August 2013

Navigating Graduate School

Thriving in Graduate School

How you connect with your department and the university community will help set you up for success during your graduate career and beyond. Learn how to move beyond just surviving graduate school to thriving in it…

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Managing Your Graduate Program

Learn the requirements of the most common graduate degrees so you’re aware of how the degree requirements are structured at UNL and which people will be able to help you along your way.

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Good Practices in Graduate Education

Quoting and Paraphrasing: How to Attribute Words and Ideas

Properly citing sources as you write provides a foundation for your argument and builds your credibility as a scholar. Understand how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote in your work to avoid plagiarism.

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Graduate Student Professional Development

Preparing for the Job Market

It’s never too early to think about your entry into the job market—whether you plan on taking an academic route or applying to jobs in the non-profit, government, or business sector. By thinking early on about how you’ll look to potential employers, you'll be prepared to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

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Learning the Elevator Speech

An elevator speech is a good way to introduce yourself and your work, whether it's to professional colleagues at a conference or a job interview or just explaining what you do to your neighbors and new acquaintances.

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NSF Graduate Fellowships

New graduate students at UNL conducting research in a STEM field may be eligible for a fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Benefits include three years of a $32,000 annual stipend, paid tuition and fees, and research and professional development opportunities.

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Teaching Tip

Using MyPlan

Find out how you can use MyPLAN (My Personal Learning and Advising Network) to help the undergraduate students you teach succeed.

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Understanding Who Your Students Are

Understanding the demographic makeup of your classroom will help you decide how to set expectations for your students and how to approach your material.

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The Graduate Writer

Subject–Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement can be tricky. Find out more about which sentence-subjects need special attention in your academic writing.

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News and Notes August 2013

Funding Opportunities August 2013

Calendar August 2013

Thriving in Graduate School

by Neal Bryan, Associate Director of Grad Student and Postdoc Development
image of a sapling tree
A grad student is similar to a young tree.

A sapling is a young tree that's been growing for several years and begun to establish itself as a part of its community. It's demonstrated an ability to acquire the light and water it needs, and it has high potential to become like the more mature trees around it. To continue to grow and develop, however, a sapling must constantly acquire more resources. A successful sapling invests its energy in extending its root system.

A tree employing a "go deep" growth strategy extends roots as far as possible into the ground and has the additional benefit of increasing its resistance to storm winds and drought. It's best if this strategy is balanced by increased growth above the ground, which increases the plant's productivity (that is, the ability to convert energy, air, and water to a substantial, tangible material).

If a graduate student is a sapling, graduate school is a tree nursery. The trees are arranged in cohorts (often transplanted), and the nursery staff lends a hand by mowing the grass, looking after the trees' welfare, and helping them acclimate. Despite the external assistance that's available, each tree must actively take up resources and rely on internal processes for growth.

A sapling can survive by maintaining its initial state—acquiring enough to live another day. The very word "survive" seems to indicate a struggle for life. In contrast, a sapling exhibiting a healthy state, able to acquire necessary resources and turn raw materials into productivity, is said to thrive

You'll occasionally have people talk about "Surviving Graduate School," but that doesn't reflect the possibilities and opportunities for growth. It's possible for a graduate student to "survive" graduate school (earn a degree) by (1) working with an advisory committee, (2) meeting the minimum degree requirements, and (3) completing coursework satisfactorily. But as a tree, such a student would have very shallow, under-developed roots.

In contrast, the "root system" of a thriving graduate student would be deep and vitally connected to important resources on campus, in his academic field, and to members of the community. Such a student's "branches" would be healthy, upright, growing in many directions (in balance), and working to produce "fruit." It's possible to grow and develop in graduate school—to increase one's ability to learn, think, understand, and express oneself. And it's reasonable to expect to produce something of value in graduate school. If we can help you, contact us.

How to Thrive in Graduate School
  • Grow your professional network
  • Get involved in campus and community activities
  • Increase the breadth and depth of your knowledge, experience, understanding, and skill
  • Conduct your work with efficiency, objectivity, honesty, and accuracy (academic integrity)
  • Mentor other students
  • Set goals
  • Ask for help when you need it
schematic sketch of a plant's roots
What do YOUR student roots look like?

Managing Your Graduate Program

While graduate study is unique to every student, there are many similarities in the timeline across programs and departments. We’re outlining the requirements of the most common graduate degrees so you’re aware of how the degree requirements are structured at UNL and who will be able to help you along your way.

Remember that you bring your own experiences with a different college administration along with you; there may be key differences between your former college and UNL. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

When you applied to UNL, you applied to both your department and the Graduate College. The Graduate College oversees all four campuses for the University of Nebraska: the University of Nebraska Omaha, the University of Nebraska Kearney, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and, finally, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Specific to the UNL campus is the Office of Graduate Studies. The staff in the Office of Graduate Studies support your department and will help you as you work to meet the requirements of the Graduate College.

The Office of Graduate Studies is here to help you keep on track, fulfilling the Graduate College’s requirements so that you can focus on your studies. Other resources include the Graduate Bulletin, which is available online at The Forms and Deadlines webpage at offers a quick overview of the main documents you need to complete your degree.

Support as You Work on Your Degree

There are a number of people who will help you on your way: Your advisor, committee members, graduate chair, graduate support staff, and the Graduate Studies Master’s Degree Specialist and Doctoral Degree Specialist will all help you at different points in your career.

When you begin your studies, you'll most likely meet with your graduate chair. The graduate chair helps you look at the course ahead and will also be a resource when you want additional advice. Once you have an advisor, you’ll be meeting with your graduate chair less, but he or she still plays a vital role in your success in graduate school. The graduate chair is particularly important in the beginning and will be available for clarification of steps as you progress. 

