New state program will bring distinguished graduate fellows to Worcester State

April 3, 2023
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

Worcester State will sponsor up to four Distinguished Graduate Fellows this summer through a new Massachusetts Department of Higher Education pilot program that aims to support early career development for ALANA/BIPOC (African, Latine, Asian, Native American and/or Black, Indigenous, People of Color) graduate students on the path to professorships.

The 10-week “Welcoming, Inclusive, and Supportive Environments Program,” or WISE, is open to any doctoral or MFA student in any U.S. program outside of Worcester State doing research or creative work. Application is online and open until May 5. The program is funded through a new $57,000 grant from the Department of Higher Education’s Higher Education Innovation Fund. Each grad student will receive a $6,000 stipend, plus a housing and food allowance, and will be paired with a Worcester State faculty member for mentoring with a focus on diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice.

In addition, the fellows will work with two career development mentors on broader career development, including creation of a career plan and navigating the complexities of academia, with particular attention to the barriers and opportunities for ALANA/BIPOC faculty.

“The WISE program is an incredibly important initiative for Worcester State and the Commonwealth generally,” said Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Henry Theriault. “This is a way we can provide financial support and mentoring to graduate students, especially ALANA/BIPOC students, to help them finish their programs and enter the professorate, despite the challenges and obstacles they might face.”

The Distinguished Graduate Fellowships will run from June 5 to August 9 with fellows on campus for the first two weeks. They then have the option of working remotely or being in residence at Worcester State. During their fellowship, the students will work on their choice of a research or creative project, either one of their own or one led by a Worcester State faculty member.

Two dozen Worcester State faculty members from across departments are taking part in the program as mentors.

“This will be an excellent opportunity for the Distinguished Fellows to get to know Worcester State and all it has to offer faculty members,” Theriault said. “When they complete their degrees and are on the job market, we will know them and they will know Worcester State, which we hope will increase their likelihood of coming to teach here.

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