A national foundation has awarded UNM $800,000 to help some graduate students complete their dissertations.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the five-year grant to UNM in order to fund 20 dissertation completion fellowships.

UNM Professor Adriana Ramirez de Arellano, a principal investigator for the grant, said the grant is intended to increase scholarship among Latino and Native American populations by increasing doctoral degrees for graduate students who would continue on to be hired by universities nationwide.

“It increases the success of our students,” she said. “But the larger goal is to, on a national level, increase the number of people teaching at other universities in areas that are of importance to Latino populations and Native American populations.”

According to a press release in UNM Today, the grant will apply to 10 departments, including anthropology, communications and journalism and sociology.

The Graduate Research Center, the Office of Graduate Students, the Dean of Graduate Studies, the Provost’s Office, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office for Equity and Inclusion will add $400,000 to the grant, Ramirez de Arellano said.

She said UNM received the grant on the condition that the University would also contribute.

“It makes sense for a foundation such as Andrew W. Mellon to require evidence that, if they are willing to invest in the university, that the university is also willing to invest in this program,” she said.

According to the foundation’s website, Andrew W. Mellon is a not-for-profit corporation that gives grants to program areas in the arts, higher education and scholarly communications and information technology.

Distinguished Professor Michael Graves, another principal investigator, said beginning in the fall, UNM will fund five dissertations a year for the next four years.

“We’ve already done a process of awarding 3 1/2 fellowships that run from January through August,” he said. “But then we go on through a yearly academic schedule, and we’ll be sending out the call for applications for that within the next two weeks. And those will be for the first five fellowships for 2014 through 2015, and those are one- or two-year fellowships.”

Ramirez de Arellano said the grant will be used to fund dissertation completion fellowships for graduate students who have already gathered their data and need to write up their dissertations.

“We are not trying to help somebody who is still in those very early stages,” she said. “Rather, we want to intervene and help out.”

The funding for the dissertation is intended to help students focus primarily on the dissertation without having to worry about economic needs, Ramirez de Arellano said.

“Our fellowship allows them to concentrate fully on writing their research,” she said.

Ramirez de Arellano said UNM had received the Andrew W. Mellon grant before and exceeded expectations the previous time.
“We originally aimed to produce 20 Ph.D.s,” she said. “And we ended up giving 23 fellowships.”

Ramirez de Arellano said the foundation was very satisfied with the results and decided to invest in the University a second time.
Graves said the University previously got the money for the extra three fellowships from various other sources, including savings from the University cost share, earnings from interest and a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We squeezed money for three more fellowships and the funding we already had for 20 fellowships,” he said. “Mellon likes that.”

Graves said Mellon Foundation officials are coming out to UNM in April because of interest in starting an undergraduate fellowship program.

“They would fund up to 10 undergraduates,” he said. “The funding for undergraduates would be focused on their developing research and also preparing them for graduate or professional school.”

Ramirez de Arellano said she is glad to work on such a prestigious project with partners who understand its importance.

“It’s great to be part of something that does make a difference,” she said.