Your advisor will provide supervision as you complete coursework and will be your first contact for working on your thesis or project. It’s helpful to find an advisor in your first year, unless the graduate chair in your department serves as a temporary advisor during the first year for all students (this will be the case in many departments). You may already have an advisor when you entered your program due to receiving an assistantship. If you haven’t already been assigned one, find an advisor who researches in an area that may be interesting to you as a thesis topic, with whom you’ve completed some coursework, who knows your writing and learning style, and with whom you communicate well. Additionally, an advisor must have graduate faculty status. You can check this online through the Graduate Bulletin. Your advisor will continue to advise you on your coursework so that as you narrow down your topic, you are taking the courses that will help you build your general knowledge of your topic.

The graduate support staff person is housed in your department. Introduce yourself early in your first semester (or now, since we’ve told you!) and stop in regularly to see how he or she is doing. This person stays on top of departmental policies and can help you with paperwork or advise you about deadlines. If he or she knows who you are, and you’ve been cordial, it’s easier to get help when you need it so don’t be a stranger.

The Master’s and Doctoral Degree Specialists are housed in the Office of Graduate Studies, not your department. They will work with you one-on-one to make sure that you are meeting the requirements of the Graduate College. Additionally, they help you stay on track filing required documents with the Graduate College and can also help navigate the rules of the Graduate College and your department. 

Master’s Degree: Specific Steps

Before you finish half of your coursework, work with your advisor to complete a “Memorandum of Courses.” In this document you'll outline the coursework required for your degree program. You'll want to consider your interests, the things you need to learn to complete your degree, and the requirements of your degree.

You'll also need to determine which degree option is right for you. Each option has specific requirements; speak with your advisor and consult the Graduate Bulletin for details. Coursework can help you establish proficiencies for your thesis or project, and also for your future employment.

In your final semester, you will file an Application for Degree that should be completed in consultation with your advisor or graduate chair. Make sure that your thesis or requirements will be completed before the deadlines specified on the Forms and Deadlines page of the Graduate Studies Current Student site. The “Guidelines for Preparation and Submission of an Electronic Thesis” provides information about preparing and submitting your thesis.

You'll also complete the Final Examination Report Form four weeks prior to the oral defense or the deadline listed on the calendar of deadlines, whichever comes first. Visit the Graduate Studies Forms and Deadlines page to see the deadlines for the semester.

Doctoral Degrees: Specific Steps

Establish your committee before you have accumulated 45 credit hours by working with your advisor and completing the Appointment of Supervisory Committee Form. If necessary, you can amend this form later.

In the same semester you form your committee, complete a Program of Studies. This document outlines your coursework, which makes up your first few years at UNL. This document is not final—you can change it as needed. Check with your graduate chair about department-specific requirements.

In your second or third year you'll be completely (or nearly) done with your coursework, so you'll take your Comprehensive Exams (Comps) and apply for Candidacy. Comps look very different across departments, but the Graduate College requires a written element to the exams. Your department likely requires an oral component too, but check with your advisor or graduate chair for details. Your entire committee evaluates your performance on Comps.

Once you pass your Comps, you'll focus on your dissertation. Remember that while you research and write your dissertation, you must register for at least 1 credit hour each semester until graduation, or your program will be terminated. Begin properly formatting your dissertation early; this makes edits at the end much easier.

File the Application for Degree at the beginning of the semester you will graduate. You don't need to have your dissertation done before applying for graduation.

After your dissertation has been accepted for defense, you'll file the Application for Final Oral Exam. You must file this form more than two weeks before your defense, with signatures of at least three of your readers on it. Remember that your committee will need time to read your dissertation first. Communicate with your committee to know how much time each reader will need.

Expect to make some corrections and additions to your dissertation following your defense, and then deposit your dissertation according to the instructions given when you filed your “Application for Final Exam.”


While the road ahead has a number of steps, by becoming acquainted with it now, you have helped set yourself up for success. Should you ever feel off course, remember to check in with your advisor, graduate chair, or the Degree Specialist. They can each offer unique support and help you achieve your goal—earning a degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Attributing Words and Ideas in Your Work

As a graduate student, you engage with diverse ideas and academic work. Writing papers for your seminars and later your thesis and dissertation require you to account for other voices while establishing your own academic voice. Properly citing sources as you write provides a foundation for your argument and builds your credibility as a scholar. You can make connections between your work and previous work through three techniques: summary, paraphrase, and quotation.

Summaries, paraphrases, and quotations, when used properly, also help you avoid plagiarism. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Student Code of Conduct defines plagiarism as: “Presenting the work of another as one's own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source) and submitting examinations, theses, reports, speeches, drawings, laboratory notes or other academic work in whole or in part as one's own when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person” (Section 4.2.a.3). The key to avoiding plagiarism is making a clear distinction between the source’s voice and your own. Here are a few hints for properly quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing sources.

Summarizing allows you to quickly provide an overview to a section, chapter, or work. Generally, summaries allow you to provide background knowledge for your own work, whether you plan on building upon that work or refuting its main claims. To summarize the six-page introduction to The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White:   

E.B. White recounts the larger-than-life professor William Strunk and his most famous work, The Elements of Style, in the introduction to the 1979 edition of the same. White recollects the original handbook his professor created, which Strunk himself referred to as “the little book” (xiii). While small, this book continues to instruct high school and college students on concise and clear writing. According to White, Strunk singles out turns of phrase that are redundant, excessive, and needless for special attention and editing.

Note the use of “the little book” in quotation marks. It’s included in the summary because it plays a key role in White’s introduction. While “the little book” certainly isn’t original to White (or Strunk), here it’s a direct quote from White’s introduction. He refers to the Elements as a “little book” several times in the course of the introduction, contrasting the book’s deceptively small size with its greater impact.

Paraphrasing is a helpful tool when you're interested in the main idea a writer presents and you want to present the idea succinctly. When writing, you may choose to paraphrase a paragraph, section, or even chapter in a few sentences. 

