When it came to investing in UC Santa Barbara, Carolyn Gannon ’67, ’75 was seeking the Goldilocks principle: aiming not too high, not too low, but landing somewhere in between. She was in search of an opportunity that would make a tangible difference, and something that wouldn’t break the budget.
“[I chose] a gift of the right size for what I was interested in,” Gannon asserts. Her shared investment with husband Dr. Terrance Gannon ’68, ’69, ’80 was directed towards the Graduate Division: it was specific enough to meet their interests but broad enough to provide programmatic support.
“Yes, we’re a state school,” Gannon concedes, “but here’s what your money can do. Extra things make a difference.”
Those “extra things” amount to a lot when it comes to the graduate school experience. Between UCSB’s undergraduates and faculty are some of the most advanced scholars: graduate students whose unique positioning renders them both pupils and mentors at the university. Theirs is the skill of combining learning, teaching, and specialized research---arguably all the ingredients that comprise a top-tier research institution. And graduate students require resources to thrive in such demanding roles.
“I receive publications from UCSB, looking at the graduate students and the work being done,” reflects Prabhu Ambatipudi ’91, who holds a master’s in electrical and computer engineering from UCSB. “It inspired me to give a little more back.”
Ambatipudi opted to invest in the Dean’s Fund for Graduate Excellence and Innovation, a fund unburdened by allocation restrictions. The Dean’s Fund allows the dean to address areas of greatest need, which can be directed towards any number of initiatives including high-quality programs, fellowships, career development, and research opportunities. Collectively, donors are adding “a little more” to the fund, making it a valuable source from which the dean can draw.
“The Dean’s Fund is what allows the Graduate Division to develop innovative programs that respond to real-time student needs. This year, it has allowed us to develop our new diversity programming, provided awards for superb graduate mentorship, supported activities produced by the Graduate Student Resource Center, and was allocated to student groups so that they can launch their own programming. I am truly grateful to our donors who make all this possible,” says Dr. Carol Genetti, the Anne and Michael Towbes Graduate Dean.
Genetti is at the helm of the Graduate Division and is largely responsible for advancing the Division’s prominence not only across the UC system, but across the nation. The Division assumed new heights when it first launched the UC-wide Grad Slam (a graduate competition for the best 3-minute research presentations) in 2013. Now having run for five years, Genetti is proud of the Division’s accomplishments:
“It is possible and it’s important to be able to talk about your research in a clear, concise, compelling manner,” says Genetti. “It’s a skill that you can develop and learn to do, and it’s one that any student can do if they practice.”
The investment and enthusiasm for graduate students runs deep. For many graduate students, collective support for the Dean’s Fund has provided what they need to persevere---whether it’s essential travel expenses, summer funding, mentoring, or career development. As Ambatipudi attests, “some kind of material impact lands in the hands of a student.” Those students have inspired him and in turn he hopes his contributions will “inspire graduate students to do their best.”
Ambatipudi’s assertion comes not without merit. His contributions to the Graduate Division have supported people like PhD history candidate Paul Warden, whose combined Dean’s Fund and fellowship funding have enabled him to conduct a lengthy research trip that resulted in a published journal article.
“These generous donations to the university do more than just help students with research,” says Warden. “As a recipient, it gives you a sense that you have value.”
Indeed from its dean to supporters, collective investment in the Graduate Division has made a world of difference for graduate students, turning “extra things” into significant ones.