UT graduate program wins top fellowship

by Patrick Badgley
Daily Texan
August 14, 2000

A UT program aimed at mixing graduate students with the world outside of academia was awarded $10,000 by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation last week.

The foundation encourages students with Ph.D.s to work outside of education.

The program, an anthropological study of women in history, is led by Martha Norkunas, a public historian who works within the College of Liberal Arts.

The program was awarded the highest gift of $10,000, because it fit the criteria of teaching students to work with their studies outside of a university atmosphere, said Richard Bennett, program officer for WWNFF.

Woodrow Wilson Innovation Award

Criteria for choosing recipients
*Newness of idea
Does the program use innovative and creative approaches to engage Ph.D. students in the extra-academic world?

*Evidence of Need
Does the program address specific needs within the institution or larger community?

*Evidence of institutional commitment and impact
What type of commitment has the institution made to the proposed project? Does the program have the potential to effect change in the culture of the institution? Can it serve as a replicable model?

Source: Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

In total, seven awards were distributed. A George Washington University program was awarded the only other $10,000 prize. The remaining five awards were for $5,000 each.

The program gives students a chance to learn about Texas women and apply that knowledge to working on improving certain Texas museums.

Bennett said the UT project was innovative and showed that it had already gained institutional support, thus making it attractive to the selection committee.

"The entire committee was very impressed with the proposal," Bennett said. "The program displayed an ability for students to incorporate their studies with the world outside."

Norkunas said the money from WWNFF, along with that from the University and Texas Parks and Wildlife, will allow her to distribute $21,000 in graduate student scholarships. Six students will receive fellowships of $3,500 each for trailing the history of women.

"With this grant we can expand this program and continue to lay groundwork for the Women's Trail and future projects," Norkunas said.

Norkunas said she hopes the program will be comprised of eight graduate students from six different disciplines.

Rick Cherwitz, associate dean of graduate studies, said the program is reflective of the graduate school's mission to combine people who are and will become experts because of their graduate studies to communicate with those outside of academia.

Cherwitz added the award will be used to expand on the graduate school's program that has already been successful in developing students' ability to learn and progress inside and outside the classroom.

"This program received the $10,000 both to reward and honor us for the graduate school professional development project and to expand it to include more people," he said.

Cherwitz added that WWNFF President Bob Weisbuch has come to the University to look into the graduate school professional development program and was very impressed by it. He said the visit was representative of the similarities between the UT development program and the mission of WWNFF.

"The biggest part of this award is that it shows the connection between the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and this project," Cherwitz said. "Both really try to display the services smart Ph.D.s can provide to the world at large."

In addition to this program, the graduate school will begin placing its students in government and nonprofit internships in the spring.

Cherwitz said this program will serve as one of the first that puts students into a working environment into which they may not normally be placed.

He said this experience will be attractive to potential employers and will show students there are opportunities for valuable employment outside of the University.

Teresa Sullivan, vice president and dean of graduate studies, Cherwitz and Norkunas were the three people who submitted the proposition for the award, which was given out for the second year. No UT programs received the award last year.