In the introduction to The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, White describes the editions of Elements over the years and his own contribution to the current edition, including his updates to the volume with modern words and phrases (xiv).

When you are paraphrasing a source and you are using a term that they coin or one that is not commonly used by many in your discipline, make sure to attribute these words through a quote within the paraphrase. While “modern words and phrases” was a paraphrase, choosing to pull White’s original language makes the paraphrase more interesting:

In the introduction to The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, White describes the editions of Elements over the years and his own contribution to the current edition, where he updates the volume with words and phrases “of a recent vintage” (xiv).

The phrase “of a recent vintage” is pulled directly from White’s writing. Because it’s not commonly used (try typing the phrase into your favorite search engine—the first ten hits will be direct quotes of E.B. White), and it’s clearly being taken from the page being paraphrased, it’s important to properly denote the expression’s source. On the other hand, if you are using a phrase that’s common knowledge for someone in your field you don’t need to attribute a source: e.g., Byronic hero, automatic processes, or human gene patenting.

Finally, quotations play a central role in your academic writing. There are two examples of shorter quotations above, where a particular turn of phrase is not common knowledge (common knowledge includes information that most people know and indisputable facts, e.g., the date the Declaration of Independence was signed; the fact that the sky is blue). When quoting, make sure to introduce the quote and offer an explanation or interpretation for what your reader should note:

E.B. White’s introduction to The Elements of Style celebrates his former advisor through stories of grammar lessons and his “little book.” The two are closely connected for White: “It is encouraging to see how perfectly a book, even a dusty rule book, perpetuates and extends the spirit of a man” (xviii). In the pages of the Elements that follow, the reader can catch glimpses of Professor Strunk, made a little more visible when read through the lens of the classroom examples White carefully included in the introduction.

With a little practice, incorporating summaries, paraphrases, and quotes in your writing will help you properly attribute words, concepts, and ideas. Doing so not only makes sense in terms of academic integrity, but also develops your writing abilities and results in better scholarship.



Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Pearson Longman. 2000.


Preparing for the Job Market

You may be reading this on your first day of graduate school, but it’s never too early to think about your entry into the job market—whether you plan on taking an academic route or applying to jobs in the non-profit, government, or business sector. By thinking early on about how you’ll look to potential employers, you'll be prepared to differentiate yourself from other candidates. And no matter what type of a job you’re applying for, you’ll want to make the "first cut" (where employers read your CV or résumé and cover letter) and move on to the interview stage.

To stand out, think about what makes you unique. What experience do you have working with others? Do you have experience organizing events as well as researching? Have you held leadership positions? Thomas J. Straka encourages applicants to consider their leadership experience in graduate school because “hiring committees know that such graduate student leaders usually stand out. Don't underestimate yourself; don't think committee members won't know how hard some of those 'minor' accomplishments were. [1]” These experiences will be a part of your application, and you’ll want to show a single narrative formed by all of your materials.

Begin gaining insight into what employers are seeking as early as your second year of graduate school. Pull job lists from places like the Chronicle of Higher Education, H-Net, or your discipline if you’re looking to enter academia. If working in government is your goal, review postings from the Federal Government, check the job website at the International City/County Management Association (ICCMA), and don't forget to review job sites related to specific towns and/or counties you’d like to work in. Non-profit job sites like OpportunityKnocks and Idealist are also excellent resources.

Check on both minimum qualifications and specific preferred skills employers are looking for. If you have a few years until you graduate, think creatively about how you can develop those skills. If you’re going on the market now, consider how your work in graduate school qualifies you for a position. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a policy and planning assistant and the position requires a candidate who can research and analyze data under limited supervision, you might explain how research on your sociology thesis and writing up the data qualifies you for the job.

Ready to apply for a job? You’ll put together a number of documents to include with your application. Most jobs require a cover letter, a curriculum vitae (abbreviated vita or CV) or résumé, a description of future research plans and/or a teaching philosophy (if you’re applying for academic jobs), and a list of references (or actual reference letters).

Write Your Cover Letters

Each job you apply to requires a tailored cover letter. Make sure that your cover letter offers a brief introduction to yourself, and, if you're applying for an academic job, your teaching and research experience. Alternatively, if you’re applying for a job beyond the professoriate, you’ll introduce yourself and include your most salient qualifications. In both instances, comb the job listing and note specific words used in the listing and skills they are looking for. Incorporate these words into your letter, especially if you’re applying to non-academic jobs. Nowadays, Human Resources often uses software to scan cover letters for specific vocabulary. If certain key words are not there, no human eye will ever cast a glance at the rest of your application. Remember, you don’t need to write extensively about every qualification—you simply need to convince the reader that you’re qualified for the job and that you have the potential to be an interesting and supportive colleague.

Update your CV and/or Résumé

Coupled with your cover letter, your curriculum vitae or résumé shows your experience and your qualifications. As you go through graduate school and beyond, keep a master list of all your work experience, publications, and other information that may be relevant for applying to jobs. When it comes time to apply, you won’t struggle to remember specific dates or find a description of a position you’ve held.

A few words on the difference between a CV and a résumé: While both documents provide information about your work history and experience, the CV is a longer document that includes all information about your academic life. As you gain experience, your CV can grow to 10, 20, or even 80 (!) pages. All CVs start with your education, with the most recent degree listed first. A résumé, on the other hand, is a one-page document that provides an overview of all relevant experience. Your education may be listed as the final element, or you may not include your education at all. The most important element on a résumé is work experience. Whether you’re putting together a CV or a résumé, resist the urge to cram too much information on the page. Use white space to effectively guide the eye and make reading easier.

Request Letters of Recommendation

Academic jobs usually require three letters of recommendation with your application, although some academic jobs simply ask for a list of references. Most non-academic jobs will ask for a list of references. Before you list anyone, be sure to talk with them about the jobs you’re applying for. If possible, meet in person and bring a copy of the job listing, the cover letter that you’ve tailored for the position, and your résumé.

