impact Labs, with programs that include the Graduate Public Service Fellowship and PhD Collaborative Research Fellowship, are already actively working alongside VPGE.

“There’s a real demand for this kind of engagement,” shared Professor Juliet M. Brodie, the Peter E. Haas Faculty Director of the Haas Center for Public Service and director of the Stanford Community Law Clinic. “Thousands of undergraduates across disciplines participate in service programs and courses through the university-wide Cardinal Service effort each year. We’re excited to expand similar opportunities to our graduate students.”

Experiential learning
Central to the RAISE Fellowship is the experiential learning component, akin to the Cardinal Quarter fellowships available to undergraduates and what Scholars in Service now offers faculty. Doctoral students will have the opportunity during their fellowship to engage in immersive experiences, such as taking a summer quarter to work directly with a nonprofit or government agency addressing societal issues relevant to the student’s research and scholarship. Others might collaborate in longer-term research-practice partnerships, something faculty and students in the Graduate School of Education, for example, have modeled through their long-standing partnership with San Francisco Unified School District.

Fellows can also propose alternative experiential learning pathways. The intent is for fellows to directly collaborate with communities and organizational leaders, creating opportunities for them to consider their contribution to society as part of their graduate education, and even inform the trajectories of their careers.

“Alumni studies and surveys, at Stanford and across the country, consistently demonstrate that the traditional model of PhDs entering tenure-track faculty positions is no longer the dominant pathway – not only in STEM fields but increasingly in the humanities and social sciences,” Bent said. “The RAISE Fellowship’s focus on public engagement and social benefit will elevate the visibility of the many ways Stanford doctoral students can make a positive impact in the world, within and beyond academia.”

A nimble, scalable funding model
Important to the design of the program is addressing the persistent challenge of doctoral funding for schools, departments and faculty. Currently, about two-thirds of doctoral students are supported through unrestricted university funds or external grants and contracts, both of which can be subject to uncertain funding horizons. At the same time, fully-funded graduate fellowships have a high cost per fellowship and require significant endowment funds. RAISE offers a flexible, partial funding model to offset 25 percent of the annual cost of funding a doctoral student, making it nimble and scalable.

All of this, Bent underscored, should not interfere with the basic doctoral training requirements across schools and departments. In autumn 2022, the first cohort of 20 RAISE Fellows will pave the way for what VPGE hopes will be hundreds, and someday thousands, to follow.

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