This chapter describes the original structure and evolution of the Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences (VIGRE) program leading to the committee conclusions and recommendations found in Chapter 6. All of the major challenges for the mathematical sciences recounted in Chapter 2 were heard by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In September 1997 Donald Lewis, then director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) at NSF, wrote a “Dear Colleague” letter to the mathematical sciences community introducing and justifying the VIGRE program. The letter presented the background that follows.^{1}
Both the David Report (NRC, 1984) and the Douglas Report (NRC, 1992) recommended that DMS at NSF increase support for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees in the mathematical sciences. In addition, these reports recommended that more DMS trainee funding should be done through departmental infrastructure grants than through individual research grants and that this training should be broader and accomplished in less time than it was taking. In 1994 DMS started the Group Infrastructure Grant (GIG) program to provide infrastructure support for departments in the mathematical sciences. The proposals received focused primarily on funding for graduate students and postdoctoral support and on innovative ways to improve graduate programs.
During the previous decade several other factors had come into play. The average time to degree for PhDs in the mathematical sciences had risen from 4 to 7 years,^{2} doctoral programs had become more narrowly focused on producing academicians (and students were less well prepared for careers in industry), and the number of U.S. graduate students had fallen dramatically. Concerns had also been voiced indicating that the quality of U.S.-trained undergraduates was decreasing and that problems in kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) education required a reexamination of the education of K-12
^{1} |
“Dear Colleague” letter, September 10, 1997, from Donald Lewis, Director, Division of Mathematical Sciences, National Science Foundation, to the mathematical sciences community (hereafter cited as “Dear Colleague” letter, September 10, 1997). Available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1997/nsf97170/nsf97170.htm. Accessed July 6, 2009. |
^{2} |
This is different from the data reported in Table 2-6 in Chapter 2 of the present report. The discrepancy may reflect a different definition of median time to degree. |
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OCR for page 35
3
The VIGRE Program
This chapter describes the original structure and evolution of the Grants for Vertical Integration
of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences (VIGRE) program leading to the committee
conclusions and recommendations found in Chapter 6. All of the major challenges for the mathematical
sciences recounted in Chapter 2 were heard by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In September
1997 Donald Lewis, then director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) at NSF, wrote a
“Dear Colleague” letter to the mathematical sciences community introducing and justifying the VIGRE
program. The letter presented the background that follows.1
Both the David Report (NRC, 1984) and the Douglas Report (NRC, 1992) recommended that DMS
at NSF increase support for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees in the mathematical sciences.
In addition, these reports recommended that more DMS trainee funding should be done through depart-
mental infrastructure grants than through individual research grants and that this training should be
broader and accomplished in less time than it was taking. In 1994 DMS started the Group Infrastructure
Grant (GIG) program to provide infrastructure support for departments in the mathematical sciences.
The proposals received focused primarily on funding for graduate students and postdoctoral support and
on innovative ways to improve graduate programs.
During the previous decade several other factors had come into play. The average time to degree
for PhDs in the mathematical sciences had risen from 4 to 7 years,2 doctoral programs had become
more narrowly focused on producing academicians (and students were less well prepared for careers
in industry), and the number of U.S. graduate students had fallen dramatically. Concerns had also been
voiced indicating that the quality of U.S.-trained undergraduates was decreasing and that problems in
kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) education required a reexamination of the education of K-12
1 “Dear Colleague” letter, September 10, 1997, from Donald Lewis, Director, Division of Mathematical Sciences, National
Science Foundation, to the mathematical sciences community (hereafter cited as “Dear Colleague” letter, September 10, 1997).
Available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1997/nsf97170/nsf97170.htm. Accessed July 6, 2009.
2 This is different from the data reported in Table 2-6 in Chapter 2 of the present report. The discrepancy may reflect a
different definition of median time to degree.
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6 EVALUATION OF NSF’S VIGRE PROGRAM
teachers. During this period, NSF Director Neal Lane was promoting the concept of integration of
research and education.