When you meet with a potential reference, explain why you would like to list the person and what aspect of your work or experience the reference has specific knowledge of. If you’re asking for a letter, ask well ahead of time. If the reference balks or is hesitant to write you a letter, be sensitive to the situation. “If a recommender declines your request, he or she more than likely has a good reason for it. Just respond with a polite note saying that you understand and that you appreciate their consideration. [2]” To reduce the number of letters a reference must write, open an account with Interfolio another dossier service to keep track of all your documents. If you’re applying for dozens of academic jobs, your letter writer can submit one letter that gets sent with every set of job application materials.

Create a Teaching Portfolio

Create a teaching portfolio even if the position you're interested in doesn't have a teaching component. Here's why: By organizing your portfolio into a coherent and organized presentation of your documents, you'll be better prepared to articulate your teaching style, the strategies and the methods you've used, and your goals for student learning. Documentation included in the teaching portfolio may be syllabi, teaching evaluations, sample assignments, annotated graded assignments, and teaching observations. It should also include a concise teaching statement describing: 1) what you want students to learn; 2) how you help them learn; and 3) how you assess student learning. Begin collecting this documentation early, as it’ll be hard to put together an effective portfolio that shows your development as a teacher in just a few weeks. Like your master list for the résumé, update your teaching portfolio every semester or year. Minimize and organize your portfolio. Add a table of contents so that it’s easy to give an overview of the contents.

When you apply for any job, make sure that the whole application reflects who you’ll be as a colleague and an employee. By starting early and investing time and energy into the materials, you’ll show that you’re an outstanding candidate and worth an interview.


[1] The Déjà Vu of Today's Application Files, by Thomas Straka at

[2] Dos and Don'ts for the Academic Job Search: Letters of Recommendation, by Julie Platt for

Additional Reading

Preparing for the Job Market Maze, by Ashley Wiersma for

PhD Academic, a resource from UC Berkeley Career Center

How to Find Job Postings from UCSD Career Services

How to Create and Maintain Your CV by Natalie Houston for

Developing Your Teaching Portfolio, by George Clark for

Your Elevator Speech

An elevator speech is a 30–60 second summary of your research interests, main findings, and their importance to society. It's a good way to introduce yourself and your work, whether it's to professional colleagues at a conference or a job interview or just explaining your work to your neighbors and new acquaintances.

Write it out

When composing an elevator talk for the first time, writing it out will help you organize your thoughts and identify areas for improvement.

100 words or less

Focus on the most important aspects of your work. Remember you have a time limit, and you need to use a normal rate of speech. "Differentiate what you do from how you do it….Start with the big picture of your research, give it context, and then proceed to the main points you want to convey1."

Use plain language (no jargon)

Even if you're speaking to someone of similar training and familiarity with the field, showing an ability to communicate clearly in plain language is an admirable trait.

Convert to speech

Once you have a good written draft, adapt it for spoken language—account for natural rates of speech, including pauses for effect or clarity. Consider how voice and body language can convey your message.


Now practice your speech orally—first to yourself, and then to friends and peers. Convey the interest you have in your work. Use and be open to questions. Adapt your talk based on other's feedback, which may include questions about the subject of your talk.

Prepare for questions

A good elevator speech will pique the interest of the listener. What you say can (and should!) give rise to specific questions about your background or findings. Anticipate those questions and prepare concise answers to them. Giving your speech a few times will help you identify what those questions might be. If you consistently get the same questions, you might want to incorporate the answer into future versions of your talk.

Start a conversation

An elevator speech is a means to an end: to share what's important about your work and to start a conversation.

Customize your message

Because you'll be talking with more than one group of people during your career, develop a few versions of your speech and know which one will resonate best with your audience (one version might emphasize the social benefit of your work, another the financial viability of your current research, a third focusing on practical value for future work).

close-up of finger pressing elevator button

A good elevator speech:

  • is brief but memorable
  • piques the interest of your audience
  • presents you and your work clearly
  • is a conversation-starter
  • is adaptable for different audiences
1Elevating Your Elevator Talk, by M. Schmer. CSA News, June 2012, p. 38.
*image by flickr/bogenfreund

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Graduate students new to the University of Nebraska—Lincoln who also research in the STEM fields may be eligible for a fellowship through the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP). Research fields include Engineering; Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering; Materials Research; Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry; Physics and Astronomy; Social Sciences; Psychology; STEM Education and Learning; Life Sciences; and Geosciences.

Last year, over 13,000 graduate students submitted applications and the NSF made 2,000 offers (source: There are many benefits to receiving an award, including three years of funding through a $32,000 annual stipend, a $12,000 allowance that covers tuition and other costs associated with your education, and research and professional development opportunities. Additionally, receiving an NSF grant at the beginning of your career will make you a better candidate for future grants and fellowships.

Eligible graduate students for the 2014 Graduate Research Fellow Program will have either (1) started their graduate program in the Fall 2013 term or later, (2) started their graduate program in Fall 2012 and not yet earned a graduate or professional degree (like a master’s degree), or (3) been part-time students and have completed no more that 24 credits as of August 1, 2013. Additionally, applicants must be US citizens, US nationals, or permanent residents. See the NSF website for the full requirements for eligibility.

Applications consist of three reference letters; an academic transcript; and three two-page essays: a personal statement essay, a previous research experience essay, and a proposed plan of research essay. The reference letters and the essays should both address the NSF review criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. All applications must be filed through NSF’s FastLane from August to November of 2013.

NSF-GRFP Workshop

For assistance in preparing your application, attend our GRFP Overview session on Wednesday, September 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the Nebraska Union. Attendees will have the opportunity to receive feedback on their essays. Email Elizabeth Edwards for details.

