Cecilia A. Conrad


MacArthur routinely conducts reviews of our grantmaking programs to help us learn from our work and make the Foundation more effective. Such reviews are standard at most foundations. “We are proud of the Fellows Program and its impact on the lives of not just those selected but people all over the world, who are inspired by the extraordinary creativity of diverse individuals of all ages, parts of the country, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and in every imaginable field of human endeavor,” said Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows Program. “We believe the program inspires people from all walks of life to think about how they can use their own skills and ideas to make the world a better place.”

What We Evaluated

A summary of findings from our recent review of the MacArthur Fellows Program is attached, as is an overview letter to Fellows about the review from Vice President Cecilia Conrad. 

What We Learned

  • The MacArthur Fellows Program succeeds in increasing the capacity of individual recipients to pursue creative ideas and projects. By a wide margin, Fellows report improved financial stability (93%), increased opportunity to express creativity (88%), advancement toward personal goals (88%), and improved sense of independence and motivation (85%). Fellows appreciate the structure of the program − no strings attached or reporting required.
  • Some Fellows report a negative effect in terms of time spent on personal activities or leisure time with their family (8%). Some Fellows asked for more help preparing for and responding to the tremendous increase in visibility associated with the Fellowship. We will explore ways to better support new Fellows as they cope with the sudden increase in public attention.
  • The Program is seen as lacking in opportunities for Fellows to connect with one another or with the Foundation to develop a broader, stronger sense of community. We will be experimenting with a variety of Fellows events to create more of these opportunities in the future.
  • The Fellows Program enjoys the respect of a broad range of key opinion leaders and experts. A large majority of influentials surveyed also agree that the Program supports individuals who are making important contributions to society.
  • The Program is familiar to nearly half of the engaged public (43%), and it generates feelings among the engaged public of admiration for Fellows, causing individuals to pause and consider their work and contributions to society (24% or more than half of those who are familiar with the program). The Program is inspiring, causing individuals to take action in the pursuit of new, more creative activities and ideas (10% of the engaged public, representing 12.9 million people).
  • Although Fellows who responded to the survey judged the current stipend ($500,000 over five years) to be adequate, other data sources suggest that an adjustment is needed. MacArthur will increase the stipend to $625,000 beginning with this year’s class, which will be announced on September 25.

Read the full Fellows Program Review Summary ›

Accompanying this review, the Foundation released a related letter from Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows Program.