Given these facts, DMS, with the advice of a DMS Special Emphasis Panel (SEP),3 decided to replace
the GIG program with the Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical
Sciences—VIGRE—program. The report of the SEP stated that this program could “achieve a change
in the culture in a department” (NSF, 1997) and that
• The funding should enable departments to carry out innovative educational programs at all levels
that were not possible with their current resources;
• The duration of awards should be 3 to 5 years (a 5-year period was recommended) and, if possible,
should be renewable; and
• Every proposal must include components on undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral education
and programs to increase the participation of underrepresented groups.
The SEP report (NSF, 1977) went on to recommend that VIGRE proposals should include compo -
nents addressing the improvement of research, mentoring, and communication skills at all trainee levels
and that an integration of faculty and students into a “community of scholars” be achieved. Moreover, it
suggested that the average time to PhD degree should be reduced to 5 years, that undergraduates should
be exposed to a breadth of mathematical sciences and problem solving, that graduate students should
receive supervision in teaching and seminar presentation, and that postdoctoral training should be flexible
and should include the possibility of interdisciplinary research. The SEP also suggested that optional
outreach programs—such as collaboration with industry and the Department of Energy’s national labo -
ratories, K-12 teacher enhancement, and the development of K-12 instructional material—should be
viewed positively.
As detailed in the letter from Donald Lewis, the SEP was provided, at the request of its chair, with
“a draft description of a program named VIGRE . . . as a means of focusing the panel’s discussions.” 4
The SEP report opens by saying, “The panel strongly endorsed the concept of vertical integration; that
is, constructing undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral programs to be mutually supportive.” Overall,
“the funding provided by these grants should enable departments to carry out innovative educational
programs at all levels not possible through present departmental resources. The panel sees this as a pro -
gram that can achieve a change of culture in a department, one that results in broadening opportunities
for undergraduate and graduate students both through innovative curriculum development and research
experiences” (NSF, 1997).
The SEP report recommended that the VIGRE program have undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral,
and optional curriculum development and outreach components tied together by vertical integration
and supported by active recruitment of women and underrepresented minorities. The objectives for the
undergraduate component were “preparing mathematical science majors for a wider variety of career
opportunities, improving communication skills of mathematics students, and increasing the number of
students who major in the mathematical sciences” (ibid.). For the graduate traineeships foreseen in the
program, they would “provide a mechanism for broadening graduate education, shortening the average
3 The SEP was chaired by Morton Lowengrub, then at Indiana University. The other members were Mary Ellen Bock (Purdue
University), John Garnett (University of California at Los Angeles), Tom Gerig (North Carolina State University), Philip
Hanlon (University of Michigan), Raymond Johnson (University of Maryland), Nancy Kopell (Boston University), Calvin
Moore (University of California at Berkeley), Tinsley Oden (University of Texas, Austin), Peter Sarnak (Princeton University),
and Shmuel Winograd (IBM).
4 “Dear Colleague” letter, September 10, 1997.
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THE VIGRE PROGRAM
time to doctoral degree, improving communication skills and improving opportunities for employment”
(ibid.). The program for postdoctoral fellows “should be designed to produce professionals ready to begin
an academic career. At the conclusion of the postdoctoral program, fellows should have developed an
independent research program, developed teaching skills at various program levels, and begun to develop
a broad perspective of their field” (ibid.). While the emphasis was on postdoctoral fellows who would
become academicians, “industrial experience involving practical problem solving or interdisciplinary
research involving the integration of other disciplines into the fellows’ research may provide invaluable
experience for an academic career” (ibid.). The optional curriculum development component should
“mesh with the overall research and educational goals of the project and could include efforts of junior
members of the project team” and might involve “areas that are not part of the traditional curriculum,
as in interdisciplinary subjects” (ibid.). The optional outreach component would involve “outreach to
industry, national laboratories, other academic areas and K-12 education. . . . We encourage creative new
models of collaborations with industry, national laboratory and academic partners” (ibid.).