Using MyPlan

MyPLAN (My Personal Learning and Advising Network) is a campus-wide platform used for tracking student progress and facilitating student-instructor interactions at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Graduate instructors can manage appointments, learn more about their students, and promote communication between students and on-campus support services by referring students to the resources they need to succeed. 

Here’s an introduction, with hyperlinks to tutorial videos, to a few MyPLAN features. 

Learn your students’ names and faces before the first day of class by accessing their NUID photos on MyPLAN. By creating your own profile in MyPLAN, a student can also learn more about you and even search for you based on your research interests. 

Take advantage of MyPLAN's calendar (which syncs with Office 365) for all of your scheduling needs or only for scheduling office hours. Simply block off time for a one-time appointment or indicate that it’s a recurring block of time, like office hours. Students can only see the time you’ve allocated for student meetings (they can’t see other appointments), and they can sign up for an appointment. Depending on the length of appointments, you can set smaller blocks of time aside in your schedule in 15-minute increments. MyPLAN has the added feature of letting you schedule email reminders and send messages to your students about materials they should bring to the meeting.

Finally, to alert students and advisors to potential issues, you can flag students when their academic performance is not meeting expectations or when there is an attendance matter. Your student will receive an email letting them know of your concern. If a student receives three flags, in either your course or across courses, the student’s advisor will receive an email that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Flags can be particularly helpful for issues like missed classes or issues related to time management. Also, if your student needs help outside of class and you aren’t sure what to do, you can click the “refer” button. The student will be contacted within 24 hours by UNL staff prepared to address the issue and this staff member will stay in touch with the student until the issue is resolved. You can also send your student a kudos message for a job well done. 

By communicating through MyPLAN, you work as part of a team to support undergraduate students at UNL.   


Who Your Students Are

August 2013
World events and popular culture contribute to the shaping of each generation of students, making their collective identity unique. How well do you know the undergraduate students you'll be teaching this year? Do you know how many of them are new to Nebraska or the U.S.? Every year another few thousand students begin their studies at UNL, and how many you see depends on the classes you teach. Understanding the demographic makeup of your classroom will help you decide how to set expectations for your students and how to approach your material. The accompanying figures are created from the latest data (Fall 2012) published on UNL’s Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) website.

About one-quarter of the graduate students at UNL are international, but only 6% of undergraduates are international.

The average freshman that begins this Fall semester will have been born in 1995. They were two years old when Princess Diana died. In 2000, when your students were 5, they saw India's population hit 1 billion. Popular TV shows your students grew up with included American Idol and Hannah Montana, and they listened to Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Your students weren't alive when the Berlin Wall came down, and 9/11 happened when they were in the first or second grade.

As members of the "M
illennial" generation, your students are interested in learning by doing. They have grown up with instant answers through technology, which means that they expect emails to be answered quickly. While they may be "digital natives" who interface with technology seamlessly, your students have most likely not mastered difficult and multi-part searches through Google or the library website.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Number matters

When writing sentences, the verb conjugates according to the subject. The general rule of thumb for conjugating verbs is that if there's one person, place, or thing as the subject (not just one noun), then the verb is conjugated in the singular. If there are multiple people, places, or things, then the verb is conjugated in the plural. In other words, the verb and subject agree in number.

The student writes her dissertation.
You write your dissertation.

The students write their dissertations.
All of you write your dissertations.

When you have a compound subject (when you have a number of singular or plural nouns that are all the subject of the sentence), you need a plural verb. These compound subjects use the word “and” to link the list of nouns:

Suzy and Pete write their dissertations. (They write their dissertations.)
My cohort and I (we) will present our research. (We will present our research.)


Mass Nouns

Mass nouns, or uncountable nouns, use a plural form and take a singular verb. You’re most likely familiar with some of these from academia:

    • Mathematics
    • Dynamics
    • Statistics
    • Robotics
    • Aerodynamics
    • Linguistics 

Collective Nouns

Like mass nouns, collective nouns are made up of several parts but use a singular verb:

The family is new to the neighborhood.
The group works in the lab.
The herd grazes in the field.

Note that collective nouns use a singular verb in American English, but a plural verb in British English.

Take note! One salient exception to this rule is the word data. Depending on your discipline, data will be used as a singular or a plural noun. A Latin word, data is plural (the singular is datum). In psychology and other scientific disciplines that use data on a daily basis, for example, data takes a plural verb:

The data are inconclusive. (psychology)

But when used colloquially (such as in a news cast or in non-scientific settings), data may be used in the singular:

The data supports the politician's claim.

Learn how data is used in your discipline, and pick the correct verb conjugation accordingly. Because language is fluid and always developing, you may find that use of data as a singular will only continue to grow, just like the plural noun media (singular: medium. Media is also a word borrowed from Latin.)

Pronouns That Use Singular Verbs

Certain words can function as a subject in the sentence when used as a pronoun. These use singular verbs:

    • each, either, neither
    • another
    • anyone, anybody, anything
    • someone, somebody, something
    • one, everyone
    • everybody, everything
    • no one, nobody, nothing

Agreement can be tricky if you are writing long, complex sentences where the subject and verb are not side-by-side. To make editing easier, try reading sentences aloud. Often you’ll hear if something is off. You can also check for subject-verb agreement by asking which subject is doing the verb to find the subject, and then putting the subject and verb side-by-side. Remember to check if the subject is being used as a singular or a plural, or if multiple nouns are being linked together to form a subject. If you’re ever unsure about whether the subject needs a singular or a plural verb, look the word up in the dictionary. The definition will also include how to use the word in a sentence. 


Sources: (APA)



News and Notes August 2013


2013-2014 UNL Graduate Studies Bulletin

The 2013-2014 UNL Graduate Bulletin will be available online at the end of August. If you need help navigating the bulletin, please contact Jane Schneider.

Registration and Financial Aid

If you are using financial aid, there may be implications for not being registered appropriately. If you need to withdraw from any courses, that change may cause you to repay financial aid earlier than anticipated. Please be aware of drop and add deadlines. All enrollment instructions and drop/add deadlines with the refund schedule are found at University Registrar.

