A&S Fellows and PhD+

A&S Fellows and PhD+

SIF145 A&S Fellows and PhD+: Transforming Doctoral Education in Arts & Sciences

Project Managers: China Scherz and Phil Trella

The intent of this award is to increase funding for doctoral programs in order to improve strategic recruitment opportunities.

BoV Approved: March 2018

Project Dates: 7/09/2018 – 7/08/2024

Total Funding: $15,831,486

Executive Summary

Grand Challenge Fellowships

The Grand Challenge Fellowship programs created under SIF145 comprise a suite of funding opportunities that advance recruiting, inclusion, research, collaboration, and professional development at all stages of the graduate-student career.  These programs also build upon the foundational work of SIF32 to advance the national standing of UVA’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in four interrelated areas: doctoral student support, inclusion, opportunities for interdisciplinary training and collaboration, and broadened professional pathways.

There are three major aims of the SIF145 award:

  1. We sought to establish a pool of one hundred research-accelerating “Grand Challenge Fellowships” that would support robust intellectual and professional development for our most ambitious doctoral students.  These fellowships were grouped into two categories:
    • The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship Program (IDF)
    • The Dean’s Doctoral Fellowship Program (DDF)
  2. We aimed to cultivate an authentically accessible pathway toward greater diversity in doctoral education, by developing a bridge program (Bridge to the Doctorate, B2D) that provides two pre-doctoral years of living support, remission of tuition and University fees, and subsidy of student health insurance to thirty students per year.
  3. The primary mechanism envisioned for broadened professional pathways was PhD Plus, an initiative that is delivered by the University’s Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs.  This component of SIF145 is addressed in a separate report.

Using funds from the SIF145 we also continued to support two awards that had been created under SIF32: The Teaching Relief Awards and Dissertation Completion Awards.  Both of these awards aimed to help students to complete their dissertations, thus improving graduation rates and time to degree. 


Since its inception in January 2019, the PhD Plus program has touched more than 1800 unique doctoral students and postdocs through a wide range of training that is improving educational experiences and leading to positive transitions to careers both within and beyond academia.  To date, students participating in the program’s core training modules have earned 476 non-credit credentials; our team has provided more than 400 individual career advising sessions to 275 students; and our doctoral students have engaged in 129 unique internships of a semester (or summer) or more in duration, with many leading to post-graduation employment within the same career sector as the intern host (some with the internship host).

We have worked with faculty and staff in all disciplines, across schools, and with our many centers and institutes to build opportunities that we have organized into an innovative and intentional professional development curriculum for doctoral students that offers more than just the “bucket of workshops” approach provided by many of our peers.  Some departments and training programs (e.g. Biology’s NSF NRT program) have worked with us to integrate aspects of the PhD+ curriculum into their credit-bearing curricula—an outcome that we encourage.  As we have developed this curriculum we have organized and honed the roles of our own team with positions now filled in experiential learning (1) and research communication (2).  Currently, we are seeking a new Director for the program who will foster its continued evolution and lead our efforts in programmatic assessment. A no-cost extension will enable us to generate and collect the data required for an informative assessment of program impact and efficacy.