EVOLVING GOALS OF THE VIGRE PROGRAM
This section examines the goals of the VIGRE program as elucidated in NSF’s requests for propos -
als (RFPs). The goals have evolved over the lifetime of the program, although with consistent themes.
The original RFP in 1998 stated the following:
The goals of the Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE) program are: (1) to prepare undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
for a broad range of opportunities available to individuals with training in the mathematical sciences; and
(2) to encourage departments in the mathematical sciences to consider a spectrum of education activities
and their integration with research.5
In 1999, the following focus was added to the second goal: “ . . . with particular attention to the
interaction of scholars across boundaries of academic age and departmental standing.” 6 In 2000, the
phrase “consider a spectrum of” in the second goal was replaced with the more emphatic “to initiate or
improve.”7 This all culminated in the 2001 RFP:
The goals of VIGRE are: (1) to prepare undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral
fellows for the broad range of opportunities available to individuals with training in the mathematical
sciences; and (2) to encourage departments in the mathematical sciences to initiate or improve education
activities that lend themselves to integration with research, especially activities that promote the interac -
tion of scholars across boundaries of academic age and departmental standing. 8
5 From the first program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 97-155, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1997/nsf97155/nsf97155.htm. Accessed June 1 2, 2009.
6 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1999/nsf9916/nsf9916.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
7 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2000/nsf0040/nsf0040.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
8 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 01-104, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2001/nsf01104/nsf01104.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
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EVALUATION OF NSF’S VIGRE PROGRAM
In 2002, the goals were restated as follows:
The long-range goal of the VIGRE program is to increase the number of well-prepared U.S. citizens,
nationals, and permanent residents who pursue careers in the mathematical sciences. A successful VIGRE
project must:
1. integrate research with educational activities;
2. enhance interaction among undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty
members;
3. broaden the educational experiences of its students and postdoctoral associates to prepare them for a
wide range of career opportunities; and
4. motivate more students to pursue an education in the mathematical sciences. With these goals in mind,
each VIGRE proposal must present a coherent plan for the integration of:
• a graduate traineeship program,
• an undergraduate research experience program, and
• a postdoctoral program.9
In 2003, the VIGRE program was subsumed within the larger grant competition, Enhancing the
Mathematical Sciences Workforce in the 21st Century (EMSW21), the goals of which were described
as follows in the 2003 RFP:
The long-range goal of the EMSW21 program is to increase the number of U.S. citizens, nationals, and
permanent residents who are well-prepared in the mathematical sciences and who pursue careers in the
mathematical sciences and in other NSF-supported disciplines. EMSW21 builds on the VIGRE program
and now includes a broadened VIGRE activity, an additional component for Research Training Groups
(RTG) in the Mathematical Sciences and an additional component for Mentoring through Critical Transi -
tion Points (MCTP) in the Mathematical Sciences.10
The EMSW21 activity included the VIGRE program, for projects “that involve the entire department
and span the entire spectrum of educational levels from undergraduates through postdoctoral associ -
ates; Research Training Groups (RTG) [which] support the training activities of a group of faculty who
have a common research interest; [and] Mentoring through Critical Transition Points (MCTP) [which]
involves a larger group of faculty but focuses on specified stages in the professional development of
the trainees.”11
While the 2004 solicitation for the EMSW21 program included the same goals, the 2005 solicitation
was altered to highlight the departmental nature of the award and the vertical integration:
The long-range goal of the EMSW21 program is to increase the number of well-prepared U.S. citizens,
nationals, and permanent residents who pursue careers in the mathematical sciences and in other NSF-
supported disciplines, while broadening trainees’ background and perspective. A significant part of this
goal is to directly increase the proportion and the absolute number of U.S. students at the EMSW21
sites who pursue graduate studies and complete advanced degrees in the mathematical sciences. A
related goal of EMSW21 is based on the fact that the direct impact of EMSW21 funds cannot yield a
substantial proportional increase in national workforce production; the funds are simply not of the order
9 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 02-120, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2002/nsf02120/nsf02120.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
10 From the program solicitation: “Enhancing the Mathematical Sciences Workforce in the 21st Century (EMSW21),” NSF
03-575, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2003/nsf03575/nsf03575.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
