University announces winners, donations for grant programs

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The Graduate School released the names of the Dobie Paisano Writing Fellowship winners Friday, and expects to announce the winners for the William C. Powers, Jr. Graduate Fellowship soon.

The Powers Fellowship selects its fellows from students nominated by their departments, while the Dobie Paisano Fellowship requires each applicant to either be a native Texan who has spent three years in the state, or someone who has published significant work with a Texas subject.

Dobie Paisano Fellowship

The two winners of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship will stay at a ranch outside Austin for four or six months to focus on their work.

One winner of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship was Manuel Luis Martinez, a novelist from San Antonio. Martinez left Texas in 1989 after completing his undergraduate work at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Since then he has published several books and taught at Indiana University and Ohio State University.

“I’ll be using the Dobie Paisano fellowship to write my next novel which is about a family that lives in San Antonio, Texas,” Martinez said.

Martinez heard about the fellowship from friends and fellow writers Catherine Bowman and David Wright who are both past recipients of the fellowship.

Martinez said he is primarily a “cultural” writer, and he is excited for the opportunity to do his work on the historical 254-acre retreat that housed notable Austin writer and folklorist J. Frank Dobie.

“I’m always interested in the people that made up a place and what stories hide behind the story that is written,” Martinez said.

He will live at the ranch from September until December, and will leave the ranch to the fellowship’s second recipient, Stefan Merrill Block. Block will live at the ranch for six months starting next February.

Block has authored two novels and hopes to complete his draft for a third, set mostly in 19th century Texas.

“It’s a coming-of-age story about a young writer of fantastic tales, sort of an American H.G. Wells,” Block said.

He said this novel will be more expansive than his previously “borderline-autobiographical” work and more a product of his imagination.

He mostly looks forward to the time to work and the quiet that the ranch will provide.

“The biggest anxiety a fiction writer has is time,” Block said. “The fact there is six months devoted writing time and I don’t have to worry about paying bills or meeting anyone else’s schedule seems like the greatest gift you could have as a fiction writer.”

William C. Powers, Jr. Graduate Fellowship

The fellows for the William C. Powers, Jr. Graduate Fellowship have not been named, but the program received a $250,000 challenge grant at the end of last week. Kathleen Mabley, marketing manager for the Office of Graduate Studies, said the private donor will match dollar-for-dollar if the University raises $250,000 from other donors, for a total of an additional $500,000 to the program.

Mabley said the fellowship provides new or returning graduate students in all disciplines with tuition for spring and fall semesters, a medical stipend and a financial stipend to aid in their research.

There have been five recipients in the past in fields ranging from anthropology to mechanical engineering. It has not been decided how many will receive the fellowship, but the announcement should be expected soon.

The program started in 2009 with a $1 million donation from Dr. Steven Ungerleider, an alumnus and renowned sports psychologist in Oregon.

UT President William Powers Jr. said he is extremely appreciative of the donation that created the program that is his namesake.

“Stephen Ungerleider has been a very generous benefactor on a lot of issues around campus, but [the Graduate School] is one of his areas of concentration, and [these fellowships] just happen to be named after me,” Powers said.

Powers said he is confident that the University’s fundraising will be able to match the challenge grant, which means good things for the University as a whole.

“In our graduate programs, we’re competing with Princeton, Yale, University of Virginia and several others in a very competitive market,” Powers said. “We are somewhat behind those schools in the stipends that we can offer to graduate students, and we never want to pass up great graduate students.”

Powers said the previous recipients are doing fantastic work.

“The individuals that hold these scholarships are highly sought after and it’s great to have them on campus,” Powers said.