Welcome to faculty, students, and staff new to the Graduate Center-and welcome back to those who begin anew. The spring semester begins at a brisk tempo, set by last fall's momentum. With the end of the academic year now in sharper focus, we can look ahead with real optimism.
Advanced teaching, scholarship, and research-all at the heart of the Graduate Center's mission-continue to thrive. Underway this semester is the Futures Initiative, a far-reaching project led by Cathy Davidson that will develop new methods of teaching and research. The yearlong Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has also begun at the Center for the Humanities, exploring how the humanities can function in public life and as a public good.
Meanwhile, the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) welcomed its second cohort of scholars: seven Distinguished Fellows, four of whom come from sister campuses within CUNY, and three from universities across the United States and Europe. They join eight other ARC Fellows and will conduct research and collaborate with 15 student fellows, under the direction of Don Robotham.
We are fortunate to welcome visiting faculty members, including David Papineau (Philosophy) of King's College London, who will teach every spring beginning this month, and Kofi Agawu (Music), who joins us from Princeton. And by the end of the spring or early summer, a half dozen faculty searches will be brought to fruitful conclusion.
Thanks to the Provost's Office, Admissions, and admission committees, applications for our Ph.D. and master's programs remain very strong, in both numbers and quality. And we continue to grow: just this past week, a proposal for a M.A. in Women's and Gender Studies was approved, and the M.A. in Liberal Studies Program, so ably led by Matt Gold, is attracting students as never before, drawing upon the City's extraordinary diversity.
Because CUNY is in the final year of a five-year budget compact with the State, the future beyond 2016 is unclear. Even so, I am glad to report that Graduate Center scholarship and research are receiving the support they deserve from other sources.
Grant activity is up-indeed, at a level not seen since before the financial crisis in 2008: over $9.7 million in grant funding was awarded to GC faculty, students, and staff between last July and December. Awards range from a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to the Luxembourg Income Study Center, led by Janet Gornick, to notable grants secured by Michelle Fine, Matt Gold, Bruce Homer, Ruth Milkman, and Rod Watts. All affirm the innovative research and dedicated efforts across the institution.
Challenges in raising money for the Graduate Center are considerable: our alumni base is relatively small, and most work in the non-profit sector. That said, financial support from donors-a critical factor in ensuring our continued success-is now showing impressive gains. Here I would like to make special mention of the hard and effective work of our Development Office, under the leadership of Jay Golan. The annual fund has seen a 41 percent increase over last year's total at the six-month mark, and a 42 percent boost among alumni specifically in year-end totals, year over year.
The Development Office also played a pivotal role in establishing the inaugural Marilyn Jacobs Gittell Chair, held by Celina K. Su, associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College. The professorship, funded by a $2.3 million gift from SAGE Publications and its founder and executive chairman Sara Miller McCune, enhances the GC's stature as an interdisciplinary hub for urban and community research.
Public events resume with renewed vigor this month, reflected in the lineup organized by our new Director of Public Programming, Karen Sander. Keynote events feature the likes of Alison Bechdel, Bill T. Jones, Eric Bogosian, and the GC's own Morris Dickstein and Gregory Downs, with other panels, performances, and conversations scheduled well into May.
This month also marks the inaugural Provost's Distinguished Alumna/us Lecture, with Colin Dayan (Ph.D. '80, Comparative Literature), whose talk is titled "Up Against the Law, or, the Impossible Color of Separation." I do hope to see many of you there.
For all the positive news that ushers in the new year at the Graduate Center, we remain mindful of the social unrest that closed 2014. In light of these realities, we are more determined than ever to ensure a diverse community and a community of diverse ideas, concepts I first discussed in my Convocation address last fall.
I am pleased to report that we continue to make advances in these institutional priorities. Here I especially wish to thank Robert Reid-Pharr, who chaired a diversity task force that I created last spring. This task force has now delivered its report, and Louise Lennihan and I look forward to working with colleagues on our shared commitment to diversity. The work of that task force is one of several initiatives underway, including new faculty appointments and a website of important resources, that focus specifically on fostering greater diversity and inclusion.
I close by reminding you that spring culminates with our 51st Commencement on Wednesday, May 27, at Lincoln Center. This year's three honorary degree recipients will be announced soon. For the first time in many years, we will also host a party in our graduating students' honor.
Best wishes for a healthy and productive semester.