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Venture Fund for the Mind: Burke Awards Support Junior Faculty

When Dartmouth brings new assistant professors into the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the College's welcome includes a generous investment in their work, in the form of the Burke Research Initiation Awards, named in honor of former College Trustee Walter Burke '44, and his wife, Connie. Since 1986, the Burke Award program has provided new junior faculty with $25,000 grants, distributed over the first six years of their appointments, to jump-start their careers as scholars and teachers. "These awards are one of the best investments that we ever made," says Walter Burke.

Photo of Pascaline Dupas
Assistant Professor of Economics Pascaline Dupas teaches her winter term Microeconomics course. Dupas received a Burke Research Initiation Award, which she used in part to begin a study on distributing anti-malarial mosquito nets in Kenya. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

"The generosity of Connie and Walter Burke and their vision in funding a program to support junior faculty is a wonderful example of their leadership," says President James Wright. "This was a pioneering program in higher education that continues to support new faculty initiatives. The Burkes have a long and distinguished record of generously supporting the mission of the College, especially the excellence and innovation of the faculty." Walter Burke was chair of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1986, and also headed the Sherman Fairchild Foundation for over 40 years. "His leadership of the Sherman Fairchild Foundation," adds Wright, "has been critical in that Foundation's contributions to the arts, to science, and to education, including significant support for key Dartmouth programs."

Assistant Professors Pascaline Dupas, Darren Ranco '93, and Joseph Cullon, along with some of their colleagues, got a chance to thank the Burkes personally at a recent luncheon hosted by Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Carol Folt. "The Burke Awards are vital to our success in recruiting outstanding faculty," says Folt. "They have helped over 300 new junior faculty at Dartmouth launch their research careers, and we are all grateful for their support."

Dupas, an economist, investigates strategies to improve health and education in developing countries. Her recent study analyzing options for distributing anti-malarial mosquito nets through prenatal clinics in Kenya was initiated with financial support from her Burke Award. "These preliminary studies gave my project the credibility it needed to secure additional support from external donors," she explains.

With a joint appointment in Native American studies and environmental science, Ranco says the Burke Award has enabled him to pursue environmental policy work with Indian Nations in Maine. "This research," he says, "informs the class I'm teaching this term, Environmental Issues in Indian Country, which examines emerging trends in American Indian environmental issues. Among other topics, the class looks at the difficulties that Tribal Nations face in protecting the environmental integrity of their lands." The Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded a substantial grant to Ranco and an interdisciplinary team of Dartmouth colleagues to address the social and ecological impacts of mercury pollution in New England.

"Other institutions rarely offer scholars in the humanities large research initiation grants like the Burke Award, so it certainly makes a job offer from Dartmouth extraordinarily attractive," says Assistant Professor of History Joseph Cullon, who is completing a book manuscript titled "Work Upon the Ark: Shipbuilding and the Launching of a Maritime Empire." His scholarship has shed new light on how the New England shipbuilding industry was integral to the rise of England's maritime empire in the 17th century. "It was wonderful to meet the Burkes and thank them," he recalls. "Their generosity has really made a difference by allowing me the creative and intellectual freedom to take the risks that always accompany new lines of research."

"The importance of providing for faculty at the beginning of their careers," says Folt, "is something that the Burkes have always understood. Their continuing investment in the professional development of our scholars is one of the reasons our junior faculty are so satisfied with the College."

By KELLY SEAMAN

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Last Updated: 5/30/08