Grant from Henry Luce Foundation to Establish STEM Fellowships

Fellowships to enhance female representation in STEM disciplines.

By Melissa Maki

The University of Virginia has received a $225,000 grant, from the Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation, to establish two doctoral fellowships for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Founded in 1989, the Clare Boothe Luce Program is considered the most significant source of private philanthropy for women in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Nationally, women still lag behind men in terms of graduate enrollments and degree conferrals in the STEM fields in the U.S.  In areas such as physics, electrical, and mechanical engineering, numbers are still particularly low. 

“While female enrollments have increased, a great deal of work remains to create additional opportunities for women in STEM fields,  particularly those interested in academic careers,” said Roseanne Ford, associate vice president for graduate studies and professor of chemical engineering.

Over the last decade, U.Va. has made increasing female representation in STEM disciplines a priority, particularly at the doctoral level, through outreach and mentoring efforts and through the Commission on the Future of the University’s focus on expanding support for graduate students.

“The University is grateful to the Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation for its support of our efforts at enhancing the representation of women in STEM disciplines,” said Ford.

The fellowships, to begin in the fall of 2010, will be open to applicants to U.Va. doctoral programs in the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering.  Each fellowship will provide support for two years, including a $30,000 stipend, tuition and fees, health insurance, travel support, and a mentoring fund.  The University will provide a matching level of support, for a total of four years of funding per student. Preference will be given to applicants intending to pursue jobs in academia, especially in areas where women are most underrepresented.

“The generosity of the Clare Boothe Luce Program will assist the University in achieving the ambitious goals laid out by the Commission on the Future of the University,” said Thomas Skalak, vice president for research.  Skalak noted that enhancement of the sciences and engineering and improved support for graduate students are critical to improving the University’s overall research enterprise.

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to honor his parents who were missionary educators in China. The Foundation builds upon the vision and values of four generations of the Luce family: broadening knowledge and encouraging the highest standards of service and leadership.  The Foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.

Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. In her bequest establishing the Clare Boothe Luce Program, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering.