Penn Compact 2020/

Increase Access: Making Music with Graduate Student Aid

Melissa Dunphy, GR'13, recipient of a Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, in one of three new classrooms within the just-opened Music Building addition.

Melissa Dunphy, GR'13, recipient of a Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, in one of three new classrooms within the just-opened Music Building addition.

"I consider myself, above all, a storyteller,” says Penn music composition student Melissa Dunphy, GR’13. And just one year into graduate school, this 29-year-old was creating music — for audiences on campus and across Philadelphia — that tells stories as unexpected as they are powerful.

But before graduate school, when it came to composing her future, Melissa was at a loss. Her sights set on Penn, she knew she had the drive and talent to succeed in its demanding composition program. But she also knew that doing so would require her to focus wholly on her coursework — without worrying about the price tag it carried.

Thanks to the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship she received, Melissa has been able to do just that. “It’s freed me up to pursue my passion at the highest level possible,” says Melissa. And today, with that support, she is able to immerse herself in spinning out her next story — a suite of piano pieces based on Philadelphia's acclaimed murals.

Penn’s graduate and professional students. They represent half of Penn’s student body, and they are absolutely essential to the future of scholarship and the professions. They enrich the undergraduate curriculum and experience, and they play a big part in attracting the best faculty, providing them with fresh insights in their research and teaching.

The impact of insufficient financial aid resources for these Penn men and women is profound, affecting not only the students, but also the professions, the University, and the world.

Benjamin Franklin Fellowships are awarded by the Graduate Division to entering music students of exceptional promise. These fellowships provide tuition, payment of the general fee, student health services and a stipend for each of the four or five years of study (provided that the student's progress within the program is satisfactory). During the second and third years, the student normally serves as a teaching fellow within the department.

Text from Making History and the Department of Music.

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