11 Ibid.
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THE VIGRE PROGRAM
of magnitude to create such an infrastructure. Therefore, indirect impacts, in which EMSW21 can serve
as a catalyst beyond the directly-supported students in its home departments and beyond the institutions
receiving EMSW21 funds, are crucial as well. Practices and cultural changes that support direct and
indirect impacts of this nature will be key strengths in an EMSW21 proposal. Such aspects include, but
are not limited to, ideas for attracting strong U.S. students to careers in the mathematical sciences and
seeing them through to completion of their studies, and/or evidence of success in doing so; and effective
dissemination of best practices that can serve as a national model. 12
This committee concurs that these current goals of the EMSW21 program are important ones. The
ideas of integrating research and education, increasing interaction among different levels of students
and scholars, broadening the educational experiences of students with an eye toward increasing career
opportunities, and motivating students to pursue an education in the mathematical sciences are all
worthwhile objectives.
The committee notes that while the goal of increasing the number of U.S. citizens and permanent
residents is important, it believes that the VIGRE program should be broadened to include all students,
including international students, studying in the mathematical sciences. It recognizes, however, that a
decision to broaden the program in this way might be outside NSF’s control. Separating students accord-
ing to whether they participate in the VIGRE program or not—to the extent that this is practical in a
department—risks creating a tension that can reduce collegiality and interaction. Additionally, some
international students will choose to remain in the United States, and their participation in the VIGRE
program might encourage that choice.
KEY COMPONENTS OF THE VIGRE PROGRAM
Each VIGRE RFP has contained a lengthy description of what is expected of the individual depart -
ments and of funded projects. A summary of the RFPs’ important passages and changes over the years are
presented here. The 1998 RFP clearly sets out the notion at the heart of the program: vertical integration,
which “refers to programs in which research and education are coupled and in which undergraduates,
graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty are mutually supportive.” According to that RFP:
Every VIGRE proposal should have as its core a coherent plan for the vertical integration of:
• a graduate traineeship program
• a postdoctoral fellowship program
• undergraduate and graduate curriculum review.13
Undergraduates were expected to have research experiences, which the RFP noted could take many
forms, and which also “should include exposure to the many opportunities for careers in the mathematical
sciences and the development of communication skills.”14
The graduate traineeships, according to the 1998 RFP, “are intended as a mechanism for: broadening
graduate education; shortening the average time-to-degree for the doctorate; improving communication
skills; and expanding career opportunities.”15 This is a very useful statement because it establishes four
12 From the program solicitation: “Enhancing the Mathematical Sciences Workforce in the 21st Century (EMSW21),”
NSF 05-595, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2005/nsf05595/nsf05595.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
13 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 97-155, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1197/nsf97155/nsf97155.htm. Accessed June 1 2, 2009.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
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0 EVALUATION OF NSF’S VIGRE PROGRAM
indicators of success for the program. Furthermore, “Departments are expected to utilize the trainee -
ships to improve the quality, not the size, of the graduate program. In particular, the traineeships are not
meant to increase the size of the graduate program by enabling departments to hire additional teaching
assistants, nor are they meant to replace current university funding of fellowships or scholarships.” 16 In
theory it should be possible to test at least whether or not this use of traineeships was violated, although
it is more difficult to measure whether the quality of the graduate program improved. Finally, the 1998
RFP noted that, “For postdoctoral fellows, the goal of the program is to produce professionals ready
to begin an academic career. . . . At the conclusion of the postdoctoral program, fellows should have
developed an independent research program, teaching skills at various levels, a broader perspective of
their field, and a comprehension of the responsibilities of the profession.” 17 Again, these are indicators
that could be tested in theory.