To view more information about financial aid, visit the Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid.

The UNL Healthy Option Student Insurance Plan

UNL’s Graduate Student insurance plan provides students with excellent coverage at an affordable price. For complete information, including enrollment, premiums and coverage benefits, see our health insurance FAQ page.

If you are a graduate assistant or an international graduate student (F-1 or J-1 visa holder), you will be automatically enrolled for basic coverage and your student account will be charged unless you have alternate coverage and you complete a Waiver Request Form. Complete an online Waiver Request Form by the fourteenth day of classes each semester (September 6, 2013 for Fall AND January 24, 2014 for Spring/Summer).

For questions about graduate assistant eligibility, contact Jane Schneider.

New Video Tutorials

We've produced several short screencasts to assist you in your graduate degree. Titles so far include 1) Preparing Your Memorandum of Coursesfor Master's degree students—and 2) Creating a Program of Studies for doctoral degree students. The screencasts run less than five minutes and are acclaimed by many international and domestic graduate students.

Call for Award Nominations

The Office of Graduate Studies requests nominations for two annual award programs: 1) the Graduate Recognition Awards and 2) the Folsom Awards.

The Graduate Recognition Awards program is constituted of three separate awards:
  1. The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Education Award honors faculty members whose dedication to graduate students and commitment to excellence in graduate mentoring have made a significant contribution to graduate education at UNL.
  2. The Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant Award recognizes excellence in graduate student research at UNL.
  3. The Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award recognizes graduate teaching assistants who have demonstrated special effectiveness in teaching undergraduates at UNL.

Graduate Recognition Award nomination forms are due by 1:00 PM on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, and supporting materials from nominees and peer faculty must be submitted before 1:00 PM on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.

The Folsom Distinguished Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Awards recognize the outstanding research and creative accomplishments of UNL graduate students. These awards are made possible through a generous gift from the family of Lowe R. and Mavis M. Folsom to the University of Nebraska Foundation. We are grateful to the Folsom family and the University of Nebraska Foundation for providing this opportunity to showcase the important scholarly contributions made by our graduate students.

Folsom Award nomination forms are due by 1:00 PM, Wednesday, October 23, 2013.

    Award recipients will be honored at a reception in the Spring semester. See a list of previous recipients.


    Campuswide Workshops for Graduate Teaching Assistants
    The 23rd Annual Campuswide Workshops event is scheduled for Tuesday, August 20, in the Nebraska Union. The program features Dr. Therese Huston, author of Teaching What You Don't Know, and also includes various teaching skills sessions, a lunch buffet, and a set of disciplinary breakout sessions. The workshops provide an exciting and energizing start to the fall semester for both new and experienced teaching assistants, complement department-specific instructional training, and offer you an opportunity to meet and interact with other teaching assistants across campus. Pre-register now!

    Fall Welcome Events — Friday, August 23, 2013

    Learn about the culture of graduate education, meet fellow graduate students, and collect information about campus and community services and resources.

    International Graduate Student Orientation, 9:00–10:45 AM

    New and transfer international students should check-in for this event at the Nebraska Union from 8:30–9:00 AM, followed by various presentations and orientation activities.

    New Graduate Student Welcome, 11:00 AM–12:00 PM

    ALL new graduate students, international and domestic, are invited to this session. Meet fellow students and learn more about the resources available at UNL and in the community to help ease your transition into graduate school.

    The remainder of the day's events also include lunch and some small-group information sessions, an optional campus tour, and a Meet-and-Greet Social at Old Chicago restaurant at 7 PM. See the Graduate Studies website for full details.

    Doctoral Graduation Information Sessions

    If you're planning to graduate in December 2013 or May 2014, be sure to attend one of the upcoming information sessions. You’ll learn about the necessary forms, where to find them and when to submit them in order to graduate on time. We’ll “walk” you backwards from your graduation date, explaining the process and identifying the tasks you’ll need to complete to graduate.

    You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions regarding the process for applying to graduation, the graduation ceremony, and other graduation-related topics. 

    Pre-register online for one of the following sessions:

      • Monday, September 9, 5:30 PM, Nebraska Union, City Campus
      • Wednesday, September 11, 12:00 PM, East Campus Union
      • Thursday, September 12, 5:30 PM, Nebraska Union, City Campus

    If you need to attend, but are unable to make any of these sessions, contact Eva Bachman for more information on a video presentation.

    Academic Integrity Week

    This event promotes conducting research, writing, and teaching with integrity and honesty. Panel discussions and brown bag sessions are held throughout the week on topics such as what to do when academic dishonesty is suspected, the ethics of conducting research on humans, and avoiding plagiarism in writing. Co-sponsors include the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Office of Graduate Studies, the Office of Research & Economic Development, and the Center for the Teaching & Study of Applied Ethics.

    Check the Academic Integrity Week webpage for updates in the coming weeks.

    Dissertation Writing Groups

    Are you writing a dissertation and want support from a writing group? The Office of Graduate Studies will be hosting sessions about dissertation writing, including dealing with writer's block and how to work effectively with a small writing group. A kick-off event will be held on Wednesday, September 25th, from 10:00–11:00 AM in the Nebraska Union. During the session, we'll introduce you to the goals of a dissertation writing group, create small working groups and provide information for making your group successful. There will be an opportunity to network with your groups during the meeting. Cookies and beverages will be provided.

    Topics we plan to discuss include:

      • Getting organized
      • Developing a plan
      • Working more effectively
      • Dealing with obstacles
      • Giving and receiving peer support
      • Identifying campus resources

    All doctoral candidates are welcome to participate, but must preregister by Thursday, September 12, 2013. Contact Eva Bachman for more information.

