As part of its overall effort to increase student support, UC Davis has established an initiative fund targeted toward graduate students.
The Soderquist Matching Fund Initiative for Graduate Student Support is designed to match campus resources with the donations of faculty and staff from a minimum of $12,500 to a maximum of $25,000. The $500,000 used for the fund comes from the estate of Charlie Soderquist, a UC Davis alumnus who received a Ph.D. in agricultural and environmental chemistry from the university.
It is part of an effort by UC Davis to raise $120 million for Project You Can, a UC initiative aimed at collecting $1 billion over the next four years.
The fund initiative will give preference to academic fields that Soderquist was interested in, such as civil and environmental engineering, hydrolic sciences and population biology.
University officials said the money will help graduate programs by allowing faculty to recruit graduate students and boosting research funding.
The fellowship will create opportunities for graduate students to engage and focus in their scholarship, said Fred Wood, vice chancellor for student affairs. Wood also emphasized that such support might have less tangible benefits.
“For me, I remember, and other students tell me that it’s true as well,” Wood said. “Knowing that there is someone who is supporting you with their money has another impact in terms in your confidence, your belief in yourself, and your desire to complete the degree.”
Donations will have an immediate impact on graduate programs, but will be used with an eye to long-term use.
“It goes directly into a graduate program, wherever the donor might specify,” said Jeff Gibeling, dean of graduate studies who worked with former UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef on the project. “It’s put into an endowment to generate income annually.”
According to Gibeling, the return rate for funds put into an endowment is about 5 percent. The endowment fund will be invested by the UC Regents or the UC Davis investment board in stocks or bonds to earn income.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi praised the effort of Gibeling and Walter Jennings, professor emeritus for food science and technology for creating for the first fellowships in the initiative.
“We are grateful to Jeff and Walter for their generosity and leadership in this initiative,” Katehi said in her Feb. 11 state of the campus address. “Which is part of the broader effort to secure support for all UC Davis students at a time when they need it most.”
The Soderquist fund is expected to serve as a model for additional funds that might target professional or undergraduate student support.
Wood said he expects that the fund’s method of matching donations will motivate people to give.
“That encourages a lot of people to reach for their checkbook,” Wood said. “Because they know it’s not just their dollar but it’s two times their dollar to support a graduate student. It’s a way to incentivize and encourage investment in this critical area of graduate student support.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.