VIGRE proposals were also intended to include an undergraduate and graduate curriculum review
for which DMS set out the following goals:
The curriculum should prepare the students for a broader range of careers than has been the case in recent
times and [for] the probable need to change careers over one’s working life. It should also emphasize
discovery learning, especially in the undergraduate program, involve graduate students in research earlier,
and develop analytic and communications skills. The preparation of future K-12 teachers in the math -
ematical sciences is an important responsibility of mathematical sciences departments and might require
the design of appropriate curriculum and courses.18
Finally, DMS strongly suggested that VIGRE proposals include either or both of two other components:
curriculum/instructional materials development and/or outreach.
The 1999 RFP is important for laying out the justification behind vertical integration:
The intent of the VIGRE program is to promote the development of a diverse community of researchers
and scholars whose members interact on an appreciably wider scale than is now commonly observed,
breaking through long-standing barriers that have served to compartmentalize the scholarly activities of
undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty, and senior faculty. A community
characterized by the kind of vertical integration just indicated would not only provide a setting conducive
to more meaningful educational experiences for undergraduate and graduate students alike, but also be a
stimulus to continuing professional development at the postdoctoral level and beyond. 19
That RFP also clarified that the undergraduate and graduate curriculum review should occur and
should be underway, if not completed, by the time of the proposal submission. The curriculum goals
favored by DMS are similar to those described in the 1998 RFP, although a few more elements were
added in 1999:
Recent trends within the mathematical sciences professions strongly suggest that a forward-looking
curriculum should prepare students for a broader range of mathematically oriented careers than has
traditionally been contemplated and for the probable need to change careers over the course of one’s
working life. It should also emphasize inquiry-based learning, especially in the undergraduate program;
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid.
19 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 99-16, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1999/nsf9916/nsf9916.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
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THE VIGRE PROGRAM
involve graduate students in research earlier than is typical in current practice; and develop analytic,
computational, and communication skills. Exposure to other disciplines in which mathematics plays
a significant role would be a highly desirable element in such a curriculum. The preparation of future
K-12 mathematics teachers has become another important responsibility of many mathematical sciences
departments, yet the curriculum appropriate to this mission is often not in place. 20
As in the 1998 RFP, the main program components in 1999 were graduate traineeships, undergraduate
research experience, and postdoctoral fellowships. In the 1999 RFP, the graduate traineeships are noted
as the “centerpiece” of the program, and the length of the postdoctoral fellowship was shortened from
36 months to 31 months. The two optional components were maintained.
The RFPs for 2000 through 2002 were similar in form to the 1999 RFP. One substantive change was
that, beginning in 2002, the purpose of the postdoctoral fellowships changed: teaching skills were taken
out and the ability to mentor was added. In 2003, as VIGRE was subsumed into the larger EMSW21
competition, the overview description changed:
The focus of this [VIGRE] component is enhancing the educational experience of all students and
postdoctoral associates in a department (or departments). Broad faculty commitment and a team approach
to enhancing learning are necessary. A principal element of VIGRE activity is increasing the interaction
among undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty members, whether pair-
wise or collectively. Integrating research and education for graduate students and postdoctoral associates,
involving undergraduates in substantial learning by discovery, and developing a team approach are keys
to successful VIGRE projects. These goals can be accomplished in many ways and proposers should
develop creative approaches that suit their circumstances.
The enhancement of educational experiences of all students should stem from an understanding of cur-
rent patterns of student participation in the life of the department(s). All VIGRE proposals are required to
include the outcome of a curriculum review and at least five years of data on past performance in attract -
ing and retaining well-qualified U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents as graduate students and
postdoctoral associates in the mathematical sciences, including women and those from underrepresented
groups. Those departments who have had previous VIGRE awards should present data through the period
of the award. Departments can use this information to describe its capacity to host a VIGRE project that
will create a significant improvement in the educational experiences of their students and postdoctoral
associates. These data may also inform recruitment and retention plans and mechanisms for assessment
of the project.
