The Rackham Merit Fellowship (RMF) has been one of the Rackham Graduate School’s largest and most successful innovations for enhancing student diversity, and thereby the quality of the intellectual environment in graduate education at U-M. By offering financial assistance to those students who might not otherwise have access, the RMF not only seeks to reduce disparities in graduate education but also encourages the inclusion of students who represent a broad array of life experiences and perspectives.
This year 62 master’s students and 172 doctoral students were awarded an RMF from the suite of RMF awards, which includes the Rackham Master’s Award (RMA) and the four doctoral variations: Rackham Merit Fellowship, Rackham Engineering Award (REA), Rackham Science Award (RSA), and PIBS Rackham Merit Fellowship. This represents one of the highest number of RMFs awarded in recent history, which have averaged 40 per year for master’s students and 155 for doctoral students.
RMF Mission: Academic Excellence Through Inclusiveness
The RMF is awarded to entering students with outstanding academic qualifications and who: come from an educational, cultural or geographic background that is underrepresented; have contributed to diversity in wider academic, professional, or civic communities; have experienced financial hardship; and/or were first generation college graduates and/or first generation U.S. citizens. This year the eligibility criteria were expanded to specifically include undocumented students with deferred action for childhood arrival (DACA).
In addition to clarification of the eligibility criteria, all allocation nominations were reviewed by Rackham before the programs awarded the RMF to ensure that each student receiving the RMF accurately met the criteria. The review helps to protect the mission and intent of the RMF to further enhance academic excellence through inclusiveness and by embracing students with diverse experiences and goals, from many educational, cultural, geographic, and familial backgrounds.
RMF Connection: Building an Interdisciplinary Community
The RMF Connection program is poised to launch its second year of welcoming over 100 incoming RMF doctoral students through a series of events, classes, and workshops. Focusing on participants’ academic and professional development, this two-week program helps build personal and professional networks and gives them time to identify strategies to successfully navigate their first year of graduate study.
The 2016 RMF Connection will be held from August 15 to 26. As RMFs continue in their studies, they are eligible to participate in a variety of RMF specific programming coordinated by Graduate Student Success throughout the year. This programming is designed to create community around writing, to provide multiple networking opportunities and to regularly recognize students’ accomplishments.
Participants from 2015 RMF Connection
Together with the graduate programs at the University, Rackham is committed to fostering the highest-quality educational experience for all our students. That commitment is in part demonstrated through the Rackham Merit Fellowship Program. As a proponent for inclusiveness, equity, and excellence in diversity, U-M can continue to influence the landscape of higher education and aim for what President Mark Schlissel has stated: “perpetual excellence and public impact in research, creative work, performance and education.”