Gift to UC Berkeley establishes the Hellman Graduate Awards Program

The Graduate Division at UC Berkeley announced today (Wednesday, March 5):

A new fellowship program, the Hellman Graduate Awards, will support UC Berkeley doctoral students who exhibit the capacity for great distinction. This program is made possible by a multiyear grant totaling $1.47 million from the Hellman Fellows Fund, an organization established by Chris and Warren Hellman (1934-2011), a Berkeley alumnus. The San Francisco family has been a longstanding generous supporter of the University of California, Berkeley.

The Hellman family has been supporting junior faculty research at UC Berkeley since 1995. More than 300 faculty have received Hellman Fellows awards over the past 20 years. Now, current and former Hellman Faculty Fellows will have the privilege of nominating new or continuing students as recipients of the Hellman Graduate Awards.


The late Warren Hellman, left, and Chris Hellman. (Martha Stewart photo)

“The Hellman Fellows Fund is excited to launch the Hellman Graduate Awards in partnership with UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley competes for graduate students in a very competitive well-resourced marketplace. The fund anticipates that the flexible funding combined with the relationships developed between nominating faculty and awardees will significantly contribute to the Ph.D.’s success,” says Susan Hirsch of the Hellman Fellows Fund.

“I think this is a wonderful new program that will enable us to recruit and support some of the top graduate students in the country,” said Eliot Quataert, a 2003 Hellman Faculty Fellow who currently teaches astronomy and physics at UC Berkeley. “Personally, I am particularly excited about the prospect of providing research funding via this fellowship for graduate students early in their Berkeley careers.”

Quataert recalls the important role Hellman Fellows Fund played in his own career as a researcher and professor; he became a Hellman Fellow just two years after joining the faculty at Berkeley. “This was a great opportunity because it gave me flexible resources to start to explore new research directions quite different from what I had worked on as a graduate student or postdoc,” Quataert said. “My experience is that support from private organizations such as the Hellman Fellows Fund is particularly important in enabling researchers to go off in new unexpected directions.”

Associate Professor of Sociology Irene Bloemraad also attributes her success as a scholar to the support she has received from foundations such as Hellman. “Research money, such as that given to Hellman Faculty Fellows, helped me as an assistant professor to transition from dissertation research to new projects,” said Bloemraad, who became an internationally known scholar of immigration. “As important as the financial support is, receiving a Hellman Graduate Award will provide a huge boost in confidence to students that what they are doing as young scholars is interesting, important and worth supporting,” she said. “I’m delighted that graduate students can now benefit from this kind of confidence boost, just like I did as a new professor.”

Quaetaert and Bloemraad are two of 103 Berkeley professors who submitted nominations for the new Hellman Graduate Awards. The first generation of Hellman Graduate fellows will be announced later this spring.

About the Hellman Fellows Program

Chris and Warren Hellman began the Hellman Fellows Program in 1994, providing grants to colleges and universities in support of junior faculty research. Over the years, the program has expanded to all 10 campuses in the UC system and has supported more than 1,000 junior faculty members. These individuals are now chairs and heads of departments, MacArthur “genius” award winners and tenured faculty with long track records of successful research projects.

More information is available on the Hellman Fellows Program website.