The bleak financial cloud hanging over the University of Montana glimpsed a silver lining last week in the form of a $245,000 fellowship for the Environmental Studies program from the New York-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The money will directly benefit future students in what will become the university’s Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship program, which will eventually provide financial support for four to six outstanding students per year.
The award is part of $2.61 million dollars doled out to six institutions to help identify and support conservation causes. The other winners were Duke, the University of Michigan, Yale, Cornell, and the University of Wisconsin.
“This is a major recognition for us,” says Tom Roy, chair of the Environmental Studies program. “We are the only school west of the Mississippi to receive this honor.”
“We chose these universities from a pool of nearly 100 in the United States,” says Doris Duke Foundation officer Eric Holst. “The six [chosen universities] have exceptional interdisciplinary programs in environmental studies and a proven record of producing leaders for conservation in the public interest.”
The fellowship will eventually provide up to $32,000 dollars for a prospective student at U M in environmental studies, along with an internship at a non-profit conservation organization, and educational loan repayment for fellows who pursue careers in nonprofit or public-sector conservation.
Unfortunately, the money will do little to mitigate the loss of adjunct positions that UM will suffer as a result of budget shortfalls. Since it has been, until recently, strictly a graduate program, Environmental Studies is fortunate enough to be staffed exclusively by tenured faculty. But because the program is interdisciplinary, cuts in other departments will affect the quality of instruction. “Two classes in the philosophy department, including one that we’ve required all our students to take, aren’t in the course catalog for spring this year,” notes Roy. “So we are being affected by faculty cuts to be sure.”
In spite of cuts, Roy remains optimistic his department will still draw top students. “Duke, Yale, and the University of Michigan are the top three [environmental studies] programs in the country,” Roy says. “For us to be included with them speaks highly not only for the university, but for the environmental community in Missoula as a whole.”
The Doris Duke Foundation is one of the nation’s largest philanthropies, with close to $1.6 billion in assets. Its environment program awards 50 scholarships around the country each year, although the additional grants will increase that amount by 75 over the next three years.