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. In the 2020-21 academic year, the Initiative provides every Penn PhD student with a President’s Supplementary Stipend of $1200 to recognize the additional expenses and research challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, the Initiative creates and supports Presidential PhD Fellows drawn from among the most accomplished and diverse doctoral students at or newly recruited to Penn. The inaugural group of Fellows in the 2021-22 academic year will be selected entirely from PhD students at Penn. Each Presidential PhD Fellow will receive a three-year fellowship, including summer support and funds to support their research.

Is the Initiative for current PhD students?

Both currently enrolled and new PhD students will be supported by the Initiative. In the 2020-21 academic year, all currently enrolled PhD students will receive a supplementary stipend of $1200 to recognize the additional expenses and research challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2021-22 academic year, the inaugural group of Fellows will be selected entirely from PhD students at Penn. Beginning in the 2022-23 academic year, the Fellowships will be awarded to new PhD students at Penn.

How are the Initiative’s funds allocated?

Every PhD student in the 2020-21 academic year will receive a supplementary stipend of $1200 to recognize the additional expenses and research challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. $10.6M will support the inaugural class of Presidential PhD Fellows in the 2021-22 academic year, selected entirely from PhD students at Penn. Beginning in the 2022-23 academic year, $12.7M will be used to recruit new PhD students to Penn as Presidential PhD Fellows.

Can I receive a fellowship or stipend if I am on leave?

The fellowships and stipend are available only to currently enrolled PhD students.

FAQS on the Presidential PhD Fellowships

How will Presidential PhD Fellows chosen?

The 2021-22 Presidential PhD Fellows will be drawn from among the most exceptional and diverse doctoral students at Penn. Applicants should:

  • Be currently enrolled PhD students at Penn
  • Demonstrate exceptional academic promise 
  • Contribute to increasing diversity in their fields
    • As an historically under-represented person in higher education and/or
    • By pursuing scholarship that contributes to better understanding issues of diversity/inclusion/inequity or interdisciplinary areas within their fields
  • Have a research agenda that is exceptionally innovative and/or impactful locally, nationally, or globally
  • Demonstrate leadership potential (through University service, student government, society engagement, etc.).

How do I apply for the Presidential PhD Fellowship for 2021-2022?

Applicants can apply directly through Interfolio. The application requires unofficial undergraduate and graduate transcripts, a CV, a 2-page research statement, a 1-page statement of teaching and mentoring philosophy, a 1-page diversity statement, a letter of endorsement from your Graduate Group Chair attesting that you are in good academic standing, and 2 confidential letters of recommendation. You will be able to request the confidential letters through the Interfolio application form. The statements should be formatted using a 12-point font, single-spaced or 1.5-spaced, with 1” margins. References do not count towards the page length total.

What is the deadline to apply?

The application deadline has been extended to March 22, 2021. 

What will the Presidential PhD Fellowships cover?

Each Presidential PhD Fellow will receive a Fellowship for up to three years, which will include a 12-month stipend, tuition, fees, Penn Student Insurance coverage, and research funds. In 2021-22, the annual stipend will be $38,000 with research funds of $10,000/year. The Fellowship will renew automatically for students in good academic standing.

Can students apply if they already have a Fellowship?

Students with funding from their school or program at Penn can apply. The school should treat the Presidential PhD Fellowship as an external fellowship and follow their typical rules for applying external fellowships to funded students. If students have an external fellowship, they should check the rules for that funding agency.

Does the Presidential PhD Fellowship release Fellows of service requirements?

No, all of the academic requirements of the program, including teaching and research, remain in place for Presidential PhD Fellows.

Are international students eligible to apply?

Yes.

Are students in early or later stages of their doctoral program preferred?

Students in any year or stage of their doctoral program can apply and will be considered.

How do I apply for the Presidential PhD Fellowship for 2022-23 and 2023-24?

The 2022-23 and 2023-24 Fellows will be chosen from among incoming PhD students only. Those students do not need to apply directly for the Fellowship; they will be selected based on their admissions materials.

Are the Fellowships only available to doctoral students?

Yes, this Initiative is dedicated to support of PhD students at Penn.

FAQS on the Supplemental Stipends

How do I get my stipend this year?

The President’s Supplementary Stipend of $1200 will be paid automatically to every currently enrolled Penn PhD student in the 2020-21 academic year, with one $600 payment at the end of November 2020 and one $600 payment at the end of February 2021.

Will my supplemental stipend be taxable?

All payments are tax reportable by the individual.  Individuals will receive a tax form from the University as follows:

  • Payments Processed in Workday:
    • U.S. Citizens and Residents - The payment will be included in your taxable wages on your Form W-2
    • Nonresident Aliens – The payment will be included in your taxable wages on your W-2. If you are eligible for a tax treaty, the payment will be included on your 1042-S.
  • Payments made via the Penn Marketplace/Zelle:
    • U.S. Citizens and Residents - The payment will be reported on a 1099-MISC
    • Nonresident Aliens – The payment will be reported on your 1042-S

Will taxes be withheld from my payment?

  • Payments made through Workday – Employment taxes will be withheld from your payment including Federal, FICA/Medicare, State, State Unemployment Insurance, and Local taxes. However, individuals who do not currently have FICA/Medicare taxes withheld will also not have FICA/Medicare withheld on this payment.
  • Payments made through Penn Marketplace/Zelle:
    • U.S. Citizens and Residents – no tax will be withheld
    • Nonresident aliens – the payment will be subject to NRA tax withholding of 30% unless the payment is covered by a tax treaty

I’ve read these FAQs but I still have questions.

Please contact provost-ed@upenn.edu.