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For years, the fellows of Radcliffe College's Bunting Institute made do with just three computers.
Famous among academics nationwide as a prestigious think tank for women scholars, the Bunting provided the three machines and only one laser printer for common use among its 40 visiting fellows. If a fellow wanted her own computer, she brought it or bought it.
The no-frills policy meant that most fellows received a stipend so small it couldn't even cover the cost of their research, let alone living expenses in pricey Cambridge.
But times have changed. Now that the Bunting and the rest of Radcliffe are officially a part of the world's richest university, it's time to go shopping.
Starting next year, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will meet the computer needs of every Bunting fellow. Even better, each of the 40 fellowships will be fully funded, more than doubling the number now covered.
With a new $350 million endowment, Radcliffe leaders say they're looking forward to long-sought expansions and the ability to attract top academic talent. The endowment, combined with aggressive new fundraising, will be the bedrock for the academic community Radcliffe has always wanted to build.
"It's fun to have extra money," says Rita N. Brock, the director of the Bunting Fellowship Program (as it has been called since the Oct. 1 merger). "It's fun to envision the future. This is much more interesting than fighting over every little dollar."
Scrimping and Saving
But research takes money. Even with a $100 million capital campaign launched in 1993, those involved in Radcliffe activities say they felt the pinch in recent years.
"Linda Wilson was an amazing budget manager," Brock says. "[But] Radcliffe's just never had a lot of money, so there's been this squeeze on how much we could spend."
For the Murray Research Center, which compiles data on human development, expansion has always been hindered by a shortage of hands.
" One of the things we are always in need of is people," says Annemette Sorensen, director of the Murray. "We receive a lot of data and we need people to process this data. We also need people to publicize what we have here."
According to Nicole R. Zarrett, a senior research assistant, it can take months or even years to prepare a single data set for public view.
Costs have risen for the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, too.
"Everything will get more expensive, because women's papers are gaining in value," says Jane S. Knowles, acting director of the Schlesinger. "What we would have paid for a whole collection 20 years ago, we would pay for a single item today."
But the lack of funded fellowships was felt most keenly across all of Radcliffe's research centers.
Until this year there were only 18 funded fellowships in the four research centers--the Bunting, the Murray, the Schlesinger and the Radcliffe Public Policy Institute (or the Public Policy Center, as it's now called).
That shortage hindered Radcliffe's ability to draw fellows from far-flung places.
"We've been appealing to local scholars and independent scholars," Knowles says. "This will bring us to a national pool of scholars."
Deck the Halls
The biggest gifts under the Institute's tree are 34 newly funded fellowships, bringing the total to 56. Dunn, the acting dean of the Institute, estimates that next year's fellowship budget will be nearly four times larger than the current one.
"It makes us very desirable in everybody's eyes, so it has an instant
galvanizing impact on the academic community," she says. "We're feeling very happy as we make our plans for next year."
Dunn and the research center heads will be meeting next week to discuss how those fellowships will be apportioned. But Brock says that Dunn has committed to paying for all 40 of the Bunting fellows.
"Every fellow who comes here will get the funding she needs up to a certain amount," Brock says. "It allows us to say that our top choices can all come even if there are too many in a particular area."
The Schlesinger, the Murray and the Public Policy Center will share in the largesse as well. All will now have several funded fellowships each, their first such ever.
The funding helps defray living expenses and thus gives the research centers the flexibility to invite fellows from foreign countries, those just starting in their fields and those with young children.
"We have international fellows every year who have to find their own housing and buy warm clothing...and they get the same stipend as someone who lives in Cambridge," Brock says. "We would at least provide them a living so they don't go broke living in Cambridge."
But the centerpiece of the new Radcliffe Institute will be a group of senior scholars--prominent academics at the forefront of their fields--appointed for short terms in Cambridge. While they will work with the research centers, their primary affiliation will be to Radcliffe as a whole.
Dunn said in September that there will most likely be eight such Radcliffe scholars who will take up residence next fall.
All the new fellowships will be paid for by the endowment, which includes a $200 million gift from Harvard as stipulated in the merger deal.
But Dunn isn't about to relax. The dean and other Radcliffe leaders are aggressively fundraising to shore up the future.
A $30 million challenge grant from Harvard--part of the overall $200 million package--encourages major donations from college alumnae and friends. Radcliffe is actively soliciting money from foundations as well.
Dunn and President Neil L. Rudenstine appeared jointly earlier this month to ask for a grant from a foundation, the first joint solicitation by a Harvard president and a Radcliffe leader ever.
"I would like in the course of this year to raise $10 million and hopefully more," Dunn says.
Brock says her own fundraising success has increased since the merger.
"People like to invest early in the history of something," she says. "They like to help build institutions."
Radcliffe is also paring down administrative costs.
As part of the University, Radcliffe can slim down a number of now-redundant positions. Harvard, for instance, will manage Radcliffe's sizeable endowment portfolio, eliminating the need for a separate manager in Fay House.
Radcliffe is quietly shrinking its central administration through attrition: several staffers who have recently departed have not been replaced, while others have been shifted into new roles.
Dunn says she has no plans to fire employees, though.
"My hope is that we won't have to lay anybody off, but can take advantage
of movement and reassignment," she says.
With funds freed up from administrative deadweight, Radcliffe can shift money into the research centers and educational programs that are its lifeblood.
A Community of Minds
Key to that vision is centralizing the research centers in Radcliffe Yard, so that scholars from all parts of the Institute can interact on a daily basis.
Discussions are underway regarding a possible move for the Bunting from its distant home on Concord Ave. to Byerly Hall when the undergraduate Office of Admissions and Financial Aid loses its lease in seven years.
Radcliffe leaders also say a single academic theme running through the Institute could give a shape and coherence to research. That theme would change every few years.
For instance, the Institute could adopt the Public Policy Center's focus on "work, family and the community," which has been the center's theme for the past five years, Director Paula Rayman says.
And projects like "Enterprising Women," a traveling exhibition planned by the Schlesinger Library, will give that focus national visibility.
The exhibition, which will travel to museums across the country, will follow a new collecting initiative to increase the library's holdings on the history of women in business.
"I think [the exhibition] will absolutely blow everyone away when they see what the history of women in this area is," Knowles says. "You feel like someone in the Renaissance: you're uncovering a new area of study that has always been there but has always been somewhat hidden."
In the Radcliffe of the future, the Institute's educational programs, including its popular seminar series, could take new research conducted at Radcliffe directly to the public.
"I like the way Tamar March [dean of educational programs] talks about the educational programs as the 'aftershock' of work at the Institute," Dunn says. "She means that the people at the Radcliffe Seminars should use the research that's being done to derive an agenda or a curriculum."
A symposium Dunn is planning for late April, titled "Gender and Inquiry," gives a sense of how a single theme might cut across a wide variety of disciplines.
The symposium--the first major conference to be hosted by the Institute--will include a keynote address and at least four panel discussions on topics as divergent as "justice," "aesthetics" and "the human organism."
Dunn envisions the conference as the first in a series of discussions and lectures that will bring together intellectuals from across the country at the Radcliffe Institute.
"That's the dream," Dunn says. "Work going on out there on the frontier, exciting ideas, buzz. Buzz everywhere."
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