Public Policy PhD Student Awarded Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship

Posted: December 6, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Each year, PhD students from around the country – like Mason’s Ting Zhang – submit research proposals to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. From a pool of nearly 100 proposals, the foundation selects 15 to fund.

With odds like that, it was no wonder Zhang, a graduate student in the School of Public Policy, experienced some hesitation in opening an e-mail sent to her from the foundation earlier this semester.

To no one’s surprise, except maybe Zhang’s, the e-mail said she was among the winners and would receive a $15,000 award for her proposal to research “Elderly Self-Employment for an Aging U.S. Economy.”

“Before I read the e-mail I had to tell myself, ‘If I get it, I get it. If I don’t, well then, I don’t,’” explains Zhang, who earned a master’s in intercultural communications from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 2003. “But I was so excited after I finally opened it.”

Zhang says she has been very interested in the welfare of the elderly, particularly now as baby-boomers age and many decide to take more entrepreneurial roles. Her research examines the impact age has on elderly entrepreneurship and whether elderly entrepreneurship impacts Social Security, the labor force and/or the regional economy.

Zhang chose her topic after she recognized the entrepreneurial expertise among the faculty in Mason’s School of Public Policy, and knew she could count on their advice for her research. Her dissertation committee consists of professors Laurie Schintler, Zoltan Acs, Maryann Feldman, Roger Stough and David Wong.

Zhang came to the United States after receiving her bachelor’s degree in English education/international commercial affairs from East China Normal University in 2001. She plans to have her research completed within the next two years and published sometime soon after.

“Ting’s project deals with a very timely topic, but that was not the reason hers was selected,” says Robert Strom, director of research at the Kauffman Foundation. “There were far more than 15 worthy proposals, but the sheer quality of Ting’s proposal merited the award.”

Strom says the Kauffman Foundation’s goal is to improve the quality of entrepreneurship research. By launching a cohort of world-class scholars into the field, the foundation hopes the students’ findings will have immediate application for policy makers, educators, service providers and entrepreneurs.

For more information on the fellowship, visit the Kauffman Foundation web site.

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