New Initiatives

Graduate Emergency Fund

In March 2021, the University created a Graduate Emergency Fund to assist graduate and professional students with urgent financial needs due to unanticipated expenses. Fund applications are evaluated by University administrators who work with and understand the needs of graduate and professional students.

Penn Libraries’ Services for Authors

Penn Libraries is offering a new informative online guide Services for Authors, and their subject specialists are available for one-on-one consultations with students as questions arise around their initial efforts to establish themselves as academic authors.

The President’s PhD Initiative

Announced in Fall 2020, the President’s PhD Initiative is a 6-year, $30M initiative to support doctoral education at Penn. The Initiative incudes supplemental stipends for PhDs in 2020-21, and the creation of Presidential PhD Fellowships starting in 2021-2022. For more details, see the President’s PhD Initiative webpage.

PhD Student Leave of Absence Policy

The Provost and Deputy Provost announced the creation of a PhD Student Leave of Absence policy in July 2020. The policy was developed with the Graduate Council of the Faculties and the Council of Graduate Deans in order to establish consistency for doctoral students across Penn’s nine schools that offer the PhD.

Remote Resources & Activities

Beginning in spring 2020, the Graduate Student Center organized remote resources and activities to support graduate and professional students during disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduate and professional students were able to apply for grants to support their technology needs and unanticipated expenses, as well as participate in virtual programs to stay connected with campus and each other. In addition, the Center for Teaching & Learning developed a website on remote teaching and offered workshops for TAs teaching remotely.

Graduate Group Review Feedback form

The Vice Provost for Education has created a form for graduate students to provide feedback on their academic experiences. The form can be submitted anonymously. Feedback will be incorporated into Graduate Group reviews and will be used to improve graduate education experiences.

Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellowship at the Netter Center for Community Partnerships

Provost Wendell Pritchett and the Netter Center have collaborated to create a new opportunity for PhD students across all schools and fields at the University: The Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellowship at the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Graduate Academic Engagement Fellows will be outstanding students whose scholarship significantly involves Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) and related activities, including locally based community problem-solving, engaged scholarship, service learning, and learning by teaching in public schools. For more information about the fellowship and how to apply, see the Netter Center website.

Expanded GAPSA-Provost Fellowship

The Office of the Provost and GAPSA have together increased our financial commitment to enable significant expansion of the GAPSA-Provost Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Innovation, providing funding for more students and for application during any or all semesters.

Bias Reporting Form

Based on feedback from graduate student leadership, we have launched a streamlined online system to report incidents of bias and microaggressions. Individuals may report their concerns about having been treated in a biased or discriminatory manner using this form.  In addition, the University has resource offices available to respond to complaints and concerns, including the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, the Office of Student Conduct, the Office of Staff and Labor Relations  in the Division of Human Resources, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty.

Centralized Request for Family Leave

In spring 2018, the University centralized at the Family Resource Center the process of requesting new parent accommodation and/or family leave for PhD students to ensure seamless and universal access to these benefits, and to connect students to family-friendly resources on campus.  Students in a PhD program are eligible for time off of eight weeks for the birth or adoption of a child and may take Family Leave of Absence for one semester or for two semesters.

Advising & Mentoring PhD Students

Responding to student requests for more clarification about advising expectations, the University developed a uniform guide for students and faculty on Advising & Mentoring PhD Students, which is available online.

Recreation Access

All full-time graduate and professional students now have access to the Pottruck Health & Fitness Center, Sheerr Pool, and Fox Fitness Center included in their general fee. Part-time students, who pay a reduced fee, will have the option to purchase access to these recreational facilities at a reduced cost. Previously, graduate and professional students had to purchase separate memberships to access the University’s fitness facilities.

Need-Based Grants for PhD Students

Penn is committing $1M in annual funding for need-based grants to PhD students in good standing to help defray the costs of extended health insurance, as well as dependent insurance and daycare for PhDs with spouses and children. The grant applications are open until early October.

Dental Insurance

Starting in fall 2017, the University reimburses 50% of the cost of Penn Dental insurance for all full-time PhD students.

Penn Libraries

The Penn Libraries opened an exclusive graduate-student study space on the 5th Floor of the Van Pelt Dietrich Library Center in August 2016. The Libraries raised the funds necessary to transform the previously open Class of 1937 Memorial Reading Room into a closed, card-accessible-only facility designed to meet the needs of graduate students, who rely heavily on the collections and spaces within the Libraries to do their research. The space provides a quiet atmosphere conducive to serious study, and includes carrels for individual study, a variety of other seating and work-surface options, and a lactation room.

Family Grant Program

The University increased funding to the Family Grant Program for eligible PhD students, providing grants up to $5,000 for one child, $2,500 for each additional child with a $10,000 maximum per family to offset the cost of childcare and other family expenses. In addition, the new Dependent Health Insurance Grant provides up to $1,000 per dependent to offset the cost of dependent health insurance for eligible PhD students with children and/or spouses.

Community Impact Fund

In 2016 Provost Vincent Price dedicated funds to support graduate student initiatives and activities that build a community of mutual respect and intercultural understanding on campus. In particular, the fund is designed to support graduate student-driven activities that address racial, cultural, or gender-based bias. Applications for the Community Impact Fund can be submitted during the academic year by any student organization or University entity organizing activities for graduate and professional students.