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Completing a PhD dissertation is stressful enough, without the worry of financial obligations. Each year, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alleviates this burden for some of its top doctoral students, awarding CLAS Dissertation Fellowships to a handful of young scholars in the final stages of their dissertation projects.
“When they are finally writing that last chapter, this allows them to dedicate themselves to the most important part of their graduate life,” says Associate Dean Allan Burns, chair of the selection committee. “It is so important to dedicate yourself 100 percent to the dissertation at that time—if you are distracted with teaching or by working a side job, the quality of the dissertation suffers greatly.”
The one-semester award includes a stipend and full tuition remission. Funded entirely by private donors, the amount of the fellowship and the number awarded varies from year to year. For 2006, 15 students have received a $3,000 stipend to use during either the spring or summer term. “My goal is to raise the stipend level so it is truly a recognition of the very best students in every department and also increase the number we are able to provide,” says Burns. Each fellowship is named in honor of its benefactor.
Henri Blanc-Hoang, who earned his PhD in Latin American literature in December, credits the Nutter Dissertation Fellowship he received last summer for allowing him to graduate on time. “During my years spent at UF,” he says, “I was also a graduate teaching assistant. I taught for my department every semester. As a result, the summer session was the best time to focus entirely on my research, however, PhD students do not get paid in the summer, and a lot of time we have no other choice but to teach Summer A, B or C—which can really slow us down.”
His dissertation fellowship allowed Blanc-Hoang to spend the summer of 2005 conducting the final research and reading tasks needed to complete his project, and he graduated on time in December. “I was fortunate to receive the fellowship because I didn’t have to worry about money,” he says.
Adriana Nenciu plans to receive her PhD in mathematics in August. Her dissertation is titled “Character Theory of Finite Groups,” and she used her Keene Dissertation Fellowship to present her work at the national meeting of the American Mathematical Society in San Antonio in January. “I was able to exchange ideas with other mathematicians and hope to continue professional collaborations with some of them,” she says.
John Catron, who is working on his PhD in early American history, is hoping his McLaughlin Dissertation Fellowship will enable him to complete his project, “The Atlantic World Origins of African American Christianity,” so he can graduate by summer 2007. “The fellowship will allow me to devote all my energies to my dissertation,” he says. “I am deeply grateful to the college for awarding it to me. It is a recognition of all the work I have done, as well as all the fine instruction and guidance I have received from my professors in the history department.”