I encourage everyone who is a 3rd/4th year or MA student at a CSU campus, and who is thinking about pursuing doctoral studies (in any field) to apply for the Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral Scholarship.
“The program is designed to increase the pool of university faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of individuals who are: current upper division or graduate students in the CSU, economically and educationally disadvantaged, interested in a university faculty career, U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and leaders of tomorrow. Students who are chosen for this prestigious award are designated Sally Casanova Scholars as a tribute to Dr. Sally Casanova, for whom the Pre-Doctoral scholarship is named. These scholars are exposed to unique opportunities to explore and prepare to succeed in doctoral programs. CSU and UC faculty members are an integral component of this program as they work closely with scholars to prepare them for graduate studies.”
Basically, the folks up at the CSU chancellor’s office want to help students who show academic potential and who may come from a disadvantaged background to successfully enroll into and complete a PhD program, with the hopes that those students will then return as professors to the CSU-system.
The scholarship award includes:
– travel funds for the student (and faculty sponsor) to visit US doctoral-granting institutions and/or to attend professional meetings and conferences (approx. 3000 dollars)
– funds for other related activities, such as student membership in professional organizations and subscriptions to journals, grad school applications and test fees, gre preparation, and the cost of minor research materials
– a summer research internship opportunity at a UC campus or other major research university, fully funded by the pre-doc program, so that the scholar can participate in doctoral-level research prior into enrolling in a PhD program (approx. 5000 dollars).
The applications are released every December and are due mid-March. I applied during last year’s cycle and was notified in June 2009 that I was a 2009-10 Pre-Doctoral Scholar. (I was having lunch at Anepalco’s when I heard the news.) The application is fairly straight forward:
A. Fill out an application (about 2 pages of basic info)
B. Write three essays (300-600 words each):
1) Describe the field of study in which you would like to pursue a doctoral degree and the research questions or theoretical perspective that interests you.
2) What elements of your educational, research, community service and/or personal experience have contributed to your interest in and preparation for pursuing doctoral study, and your determination to succeed in it?
3) Many professionals with doctoral degrees enter careers to serve as college and university faculty, and most faculty serve a diverse student body. Describe your interest in such a career and experiences that would prepare you for it.
C.) Prepare a budget that delineates how you will spend $3000 if awarded the scholarship
D.) Transcripts and Faculty Evaluation/LOR
When I applied to the program I naturally trolled the internet to see if anyone who had successfully applied had also written about their experience. Nothing came up. For that reason I’m listing my specs, and a word or two about my approach re. writing the essays, choosing a sponsor, etc..
When I applied to the Pre-Doc scholarship I was in the second half of my first-year as an MA student at a CSU (with a 4.0 gpa). I did my undergrad at a UC (ending with a 3.02 over-all gpa). At my UC I took advantage of the research opportunities they afford their students, and completed a couple of indie-studies. My undergrad transcript is slightly schizophrenic: mostly As with a handful of Fails sprinkled throughout. At my CSU I continued emphasizing research, and resurrected my gpa (which is one of the reasons why I enrolled into an MA program, instead of applying to PhD programs with an uncompetitive gpa).
Choosing a faculty sponsor: Usually faculty sponsors are chosen based on your field. For example, if I were a history student who is interested in going on into a history PhD program, and have worked closely with history profs in my department, then picking a history prof with whom I’ve worked closely would not only be best in terms of a mentor-mentee relationship, but also, she would be able to guide me in choosing programs, etc. and provide me with a discipline-specific network into which I could potentially tap.
Writing the essays: I took a very straightforward and honest approach to writing the essays. I made sure to answer all aspects of each prompt in a fluid, coherent, and persuasive manner. When responding to #2, for example, I made sure to write about how many Latin Americans are in (tenure-tracked) professional philosophy in America today, about 2%. In my personal experience, the almost total lack of brown philosophers in academia has, in some sense, contributed to my determination to succeed in philosophy. I noted in my essay, for example, that at my undergrad UC most of the brown people working there are food service and maintenance workers––a few are in the Humanities as professors, and none are in the Philosophy department. My awareness of these issues shapes my commitment to helping reconcile the disparity of diversity in my discipline by doing my part, successfully completing a PhD in philosophy.
Drawing up the budget: I allotted about 1200 for travel, 1000 for a gre prep course, and 800 for grad school apps and journal subscriptions. I had it approved by my adviser as well. My budget has ultimately changed which required approval of a new, revised budget.
We (the Pre-Doc scholars) had our orientation two weeks ago at the Chancellor’s office in Long Beach. There we were able to meet each other, find out more about the (amazing) summer research opportunity, and receive tons of info on how to successfully apply to graduate programs. The orientation also featured a panel of previous Pre-Doc scholars––an invaluable source of real-time advice and information.
I heard a fellow student say one of the more profound statements I’ve heard recently: you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. He was quoting Gretzky. One year ago when I heard about the Pre-Doc scholarship, and the 300 people that apply to it, and the 70 recipients, I thought, “Wow. I probably won’t get it, but I’ll apply anyway.” I applied to the Pre-Doc, and to another CSU grant, the Summer Research Grant. I didn’t get the Summer Grant (bummer), but I did get the Pre-Doc.
Today I’m taking another shot at something: I am submitting my application for the Fulbright Research Grant.