    Graduate Student Writing Workshop

    All graduate students are welcome to attend a workshop on Outlining and Writing, from 10:00 – 11:30 AM on Thursday, November 14. Dr. Rick Lombardo from the Office of Graduate Studies will present on how to communicate clearly and effectively in your writing. Register for this workshop by Monday, November 11.

    NUgrant Training Sessions

    The Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) is offering training sessions for faculty, students, and researchers: 1) the basics of filing IRB protocols through NUgrant, and 2) the newly released Interest and Outside Activity Reporting Form. For more information and to register, visit the NURAMP page.

    Graduate Student Accomplishments

    UNL Graduate Fellowship Recipients

    Kudos to the six graduate students selected for 2013-14 Presidential and Fling Fellowships!

    The Presidential fellows will receive a $24,000 stipend, health insurance, and tuition and fee benefits:

    • Anna Bellatorre, Ph.D. student in Sociology
    • Thomas Moody, Ph.D. student in English
    • Pradhumna Shrestha, Ph.D. student in Computer and Electronics Engineering

    The Fling fellows will receive a $20,000 stipend, health insurance, and tuition and fee benefits

    • Theodore Bartholomew, Ph.D. student in psychological studies in education
    • Marie Chelini, Ph.D. student in biological sciences
    • Charles Davidson, Ph.D. student in psychology

    The application for funding for the 2014-2015 academic year begins the first week of December 2013 and closes the first week of February 2014. If you want to apply, you can start getting materials ready by viewing last year’s application.

    2013 SIG Outstanding Mixed Methods Dissertation Award

    Michelle C. Howell Smith's dissertation, "Factors that Facilitate or Inhibit Interest of Domestic Students in the Engineering PhD: A Mixed Methods Study," received the f2013 SIG Outstanding Mixed Methods Dissertation Award. Her dissertation committee chair was Dr. Ellen Weissinger.


    Funding Opportunities August 2013

    The UNL Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) maintains a list of all current funding opportunities. Send a subscription request to ORED to receive weekly announcements of funding opportunities in a wide variety of fields of study.
    AAUW Fellowships

    The American Association of University Women awards Selected Professions Fellowships to women who intend to pursue a full-time course of study at accredited U.S. institutions during the fellowship year in one of the designated degree programs where women's participation traditionally has been low: Architecture, Computer/Information Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics/Statistics.

    The AAUW’s American Fellowships support women doctoral candidates completing dissertations or scholars seeking funds for postdoctoral research leave from accredited institutions. Online application information for both programs will be available August 1, 2013.

    NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Graduate Fellowship Program

    The NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Graduate Fellowship Program seeks to support the development of the future STEM workforce through the increased number of graduate degrees awarded to underrepresented and underserved persons (women, minorities and persons with disabilities) in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The goal is to address the agency mission-specific workforce needs and target areas of national need in minority STEM representation. The fellowship award includes tuition offset, student stipend, and NASA center research opportunities.

    Deadline: August 9, 2013 (abstract); September 3, 2013 (full proposal)

    Award: $24,000 (annual; PhD Fellows); $18,000 (annual; Master's Fellows)

    American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) Outstanding Dissertations Competition

    This competition is open to anyone who has completed a dissertation that focuses on Hispanics in higher education or to any Hispanic who has completed a dissertation in the social sciences between December 2011 and August 1, 2013. Dissertations are eligible if they are in domains related to the Educational Testing Services corporate mission, including education, linguistics, psychology, statistics, testing, and so forth.

    Dissertations in the humanities, sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics are not eligible.

    Deadline: August 23, 2013

    Award: $5,000, $2,000, and $1,000

    LeGuin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship

    The Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship funds research on the collections of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, Jessica Salmonson, and Damon Knight. Undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty members, and independent scholars are encouraged to apply.

    Deadline: September 1, 2013

    Award: up to $3,000

    East European Studies Short-Term Research Scholarships

    The Wilson Center's European Studies Program is now accepting applications from academic experts, including graduate students, who require access to research institutions in Washington, DC.

    Funding covers research on the following countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Projects should focus on fields in the social sciences and humanities including, but not limited to: Anthropology, History, Political Science, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Sociology.

    Grants are for one month

    Deadline: March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1

    American Educational Research Association Dissertation Grants

    The AERA Minority Dissertation Fellowship in Education Research Program offers doctoral fellowships to enhance the competitiveness of outstanding minority scholars for academic appointments at major research universities.

    Dissertation Grants are available for advanced doctoral students and are intended to support the student while writing the doctoral dissertation. Applications are encouraged from a variety of disciplines, such as but not limited to, education, sociology, economics, psychology, demography, statistics, and psychometrics.

    Deadline: September 5, 2013

    Award: up to $20,000 for a one-year project

    Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program

    The Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program is designed to engage early career individuals in the analytical processes that inform U.S. science and technology policy. Fellows obtain the essential skills and knowledge needed to work in science and technology policy at the federal, state, or local levels. Fellows spend 12 weeks at the National Academies in Washington, DC learning about science and technology policy and the role that scientists and engineers play in advising the nation.

    Each year, applicants from around the world become part of a National Academies committee, board, or unit. Each fellow is assigned to a senior staff member who acts as his or her mentor. The mentor provides guidance and ensures that the fellow’s time is focused on substantive projects and activities within the fellow’s assigned unit. An immersive experience, the program is designed to broaden fellows’ appreciation of employment opportunities outside academia and leave them with both a firm grasp of the important and dynamic role of science and technology in decision-making and a better understanding of the role that they can play in strengthening the science and technology enterprise for the betterment of mankind.

    Deadline: September 5, 2013

    Award: $8,500

    American Water Works Academic Achievement Award

    The Academic Achievement Award encourages academic excellence by recognizing contributions to the field of public water supply. All master’s theses and doctoral dissertations relevant to the water supply industry are eligible. The manuscript must reflect the work of a single author and be submitted during the competition year in which it was submitted for the degree.

