The Ford Foundation announced today a new commitment of $100 million to extend for 10 years the Ford Fellows program, which, in its 50th year, has become one of America’s most prestigious and successful fellowship initiatives.
More than 5,000 individuals have received fellowships to pursue advanced academic studies in an array of subjects over the past five decades. The program has yielded a vast number of leaders across the academic world who have had a significant impact on every facet of higher education and research. The program, originally conceived of and known as the Ford Diversity Fellows, has also helped hundreds of scholars from diverse backgrounds reach the highest levels of academia.
Ford Foundation Fellows in their own words.
Alumni of this distinguished group include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Fellow-1981; International Studies; University of Denver), Cornel West, civil rights activist and renowned author (Fellow-1980; Philosophy; Princeton University), and Juliet García, president of the University of Texas-Brownsville and Ford Foundation trustee (Fellow-1974; Communication and Linguistics; University of Texas at Austin).
“The future of our country rests on our ability to have every individual contribute to the well-being of our nation to the maximum of his or her ability. Education is the foundation of that contribution. The Ford Foundation has invested in generation after generation of the academic leaders who make education possible. I am proud to continue this tradition,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “The program has allowed academia to broaden and deepen the pool of candidates it draws from and has helped support the first African American woman to serve as Secretary of State, the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dozens of other leaders.”
The Ford Foundation launched the fellowship program to support burgeoning efforts to build a more equitable higher education system, awarding fellowships to deserving young scholars from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, to enable them to reach the highest echelon of academia. Long administered by the Fellowships Office of the National Research Council (NRC), the program has played an important role in opening up academia to new voices and helping build a more diverse leadership base for the country as a whole.
In recent years the foundation has provided the NRC with $8 million annually to administer the fellows program. With its announcement today, the foundation increases that investment to $10 million a year.
The achievements of the fellows are wide-ranging: At least 14 fellows have served as university presidents or provosts, at least 23 have served as vice-presidents or vice-provosts, and fellows hold at least 45 patents. More than individual accomplishments, it is noteworthy that this extraordinary group has served as mentors to the next generations of fellows who step into this rich legacy.
“When I was named president of the community college in 1986, I became the first Hispanic female in the nation to become a university or college president,” said Juliet García, president of UT-Brownsville. “I then had the responsibility to fling open that door and invite others to come in with me. There’s nothing wrong with the human capital in a minority population. The difference is having the opportunity to fulfill it.”
“You say 5,000 in 50 years but in reality the impact is a lot more than that,” said Ingrid Padilla, former Ford Fellow and professor in the University of Puerto Rico’s Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying. “It’s the students of the Ford Fellows—the students of the students of the Ford Fellows.”
- Learn more about the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program