ACI Foundation Rolls Out New Student Fellowship Program
by Thomas D. Verti
In keeping with one of this year's objectives, "Expand ACI's Student Fellowship Program" to attract the best and brightest civil and construction engineering students to the concrete field and to ACI, the ACI Foundation-formerly the Concrete Research & Education Foundation (ConREF)-has adopted a new and progressive scholarship funding program that, I believe, will "sling shot" the Student Fellowship Program into high gear.
As a historical perspective, for over 2 decades, the ACI Scholarship Council has provided partial scholarships to many worthy students. In 2001, ACI and ConREF embarked on the Cornerstone for Leadership Endowment Campaign to significantly increase the number of scholarships and to draw more focused attention to the concrete industry given the global competition for technical leaders in other engineering disciplines. The goal to ultimately grant 20 to 30 Endowed Fellowships annually was lofty, perhaps too lofty. In the 5 years needed to establish and endow the fund, only one fully endowed scholarship has been funded since the inception of the Cornerstone for Leadership Campaign. Although significant funds from numerous generous donors have been building up over time, few endowed fellowships have been granted and few scholarships have been awarded. It was time to "take a different course."
As you know from my Memos, our theme this year is to avoid doing things a certain way because "that was the way we have always done them before." Thus, a Task Group on the Student Fellowship Program was commissioned, the composition of which included numerous donors to the existing fellowship program and ACI Past President James Cagley as Task Group Chair. Between conventions, the task group developed several new initiatives fashioned for the sole purpose of generating more donor interest, more donor recognition, more donor involvement, and more and immediate fellowship grants, which are to be awarded to more students and to more diverse student interest groups within the concrete field. The task group's recommendations were approved by the Board of Direction at the Fall 2006 Convention in Denver and are now being implemented by the ACI Foundation and its Student Council. Highlights of the new program are as follows:
- Named fellowships are to be funded annually for a term no shorter than 5 years at a minimum of $15,000 per year. Donors may also choose to extend the award term by funding an additional year(s) at the then current rate. This will allow donors to "name" the fellowship and have it granted immediately, getting recognition immediately, alleviating a lengthy time period with no fellowships while accumulating the previously required $250,000 lump sum endowment.
- Fellowship award amount will be $7,000. By lowering the amount from $10,000, it is contemplated that more scholarships will become available to more worthy students interested in concrete.
- Support for internships by the donor, if required by the donor. If an internship is stipulated, the donor will provide the internship. It is anticipated that most donors will provide internships under this program.
- Donors of named Fellowships may stipulate the type of student targeted for the award. Donors will be able to specify a graduate or undergraduate student, and the focus of education program (that is, design, materials, construction, research, etc.).
- Current donors are to be offered the opportunity to begin awarding named fellowships beginning in the 2007-2008 award year if sufficient funds have already been donated. This will have an immediate impact on increasing the number of fellowships to be awarded this year.
- Future solicitations will be geared toward term-certain named fellowships instead of endowed fellowships. This is in recognition that donors prefer near term recognition programs; however, full endowed fellowships will continue to be available under stipulated terms.
Other key elements of the current scholarship program will remain unchanged. The goals of the new Student Fellowship Program will be the same as the Cornerstone for Leadership Endowment Campaign-that is, to assure the future of the concrete industry and that of ACI. We need to continue to attract and develop high-potential students into concrete industry professionals. This new and improved Student Fellowship Program is a significant and attainable way to further that goal.
Thomas D. Verti, President
American Concrete Institute