Students Among First to Benefit from New Graduate Fellowship Incentive Program

By Nadia M. Whitehead

UTEP News Service

Alla Dove will complete her graduate degree at The University of Texas at El Paso without spending a single penny.

A recent recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, Dove will receive a full ride to pursue her master’s degree in computer science, plus a $30,000 annual stipend for three years.Alla Dove recently received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to study computer science. She is one of the first students to participate in UTEP’s new Graduate Student Fellowship Incentive program, which rewards students additional funding for the attainment of prestigious external fellowships. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceAlla Dove recently received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to study computer science. She is one of the first students to participate in UTEP’s new Graduate Student Fellowship Incentive program, which rewards students additional funding for the attainment of prestigious external fellowships. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

In addition, as part of a new policy – the Graduate Student Fellowship Incentive program – UTEP will award her $5,000 per year for her achievement.

“When students obtain external funding for their graduate studies, it often gives them a greater level of support, and allows the University to fund additional students,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., associate provost. “Students achieve distinction, and for that matter, bring distinction to the University – so it’s a good thing for everybody involved.”

In order to encourage more students to apply for external graduate fellowships, the Graduate School and Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) have teamed up to award recipients of fellowships 50 percent of the annual fellowship award – up to a maximum of $5,000 per each year – for the duration of the fellowship.

David Romo, a doctoral student studying Borderlands History who recently received a prestigious Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship – only 30 are awarded annually nationwide – will also benefit from UTEP’s new incentive program.

Romo will receive $21,000 for one year from the Ford Foundation, plus $5,000 from UTEP. He plans to use the money to help pay for travel needed to complete his dissertation, and to pay for health care.

“This money is going to help me take a year off from work [as an assistant instructor at UTEP] and allow me to focus entirely on finishing my dissertation,” said Romo, who received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University.

For his dissertation, Romo is focusing on how Allied and Axis intelligence and propaganda shaped the U.S.- Mexico border during World War II. He argues that globalization of the border is not a relatively recent development, but that current immigration issues like border enforcement and militarization are linked to important transnational developments that occurred during the war.

Dove will conduct her research on designing safe computer software systems to avoid error and accidents, such as the emergency shutdown of the Hatch Nuclear Power Plant in 2008, and the loss of precision error in the Patriot Missile Defense System in Saudi Arabia in 1991 that led to failure of missile detection.

Prior to receiving the fellowship, Dove – who is originally from Russia – didn’t believe she would be able to pursue her master’s due to financial circumstances, and was considering taking on a job.

In order to increase her chances of getting the NSF fellowship, she decided to attend workshops offered by UTEP’s ORSP that help students who are applying for graduate fellowships.

“We’re really trying to do more to promote these fellowships, and encourage students to apply for them,” Wiebe said. “Not only are we offering this incentive, but we have workshops to help them in the application process, and a database linked from the Graduate School’s website that shows many fellowships available to students.”

Dove said, “The workshops led by Dr. Ann Gates and Claudia Casas were really helpful and worth attending. They taught me how to write about my research in the best way so that I could have a chance at the award.”

Graduating this May with a bachelor’s in computer science, Dove is excited to go straight into her master’s degree, and receive support to research the area she is most interested in.

UTEP’s new incentive program applies to anyone who attains a prestigious fellowship, including a National Academies Fellowship, a National Institutes of Health Fellowship, and a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship. 

Additional fellowships that are not listed on the policy will be considered as well.