SAFC cuts funding to IPhD Student Council

Nicole English

The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Student Council (IDSC) called an emergency town hall meeting last Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 at Miller Nichols Library to discuss the recent cut in funding by the Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The cause for concern was that severe cuts have left IDSC unable to fulfill its typical commitment to post-graduate students, especially in travel awards. Last year, IDSC received $21,000, which was used largely to assist Interdisciplinary PhD (IPhD) students with travel funds to attend conferences in their fields of study to present their work.

This year, they received $7,550, half of which is already committed to pending travel awards. This amount is less than a fourth of what the IDSC was encouraged to request, and a fraction of what it has received in previous years.

“It is ironic that enrollment is at an all-time high, so student activity funds are at an all-time high,” IDSC representative Cindy Thompson said. “Yet there are so many more groups now applying for the pool of funds, there seems to be less to go around.”

IDSC is a council made up of approximately 400 IPhD students and it is the only organization of its kind serving interdisciplinary doctoral students.

The IDSC includes students from nearly every school on campus.

Originally started as a way to pool resources, the IPhD program offered a post-graduate alternative to schools and departments that were unable to support doctoral programs individually.

Over the years, it has grown into a large program, with much nurturing from its minimal staff, and with minimal financial investment.

With the growth in applicants, IDSC was created to support these post-graduate students, who often have few other alternatives for help during their difficult academic journeys.

Due to funding cuts across campus in recent years, these students are often unable to receive the support they need from their sponsoring schools and departments.

The IDSC is often the only alternative for them.

“Why would they do that?” asked a frustrated doctoral student during the meeting. “Do the SGA and SAFC understand how important this funding is to doctoral students? Don’t they understand that it is an investment in the future, both for the University of Missouri and for our community at large?”

The IDSC has a mission, stated in its by-laws, of assisting post-graduate students in the opportunity to attend important conferences in their field, and to present papers at those conferences.

For doctoral students, attending conferences is extremely important, because it gives them essential feedback on their research, creates networking opportunities for future research, and enables students to stay abreast of their field of study, which can be crucial for getting jobs later.

“These students also give a great deal of prestige to University of Missouri,” Thompson said. “For doctoral students, presentations are the way we represent the university to the world outside of Kansas City. Every time an IPhD student travels to present their research, they are representing UMKC and bringing attention and prestige to our programs.”

Discussions during the meeting included ideas for making the IPhD program more visible on campus, since there will not be sufficient funding to support 400 students for the entire fiscal year.

The hope is that by making the IDSC and IPhD program more visible on campus, people will recognize the significance of the program and how it contributes to the academic standing of the University of Missouri and to the student population at large. For the time being, however, there are no plans for travel awards for the rest of this fiscal year.

To learn more about the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Student Council, please go to http://studo.umkc.edu/idsc/.

[email protected]