My name is Talia, and I'm a computer science professor at UIUC. When I was a Ph.D. student, a research visit at another university saved my life and stopped me from dropping out. But it was expensive, and I was lucky to be able to pay for it. My goal is to make this kind of thing possible for everyone in my field.
This is why I recently started the Computing Connections Fellowship (CCF), which provides institution-independent funding for computer science Ph.D. students who need help escaping an unsafe or unhealthy environment. The two-year pilot is in programming languages research. We are looking for funding to keep the pilot going so that we can later expand to reach all of computer science!
Why donate? Economic and academic freedom are tightly coupled—depending on particular funding can make it prohibitive for a student to leave and find a healthy work environment. And unhealthy work environments are sadly common. A 2019 Nature survey of over 6000 Ph.D. students found that 21% had experienced bullying, with the majority coming from the impacted student’s advisor; a recent instance of this in computer architecture was fatal. In the same Nature survey, 21% of students (and 25% of women students) surveyed reported experiencing harassment or discrimination. Institution-independent emergency funding like CCF can save careers and even lives.
How does CCF help? CCF funds Ph.D. students who need help getting away from unsafe or unhealthy environments for research visits lasting a semester to a year. Having a semester to a year away can help a student reset from an unhealthy situation while working to set up something more sustainable. We also help the student find a host for the research visit—a strong research match who is also a good and trustworthy person. And we help the student navigate the process of setting up the visit and communicating with their university. We have personalized check-ins at regular intervals to make sure students are doing OK, and to help them look for more sustainable long-term solutions going forward. The whole time, we keep confidentiality and safety at the forefront of the process.
Has CCF already helped students? Yes! We awarded two fellowships this past semester, during our initial launch. But we want to fund many more students, which is why we need your help!
Where will my money go? Money will go directly to student fellowships to help us keep CCF afloat while we look for more sustainable funding. Donations small and large are welcome; every dollar helps. Fellowships support student stipends when necessary, but also support incidental costs incurred by the visit, like travel and housing. So, $20 could be a taxi to the airport for a student who needs to get away from their hometown. $500 could be a domestic flight. $2000 could be enough to cover rent for a student forced to pay for housing in two locations at the same time. Every dollar helps us get closer to our goal of being able to support every student who needs this. And the need is sadly high.
We'd love a world in which CCF is not necessary at all. But until then, we need your help with our pilot!
On behalf of CCF