In conjunction with NSF’s goal of a globally-oriented science and engineering workforce, possibilities
for international interaction are now included among VIGRE options. VIGRE student and postdoctoral
associates and their mentors may participate in international research and education collaborative activi -
ties, including activities in other countries that are integrated into and benefit the overall VIGRE program
at the institution. When incorporating this option in the program, organizers will need to give careful
attention to the practical aspects of sending U.S. students abroad, including logistical arrangements,
language and cultural issues, and administrative requirements and how effective mentoring will take place
in the foreign host institution.21
Generally, the three main components of graduate traineeships, undergraduate research experience,
and postdoctoral fellowships remained the same, although the postdoctoral fellowship reverted from
31 months to 36 months in length. The 2004 and 2005 RFPs were similar to the 2003 RFP.
20Ibid.
21From the program solicitation: “Enhancing the Mathematical Sciences Workforce in the 21st Century (EMSW21),”
NSF 05-595, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2005/nsf05595/nsf05595.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
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EVALUATION OF NSF’S VIGRE PROGRAM
An important conclusion of the committee is that the notion of verticality as suggested by the
VIGRE RFPs and as conceptualized by NSF is too all-encompassing and therefore too restrictive. By
pushing for integration everywhere, it focuses attention on one portion of a spectrum of engagement and
encouragement when more-targeted integration may also bring benefits. This topic is explored further
in Chapter 6.
STRUCTURE OF THE VIGRE PROGRAM
The structure of the VIGRE program was set up to reflect the recommendations of the DMS’s Special
Emphasis Panel (NSF, 1997). For instance, as noted in the 1998 RFP, proposals were to be for 5-year
projects with budgets of up to $500,000 per year. Additionally, $100,000 per year could be requested for
curriculum development and $100,000 per year could be requested for an outreach component. Initial
awards would contain 3 years of funding, with an additional 2 years of funding possible on the success -
ful completion of a noncompetitive review.
Departments were to conduct undergraduate and graduate program reviews, emphasize discovery
learning in the undergraduate curriculum, plan for improving the participation of women and under-
represented groups, find ways to involve graduate students in research earlier in their careers, and develop
the teaching skills of graduate and postdoctoral trainees. Departments were meant to increase the number
of undergraduates majoring in the mathematical sciences; they were also to use graduate traineeships to
increase the quality of student training, but increasing the number of graduate students was not an explicit
goal. The VIGRE program for postdoctoral fellows was aimed at producing professionals ready to begin
academic careers. Ten awards were expected in each of the first 2 years of the VIGRE program.
As noted above, the 1999 RFP made more explicit that the VIGRE program’s goals included
“increas[ing] the number of U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents who receive training for
and subsequently pursue careers in the mathematical sciences [and that] the centerpiece of each VIGRE
proposal should be a program of graduate traineeships for PhD students.” 22 That RFP also said explicitly
that “VIGRE is not intended to provide support for Master’s degree programs.” 23 The funding formula
for VIGRE grants was also changed in that year. It stated that awards could be up to $1 million per year,
although the expectation was to fund proposals at less than $500,000 per year. Supplements could be
considered, but the $100,000 figure was dropped.
In the 2000 RFP, some details were expanded on, particularly the required departmental curriculum
review. In 2002 the statement that departmental VIGRE programs should “motivate more students to
pursue an education in the mathematical sciences”24 was included. The discussion of the optional pro-
grams also changed, with the RFP now stating: “It should be stressed that a department is expected to
provide its own resources to cover costs for normal changes in its curriculum and upgrades in the standard
infra-structural elements required for its instructional mission. The optional activities envisioned for a
VIGRE proposal should involve significant changes, exhibit substantial originality, be highly portable,
and be made nationally available.”25
In 2003 the DMS workforce program changed substantially with the introduction of the Research
Training Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (RTGs) and Mentoring through Critical Transition Points
22 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 99-16, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1999/nsf9916/nsf9916.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
23 Ibid.
24 From the program solicitation: “Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences
(VIGRE),” NSF 02-120, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2002/nsf02120/nsf02120.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
25 Ibid.
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THE VIGRE PROGRAM
(MCTP) programs. These programs allowed for greater flexibility in the way that cultural changes within
departments could be accomplished. The VIGRE program also changed; the proposals now had to include
institutional commitments in two ways. Among the nine points describing a successful VIGRE proposal
were (1) to “have an institutional commitment to furthering the plans and goals of the VIGRE project”
and (2) “to have a post VIGRE plan.”26 It should be noted that the DMS funds targeted at workforce
programs increased from $12 million to $18.5 million with the introduction of the new programs, but
that the amount proposed to be spent on VIGRE grants decreased to $10 million.
