From the Dean — March 2015

Portrait, Saied Mostaghimi

Associate Dean Saied Mostaghimi

Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean for research and graduate studies, is the guest columnist this month. 


Dear colleagues,

Great progress has been made in recent years in increasing graduate student enrollment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Currently we have a graduate student enrollment of approximately 570 students, and the college’s strategic plan aims to increase the number of graduate student enrollment to 850. Overall, the university’s strategic plan to increase the total number of graduate students by 1,000 provides an opportunity for the college to garner more resources to achieve its strategic plan goal. A brief summary of initiatives developed by CALS to enhance graduate student enrollment include:

Dean’s Graduate Research Assistantships

CALS increased the number of hard-funded research assistantships to 50 as well as the stipend level. These assistantships are distributed to the academic units based on their potential to increase their Ph.D. enrollment. In return, the units receiving these assistantships commit to increasing their current Ph.D. enrollment within the next three years by a factor of two times the number of the Dean’s Assistantships they receive.

Fellowship Incentive

The purpose of this initiative is to increase the number of fellowship applications submitted to federal agencies by currently enrolled students. This incentive provides technical assistance to eligible students during the fellowship application process and an award of $500 to each qualified student who completes and submits a fellowship. The award funds are to be used by the student to participate in any regional or national conference.

Graduate Recruitment Proposals

Each fall the academic units submit graduate student recruitment proposals that describe their recruitment plans. Priority is given to those proposals with innovative ideas and with the potential for greatest return on investment. Funding for proposals from single units is limited to $4,000 and proposals that are interdisciplinary and show collaboration among two or more units receive up to $9,000.

Recruitment of Students with Federal Fellowships

This initiative provides the academic programs an ability to recruit more students who are already awarded portable external graduate fellowships. CALS provides a one‐time $4,000 as an add‐on supplement to the fellowship award during the first year of graduate study to each student who is recruited to Virginia Tech.

Fellowship Workshops

The purpose of this initiative is to increase competitiveness of our current graduate students’ applications to federal agencies and private foundations fellowships. Periodically we organize fellowship workshops and faculty panels to discuss opportunities for graduate fellowships and how to write successful fellowship proposals.

Dean’s Scholar Awards

This initiative provides a first-year supplement of $5,000 for recruiting outstanding students to the college. The supplement is added to the assistantship provided by the academic unit.  We have set aside support for 10 new outstanding students through this program this year.

Pre‐doctoral Training Grant Development Incentive Award for Faculty

Through this initiative, CALS faculty members are encouraged to lead the development of large pre‐doctoral training grant applications that are multi‐student and multi‐year in their area of interest. These grants have the potential to enhance the quality of graduate education and increase graduate enrollment through expanding support for graduate student research. CALS provides $10,000 to the academic unit of the faculty who successfully complete and submit a competitive pre‐doctoral training grant proposal. Examples of training grants include NIH T32, NSF Research Traineeship, and the USDA National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Program. Funds are expected to be used to enhance the faculty member’s programs.


Saied Mostaghimi
Associate dean for research and graduate studies

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