    Deadline: October 1, 2013

    Award: Doctoral dissertation: First, $3,000; Second, $1,500; Master’s thesis: First, $3,000; Second, $1,500

    Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (DDIG)

    The National Science Foundation awards Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in selected areas of the biological sciences. Proposals must fall within the scope of any of the clusters in the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) or the Behavioral Systems Cluster in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). These grants provide partial support of doctoral dissertation research for improvement beyond the already existing project. Allowed are costs for doctoral candidates to participate in scientific meetings, to conduct research in specialized facilities or field settings, and to expand an existing body of dissertation research.

    A student must have advanced to candidacy for a Ph.D. degree before the submission deadline to be eligible to submit a proposal.

    Deadline: October 10, 2013

    Award: Approximately $1,600,000 will be divided among 100 to 120 awards, pending funding

    Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art

    Henry Luce Foundation and American Council of Learned Socieites offer the Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art to graduate students in any stage of Ph.D. dissertation research or writing. Updated program information will be available in late July.

    Deadline: October 23, 2013

    Award: $25,000plus $2,000 travel allowance

    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowships

    The ACLS invites applications for the eighth annual competition for the Mellon/ACLS dissertation completion fellowships for graduate students in the humanities and related social sciences. Applicants must be prepared to complete their dissertations within the period of their fellowship tenure and no later than August 31, 2015.

    Deadline: October 23, 2013

    Award: up to $33,000

    The Rome Prize

    The Rome Prize is awarded to thirty artists and humanities scholars annually by the American Academy in Rome. Fields represented include architecture, design, historic preservation and conservation, landscape architecture, literature, musical composition, visual arts, ancient studies, medieval studies, Renaissance and Early Modern studies, and Modern Italian studies.

    There is a $30 application fee for one application and a $40 application fee for two or more applications.

    Deadline: November 1, 2013

    Award: $15,000 for six months or $27,000 for eleven months

    Alfred D. Chandler Jr. Travel Fellowships

    The Alfred D. Chandler Jr. Travel Fellowships fund research for graduate students or nontenured faculty in history, economics, or business administration from other universities whose research requires travel to Baker Library at Harvard Business School and other local archives.

    Deadline: November 1, 2013

    Award: up to $3000

    Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship

    The Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies invites applications for postdoctoral fellowships for the 2014-2015 academic year on the theme of "New Perspectives on the Origins, Context, and Diffusion of the Academic Study of Judaism."

    The Katz Center invites applications from scholars in the humanities and social sciences at all levels, as well as outstanding graduate students in the final stage of writing their dissertations to apply for this fellowship. Stipend amounts are based on a fellow’s academic standing and financial need with a maximum of $50,000 for the academic year.

    Deadline: November 10, 2013

    Award: up to $50,000 for the academic year

    National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

    The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The 2014 NSF GRFP competition will open around August 2013.

    For general guidance, please view the 2013 Program Solicitation, but be sure to see the 2014 Program Solicitation when it becomes available, for the most up-to-date information about the 2013 GRFP.

    Deadline: mid-November 2013 (varies by discipline)

    Award: $32,000 annually for three years

    National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowships

    NDSEG Fellowships are awarded to applicants who will pursue a doctoral degree in, or closely related to, an area of DoD interest within one of 15 disciplines in the STEM fields.

    The online application for the 2014 fellowship will be available in September 2013. For general guidance, review the 2013 fellowship application information at the NDSEG website.

    Deadline: December

    Award: Annual stipend for three years – first year: $30,500; second year: $31,000; third year: $31,500; plus full tuition and required fees

    The Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship

    Intended for students who have completed at least one year of graduate studies and who intend to pursue a PhD in musicology, the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship aims to increase the presence of minority scholars and teachers in musicology. The fellowship supports one year of graduate work for a student at a U.S. or Canadian university who is a member of an historically underrepresented group, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.

    Deadline: December 16, 2013

    Award: $20,000 for one year of full-time study

    Boren Fellowships

    Boren Fellowships provide U.S. graduate students the opportunity to add an important international and language component to their graduate education through specialization in area study, language study, or increased language proficiency. The program focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. Boren Fellowship awards are made for a minimum of 12 weeks and maximum of 24 months. Overseas programs can be no longer than one year.

    The online application for the 2013 fellowship will be available in late summer.

    For general guidance, review the 2013 fellowship application information at the Boren website.

    Deadline: January 28, 2014

    Award: up to $24,000 for overseas study, plus limited funding for domestic language study to supplement the overseas component, for a maximum award of $30,000.

    AAPG Rodney A. Bernasek Memorial Grant

    The Rodney A. Bernasek Memorial Grant is awarded annually by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation to a graduate student studying geology at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    The AAPG also sponsors a number of other grants for which UNL geology graduate students may be eligible.

    Deadline: January 31, 2014

    Award: $2,000

    Hayek Fund for Scholars

    The Hayek Fund awards career development grants to students and untenured scholars for travel, application fees, conference fees, and other career-related expenses such as:

    Deadline: Four weeks in advance of activity

    Award: up to $750

    NSF SBE Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (SBE DDRIG)

    The National Science Foundation's Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES), the SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (SMA) and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) award grants to doctoral students to improve the quality of dissertation research. These grants provide funds for items not normally available through the student's university. Additionally, these grants allow doctoral students to undertake significant data-gathering projects and to conduct field and archival research in settings away from their campus that would not otherwise be possible.

    Funded disciplines include STEM fields and the Social Sciences, including but not limited to: Political Science, Biological Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society.

    Deadline: Rolling and dependent on discipline

    Award: $2,500,000 will be divided among 200-300 awards

    Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Dissertation Fellowship Program

    The Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship Program awards up to 15 dissertation fellowship grants of $20,000 annually to Ph.D., D.B.A., or other doctoral students at accredited U.S. universities to support dissertations in the area of entrepreneurship.

    Deadline: ongoing

    Award: $20,000