Following the introduction of the RTG and MCTP programs, the structure of the VIGRE grants has
remained unchanged.
GRANT DURATION
In 1997, the SEP report recommended that “[t]he duration of an award should be three to five years
and if possible the award should be renewable” (NSF, 1997). In fact, the award was granted for 5 years,
conditional on a 3rd-year assessment, and several VIGRE awardees have received a second award.
On the basis of its broad experience in research and education endeavors and from observing the
rates of progress in the departments that have held VIGRE grants, the committee concludes that 5 years
is not enough time for a department to accomplish the goals set out by DMS for the VIGRE program.
It is not clear to the committee that a department can successfully put in place a range of initiatives that
will be self-maintaining in the time currently allotted by a grant. Changing the culture of a department
takes time. It appears to take about 1 year for a VIGRE program to get underway at an institution, so
VIGRE awardees have about 4 years to work with students. And, as is noted below, sustaining the pro -
grammatic components of VIGRE has proven difficult for departments. If departments cannot maintain
the initiatives undertaken during their VIGRE grant beyond the life of the program, then 5-year grants
mean that departments might be limited to directly influencing just four yearly classes of students, which
does not provide enough momentum for change.
AWARDEES TO DATE
To date, 53 VIGRE awards have been made (see Table 3-1). Some awards involve one department
at an institution and others involve multiple departments (e.g., the University of Washington award
involves three departments). Some institutions have received more than one award: most often these
involve a renewal (e.g., North Carolina State University’s award) or different departments at the same
institution receiving different awards (e.g., University of California at Berkeley). In all, 51 unique depart-
ments have received one or two awards at 40 different institutions. The committee examined data from
50 departments at 39 institutions. Louisiana State University’s award began after the committee had
begun the project, as indicated in Table 3-1.
26From the program solicitation: “Enhancing the Mathematical Sciences Workforce in the 21st Century (EMSW21),”
NSF 03-575, available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2003/nsf03575/nsf03575.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2009.
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TABLE 3-1 VIGRE Awardees, 1999-2012, by Institution, Department, and Academic Grant Years
May May May May May May May May May May May May May
1999- 2000- 2001- 2002- 2003- 2004- 2005- 2006- 2007- 2008- 2009- 2010- 2011-
May May May May- May May May May May May May May May
Institution Department 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Brown University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Carnegie Mellon Statistics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University
Carnegie Mellon Mathematical Sciences, 1st 2nd 3rd
University Statistics
Columbia University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Cornell University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Duke University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Georgia Tech Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Harvard University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Indiana University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Iowa State University Statistics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
New York University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
North Carolina State Statistics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University
Ohio State University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Pennsylvania State Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University
Princeton University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Purdue University Mathematics, Statistics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Rensselaer Polytechnic Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Institute
Rice University Mathematics, Statistics, 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Applied Mathematics
Rutgers University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd
Stanford University Statistics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
State University of Mathematics, Applied 1st 2nd 3rd
New York at Stony Mathematics and
Brook Statistics
Texas A&M University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Tulane University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Arizona Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of California Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd
at Berkeley
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University of California Statistics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
at Berkeley
University of California Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
at Davis
University of California Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
at Los Angeles
University of Chicago Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Colorado Applied Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Georgia Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Illinois at Mathematics, Statistics, 1st 2nd 3rd
Chicago Computer Science
University of Illinois at Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Urbana-Champaign
University of Iowa Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Maryland Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Michigan Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Texas Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Utah Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
University of Mathematics, Applied 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Washington Mathematics,
Statistics
University of Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Wisconsin
Yale University Mathematics 1st 2nd 3rd
NOTE: Louisiana State University’s award is not shown because it was made after this study began.
SOURCE: National Science Foundation.
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