New Fellowship to Replace UChicago Public Interest Program

Some members of the alumni board overseeing the old program expressed sadness and anger at the decision to end UCPIP with what they believed to be little warning.

By Katherine Vega

The University’s Career Advancement Office is ending the UChicago Public Interest Program (UCPIP) and disbanding its alumni board as it prepares to launch a new post-graduate fellowship program. The new program, called the Kimpton Fellows Program, will provide paid year-long fellowships to students in different industries, including public interest, health care, and STEM. UCPIP provides these fellowships in the public interest sphere.

A UChicago News article announced the new program publicly on Thursday afternoon. According to the article, UCPIP had served as a model for the new program, which will include professional development seminars and mentorship opportunities, as in UCPIP. The Maroon reached out to the News Office for further comment about the new program and its effect on UCPIP, but no further clarification was provided by press time.

“The Kimpton Fellows Program will be modeled on a network of post-graduation fellowship programs throughout the country, including the University of Chicago Public Interest Program, which placed students in yearlong fellowships with nonprofits, government agencies and social service providers,” the press release states. “The College and Career Advancement are deeply grateful to the alumni, parents and employers who have supported these post-graduation fellowships.”

The UCPIP alumni board, which helps coordinate host site recruitment, programming, and fellowship matching, was informed via e-mail on May 4 that it would be disbanded. In the e-mail, from Career Advancement staff members Rachael Ward and Sara Bosworth, the new program was branded as a “re-launch” of UCPIP thanks to a “series of gifts.”

The e-mail describes the new program as similar to the popular Metcalf program, explaining that students from a wider variety of academic backgrounds will now be able to participate.

“With the program’s new scope and mission, the volunteer structure will also change,” Bosworth and Ward wrote in their e-mail to the board. “Career Advancement’s employer relations team will be taking the lead on scouring these post-graduation opportunities for our students.” The e-mail stated that board members interested in “other opportunities” to support current students in their early careers should speak with Lucie Sandel, who works in the Alumni Association office as the associate director of Career Development.

Some board members expressed sadness and anger with the decision to end UCPIP with what they believed to be little warning and input from the board. According to board member Emma González Roberts (A.B. ’14), the alumni board had met on Monday, May 1, to discuss the program’s growth for next school year.

At the meeting, they learned that Career Advancement was planning to hire an additional full-time staff member that would take over UCPIP along with other responsibilities. González Roberts said that she had left the meeting under the impression that UCPIP would not undergo significant programmatic changes and that the board's involvement would remain the same.

Ward wrote in a subsequent e-mail to González Roberts that the name of the UCPIP program will change and that the new program will be a part of the employer development and external relations team, fully integrated with other student recruiting programs.

In an e-mail sent in response to complaints about the May 4 e-mail to the board, Bosworth said that the board had not been lied to, but that Career Advancement had needed to “act quickly” to create the new program.

“As a career office, our goal is to increase the number of students who benefit from these important post-graduation opportunities, and we see this as a way to expand upon the strong foundation laid by the board,” Bosworth wrote.

The e-mail announcing the board’s dissolution did not specify a concrete timeline. According to González Roberts, the UCPIP program is largely run by one fellow coordinator, who is also a recent post-grad, as well as a volunteer alumni board consisting of recent program fellows and donors.

“While I am genuinely pleased that Career Advancement has decided to fully integrate a fellowship program into their portfolio, the way in which the decision was communicated was hurtful,” González Roberts wrote in an e-mail to Bosworth.  “It has not been University resources that have built and sustained this program and its relationships, but rather the people on this e-mail chain. Engaged and dedicated alumni deserve better.”

The UCPIP program with an alumni board was formally founded in 2008, although University students had been recruited to participate in a similar program run by Princeton since 1999, according to Tom Berg (A.B. ’72), former co-chair of the UCPIP alumni board. Since 2008, Berg has supported the program both financially and by volunteering. In a phone interview, Berg said that he had donated approximately $40,000 per year for the last three years in order to fund the fellow coordinator position for the UCPIP program.

“Given the treatment, I’ve decided not to contribute to the University or volunteer anymore,” Berg said. “And I’ve done a lot volunteering.” Berg previously served on the Alumni Board of Governors, and received the University’s Alumni Service Award in 2003 for his involvement.

UCPIP has grown steadily over the years. During its first year, it made three fellowship matches; by last year, according to Berg, it had made 49 matches. In a May 16 e-mail to UCPIP fellows, mentors, host organizations, and volunteers, the former board announced that the University had decided to end the program in its current form. The e-mail said that last year, over 10 percent of the graduating class applied to the program. Berg said that the program had developed stronger ties with similar programs at peer institutions, such as Princeton and Northwestern.

“I really liked the program, and I thought the alumni engagement piece had magnified impact. I think this last year…UCPIP was the largest public interest program with 49 [fellowship matches]. Princeton had 38. It’s amazing to me how much success we had. The fellows I’ve talked to have really liked the program,” Berg said.

Berg also said that members of the alumni board had been very active in developing and maintaining relationships with host sites, some of which have been reliable friends of the program for years. Berg said that some of those connections were maintained because of personal connections to board members, which will no longer be maintained even if the host site participates in the new program.

UCPIP has made matches for this coming year, although The Maroon was not able to reach out to those participants for comment by press time. González Roberts said that, at the UCPIP reception for this year’s cohort of fellows, the speakers did not mention that the program would be changing. She was the only board member to attend.

According to the press release, the Kimpton Fellows Program will launch in the 2017–18 school year. The program’s first fellows will begin in June 2018.