The Facebook Fellowship Program has born fruit. After making an initial announcement about it three months ago, Facebook will now pay five Ph.D. students' tuition and fees, send them to conferences, and provide each of them with a $30,000 stipend.
The winners are Vinayak Borkar, Parmit Chilana, Leslie John, Mladen Kolar, and Yaron Singer. Also, another 22 finalists have apparently received $500 each, even though Facebook said nothing about this nice little touch heading into the application period.
This program should definitely turn into a PR win for Facebook. By helping just a handful of students get degrees, it'll grab more than a few headlines, and also make a positive impression on many of the people the students interact with.
There may be more quantifiable benefits, too. The five winners are focused on the subjects of cloud computing, social computing, behavioral economics, machine learning, and Internet economics, all of which relate pretty directly to Facebook. So if they make any major breakthroughs - or work for Facebook down the line - the company could see a measurable ROI.
At any rate, congrats to this group of winners and finalists. There should be more in the future, since Facebook intends to continue the fellowship program.