Students walk the Promenade and passed Walker Hall on May 9, 2022

Graduate Studies Expands Prestigious Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship

The expansion more than triples the commitment towards funding opportunities to support campus diversity

A photo of Jessi Jarrin

In many ways, Jessi Jarrin’s story at UC Davis is just beginning to be written. A first-year MFA in poetry student, Jarrin was awarded a prestigious Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship, providing her with full tuition and fees plus a stipend for two years to support her graduate education.

“I had to re-read the email and letter informing me that I was awarded this fellowship about 10 times before I started understanding that this was huge,” Jarrin said. “Naturally, being awarded the Cota-Robles Fellowship greatly impacted my decision to attend UC Davis.”

But Jarrin’s story – while its UC Davis chapter might be new – is being written far beyond this campus, extending across geographies, even generations.

“My research, my work is focused entirely on the ways intergenerational trauma (and other types of trauma) shapes us and how we can better talk about it,” Jarrin said. “Education is not a means to an end for me. I believe in democratizing grief and making healing arts – specifically poetry – accessible to communities who typically don't have the financial means to participate in workshops.”

This bridged impact (a graduate student using their work to benefit communities or open doors of access) is why the Cota-Robles Fellowship exists across the University of California.


About the Fellowship

Established in 1991 and named in honor of one of the earliest Mexican-American professors in the University of California System, the Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship is designed to support degree completion for graduate students who are interested in academic teaching and scholarship, as well as increase the number of top candidates for faculty positions within the University of California. Eligibility for the fellowship covers a range of criteria. These include whether graduate students demonstrate the potential to bring to their academic research the perspective that comes from their understanding of the experiences of groups historically underrepresented in higher education, among others.

The fellowship is offered at all 10 University of California campuses. Each campus, however, individually manages the fellowship. And, as is the case now at UC Davis, each campus also determines if and how this fellowship is expanded. 


A New Era of Support at UC Davis

Graduate Studies, which manages the Cota-Robles Fellowship on behalf of UC Davis, has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the diversity of the university’s graduate student body and to further equal opportunity in higher education. Though this work happens in many ways, one key charge has been to provide more comprehensive funding opportunities. 

As the most prestigious diversity fellowship UC Davis offers, the Cota-Robles Fellowship is critical to this effort. 

Between 2019-2022, Graduate Studies awarded more than $1.8 million to graduate students through this two-year fellowship. It welcomed a total of 24 new Cota-Robles fellows across the four academic years. That comes out to a total of about $473,000 allocated across 11 graduate students per academic year on average. This amount, while not bad, put UC Davis in only the bottom quarter of all UC campuses when looking at the base budget of funds for the Cota-Robles Fellowship. 

To level the playing field with other campuses and invest even more in our graduate students, Graduate Studies in partnership with the deans of the Schools and Colleges as well as the provost focused on expanding the Cota-Robles Fellowship. The expansion combined resources from the former UC Davis Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship with the existing resources of the Cota-Robles Fellowship. This combination more than tripled the commitment towards funding opportunities to support campus diversity.

Beginning in Fall Quarter 2023, 31 graduate students across the disciplines began receiving Cota-Robles Fellowship awards totaling more than $1.3 million this academic year alone. The expanded scope of the fellowship also allowed previously ineligible students to become eligible. Before this year, only Ph.D. students were eligible for the Cota-Robles Fellowship at UC Davis. That would have meant that Jarrin, who is earning her MFA degree, would have been ineligible, and might not have attended UC Davis at all. 

“Expanding the Cota-Robles Fellowship not only helps programs recruit some of the most highly sought-after candidates,” said Jean-Pierre Delplanque, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. “We hope it will also help UC Davis build a new community of Cota-Robles fellows to enhance belonging and ensure graduate student success.” 

Over the next few years, Graduate Studies anticipates that the expanded Cota-Robles Fellowship will bring our steady-state total from 10 to 78 active fellows – the top quarter of all UC campuses. Ultimately, the transition from the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship to the renewal of the Cota-Robles Fellowship will make a profound and meaningful impact on the careers of current and future UC Davis graduate students.


Making a Profound Impact

A photo of Eli Flynn Wooliever

Like Jarrin, Eli Flynn Wooliever, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry graduate group, is a 2023-2024 recipient of the Cota-Robles Fellowship. Wooliever was attracted to UC Davis for the value the university places on interdisciplinary studies and its emphasis on environmental justice, but it’s the Cota-Robles Fellowship that, he said, “has made my graduate education possible.”

Now, Wooliever is focused on leveraging this support to help him achieve his goals while carrying his research forward.

“I am interested in monitoring the prevalence of contaminants in an aquatic environment and eventually working on its remediation,” Wooliever said. “Where environmental justice comes into the project is in the impact of pollutants on local communities because there tends to be fewer protections for underserved communities. Therefore, my goal is to utilize my research to support and advocate for these communities as well as to reduce disparities caused or magnified by environmental injustice.” 


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