Campus News

Voluntary Incentive Program expands to boost grad student enrollment

With a goal of finding new treatments for stroke patients, Franklin West has a lot of questions he wants to answer in his laboratory, and he knows that more hands—and more importantly, minds—would aid in the endeavor.

That is why the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences associate professor is taking advantage of a Voluntary Incentive Program that offers matching funds for additional doctoral research assistants when faculty members are awarded grants or contracts that pay the cost of full-time, in-state tuition for one or more graduate research assistants.

The program, formally known as the Research Incentive Assistantships Voluntary Incentive Program, was created in fall 2015 and was recently expanded to include new and existing training grants. It returns 1.555 times the university’s base tuition rate to the department of a faculty member, and the funds must be used to cover the cost of an assistantship for additional doctoral students.

West is the first faculty member to bring a new graduate student to campus through the program, and Stephen Miller, professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Bio-imaging Research Center, is set to add a research assistant to his lab in the fall.

“The program essentially gives you two people for the price of one, allowing you to double the number of doctoral researchers in your lab and helping you reach your goals in a more productive manner,” West said.

After obtaining an additional graduate assistant through the Voluntary Incentive Program for his recent National Institutes of Health grant, West plans to take advantage of the program with an upcoming Department of Defense grant proposal. If successful, that could add two more graduate students to his lab—one through the grant and one through the incentive program.

He pointed out that the Voluntary Incentive Program not only fulfills a short-term benefit of adding another researcher to aid in his project but can also lead to long-term success in building a reputation for completing fruitful projects.

“This is pushing us in the right direction,” West said. “It’s going to take our university to the next level.”