Poli-sci fellowship endowed

March 24, 2014

Douglas and Constance Beck have committed more than $1 million to establish an endowed fellowship for doctoral students in political science and related fields.

“With their gift, Doug and Connie are ensuring that the next generation of researchers will have the deep analytical skills needed to help address some of the most vexing problems of the 21st century,” says University President Joel Seligman. “Doug has spent his professional life helping governments and organizations solve complex challenges, including those in public policy and transportation. The Becks’ generosity will make it possible for others to continue this kind of important work far into the future.”

Douglas Beck knows firsthand the value of support for graduate training. The University offered a fellowship for his own research in political science during the 1970s, allowing him to complete his master’s and doctoral degrees at Rochester. “There was really no other way to do it at the time,” he recalls. “So when giving back became financially feasible, I was thrilled to be able to do this.”

The senior vice president of ICF International—a publicly traded global consulting firm—Beck credits his successful career in government and business to his Rochester education. “The rigorous methodological training is among the best,” he says. “The political science department’s approach to solving problems included a deep understanding of the role of theory and of balancing induction and deduction as a way to understand and explain complexity.

“We often used the term ‘elegant’ for those solutions that provided a solution in the simplest way possible. I can assure you that at the executive level, where time is generally very limited and you have to make your case quickly, this is an incredibly useful skill,” he says.

Beck also respects Rochester’s collaborative approach to problem-solving. He particularly appreciated the strong ties between the political science and economics departments. That interdisciplinary approach was good preparation for the real world. “Throughout my career I have seen that complex problems are not solved by one discipline alone. To really get things done in a quality way you need to pull in many perspectives,” he says.

Connie Beck says her husband’s connection to Rochester is as personal as it is academic. “No doubt, Doug received a superior education at Rochester, but as important was how supported he felt. His professors went out of their way to provide him with experiences. Rochester is the place where he felt he was part of a community,” she says.

Higher education has continued to be important to the couple, and Doug in particular has helped extended family and friends navigate the college process. Connie Beck sees endowing the fellowship as an important way to pass along the couple’s commitment to higher education to another generation.

Richard Niemi, the Don Alonzo Watson Professor of History and Political Science and interim chair for the Department of Political Science, believes the Douglas and Constance Beck Graduate Fellowship in Political Science will help strengthen graduate studies at Rochester. He points out that the social sciences and humanities are always in need of support for graduate students, and having an ongoing source of support will help attract the most promising researchers. “We are in competition with other universities that have substantial funds for supporting students,” says Niemi. “We have to keep up to continue to get the best candidates.”

The Becks’ gift supports The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester, a University-wide fundraising campaign that was launched in October 2011 and runs through June 30, 2016 (campaign.rochester.edu).

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