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Empowering the Extraordinary

Goodnight Doctoral Fellowship Launches a New Phase of Graduate Student Support

The Belltower lit red as seen from the traffic circle on Hillsborough Street
Look for the Belltower to be lit red more and more now that it has been reopened, restored and equipped with new lighting and torchieres.

With the partnership of Dr. Jim and Mrs. Ann Goodnight and the Goodnight Educational Foundation, NC State University has announced the creation of the Goodnight Doctoral Fellowship. The inaugural cohort includes 30 Ph.D. students from seven colleges whose work focuses on STEM or education. 

This commitment is the latest in the Goodnights’ impactful universitywide philanthropic leadership and will address one of NC State’s most critical funding needs.

“The opportunity to work with our remarkable faculty is one of the most powerful tools we have for recruiting top graduate students, “ Chancellor Randy Woodson said. “The other is funding. Closing the funding gap for graduate education has emerged as one of our most urgent priorities, and Dr. and Mrs. Goodnight have stepped forward to help us begin to address this issue. We are truly grateful.”

While the university has taken significant strides over the past few years to close funding gaps for undergraduate students, including launching the need-based Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, graduate student support has become an increasingly important priority.

Peter Harries, dean of the Graduate School, described the Goodnights’ support as transformational, noting that currently, the university faces significant competition from peer institutions when it comes to the funding packages offered to advanced students — which can have far-reaching impacts.

“The research and teaching missions of the institution are inextricably linked to graduate students,” Harries said. “Given the university’s goals in these areas, it is imperative that we can enroll the best students. These students will be the ones to shape the world — and North Carolina’s growing STEM economy — as the next group of leaders in research, industry and government. All of this will continue to propel NC State forward as an R1 institution.”

The R1 designation is reserved for doctoral universities with very high research activity. The classification goes hand-in-hand with robust graduate student activity.

NC State’s graduate student population comprises approximately 10,000 students, and in fall 2021, 36% received funding while the remaining were self-supporting. More than 1,500 potential first-year graduate students in that same semester chose to attend another program, officials said, and funding gaps were and continue to be a significant factor, especially when compared to packages offered by peer institutions.

The Goodnights’ investment represents a vital step forward in closing this funding gap, with fellowship support effective immediately. 

“Not only are we thankful for Dr. and Mrs. Goodnight’s extraordinary generosity, but we also appreciate how their partnership raises the visibility of the importance of graduate student support,” Brian Sischo, vice chancellor for university advancement, said. 

“The Goodnight Doctoral Fellowship will be a launching pad for a broader, universitywide initiative to ensure that we are as competitive in funding as we are in interdisciplinary research and innovation.”

This new initiative makes the post-secondary degree path more accessible for academia’s next generation, which aligns with the Goodnights’ impact at NC State. The investment in doctoral students builds on their previous generous support for undergraduates through the Goodnight Scholarships program, which benefits low- to middle-income first-year and transfer students in North Carolina, as well as their ongoing commitment to faculty excellence at every career stage. Three members of the inaugural doctoral fellows cohort are Goodnight Scholars alumni, including Jeremy Park.

“As a Goodnight Scholars program alumnus, I am forever grateful for the Goodnights’ support of my undergraduate education and now a Ph.D. through the Goodnight Doctoral Fellowship,” said Park, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in computer science. “I am honored that the Goodnights and NC State believe in me and my dream of using computer science to make a positive impact in the world.”

Harries hopes potential graduate students are taking note. “These fellowships speak to NC State’s dedication to recruiting the best students to our institutions,” he said. “We are investing in your success.” 

About the Goodnights

Dr. James and Mrs. Ann Goodnight are NC State alumni. Among their many leadership activities, they recently served as co-chairs of the historic Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign. Dr. Goodnight – the CEO and founder of SAS – earned his B.S. in applied mathematics in 1965, his M.S. and doctorate in statistics in 1968 and 1972, respectively, and the university conferred an honorary degree to him in 2002. Mrs. Goodnight earned her B.A. in political science in 1968 and works as the senior director of community relations at SAS. The Goodnights have received numerous university honors, including the Watauga Medal (Dr. Goodnight, 2002) and the Menscer Cup (2007). Mrs. Goodnight’s leadership roles include serving on the Board of Trustees and as a founding member of Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy at NC State. 

The Goodnights support 300 North Carolina students each year through the Goodnight Scholarships program, which they established in 2008 and expanded in 2017 to include transfer students from the state’s community colleges. The Goodnights also have generously strengthened centers, programs and additional scholarship opportunities across NC State. Their commitment to faculty excellence has resulted in the creation of 28 named faculty positions, a deanship, a program to invest in early-career faculty and support for additional endowed professorship funds. 

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