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Graduate School Presidential Dissertation Fellowship in the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Social Professions

2024-25 nomination deadline: Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at noon (12 p.m. PT). 

The Graduate School Presidential Dissertation Fellowship assists Ph.D. candidates in the final stages of writing their dissertations. The 2024–25 Dissertation Fellowship is offered with the support of the University President and includes one quarter of UW state tuition and fees, GAIP insurance, and a stipend at the Predoctoral TA II rate (currently $3,076 per month). Each unit listed at the end of this announcement may submit ONE nominee.  

Eligibility

  • Must have passed the General Examination and attained Ph.D. candidate status at the time of nomination.
  • Must have demonstrated progress on the dissertation that indicates completion by the end of Summer Quarter 2025 or sooner.
  • Must be in a tuition-based program; students in fee-based programs are not eligible.
  • Must not have received another dissertation fellowship from the Graduate School (e.g., Gatzert, GSEE)

Application Process

Award requests are made to the Graduate School by departments. Students wishing to be considered for this opportunity should contact their Graduate Program Adviser.

Eligible programs for the Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship competition:

Arts and Humanities Social Sciences and Social Professions
Art History
Asian Languages and Literature
Classics
Comparative Literature
Digital Arts and Experimental Media
Drama
English
French and Italian Studies
Germanics
History
Individual Ph.D. Program
Linguistics
Music
Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Philosophy
Scandinavian Studies
Slavic Languages and Literature
Spanish and Portuguese
Anthropology
Business School*
Built Environment*
Communication
Economics
Education
Environmental and Forest Resources*
Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies
Geography
History
Human Centered Design and Engineering*
Individual Ph.D. Program
Information School*
International Studies (Jackson School)
Law
Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Philosophy
Political Science
Psychology*
Public Affairs
Social Work
Sociology
Speech and Hearing Sciences*
Urban Design and Planning
*Social sciences emphasis only 

Questions?

Contact the Office of Fellowships & Awards.

Return to List of Fellowships

Getting Started in a Lab

If you are a new graduate student in the sciences, you will rotate through several labs during your first year at the University of Washington. Your challenge is to find the right lab for you — one that best matches your intellectual interests and that helps prepare you for your career.

How to get started in a lab

  • Sample a range of lab environments and cultures. Find a lab that will help you develop as a researcher.

Find out what the ground rules and expectations are.

  • How many hours are you expected to be in the lab? (Remember that research is not a 9 to 5 job; you should look forward to hanging out in the lab—but also make sure you know specific expectations for your time).
  • What’s the definition of “progress” in lab work? What’s the definition of progress in graduate work in your discipline?

Look for opportunities that will benefit your career.

  • Will you have an opportunity to publish?
  • Will you get credit—as an author, co-author—for the work you do in the lab? Will your intellectual work really be your own? Seek a lab that gives ownership of your ideas to you.
  • Will you have a chance to push beyond the boundaries of particular grants?
  • Will you be able to collaborate with other labs?

Be smart.

  • The best lab is not necessarily the one that pays the most.
  • Success is not always about being comfortable— so look for a lab where you will be pushed a bit.

How to evaluate labs

Both established and new labs have great merit.

  • In an established lab, find out: What’s the lab’s track record? Where have people ended up working after their lab experience?
  • Recognize that some younger faculty—who do not have well established labs and therefore do not have the same track record as established labs—often bring the newest ideas to the discipline and are often willing to spend time with graduate students. Such labs might be a better place to try new things.
  • Where do people in the lab publish? In top-tier journals?
  • Ask other students about the labs.
  • Trust your instincts.

Be clear about your own expectations for mentorship in a lab.

  • How often would you like to meet with faculty mentors? (Make sure that the time you request is for the most pressing matters; don’t waste time on minor details that you can find out elsewhere).
  • Can you get on the mentor’s calendar? (Ask other graduate students in the lab about the nature and extent of mentorship).

Make good use of your lab work: Publish early and publish often.

  • Publications are the currency of success.
  • Publications are a guaranteed path to a relatively carefree thesis preparation.

How to succeed in a lab

  • Participation is the key to any successful lab. A successful lab draws on a variety of skills, so contribute.
  • Recognize that a good lab is one with mutual mentorship; that means you need to contribute, too. As a first-year student, you may well have expertise that others in the lab don’t have. Be a good citizen; contribute the work. Recognize that you have the potential to be a valuable contributor from the very first day you walk in the door.
  • Learn from others and support others in the lab. Recognize the expertise of all of your lab colleagues (faculty, visiting scientists, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, and even high school students).
  • During your first year, complete at least one research paper.

by Tom Daniel, professor, Biology

Succeeding in a Graduate Seminar

Some of your most important and impression-forming interactions with your classmates and professors occur in graduate seminars. Your stellar performance in graduate seminars is paramount to your success in the graduate program. Graduate seminars are the building blocks for your knowledge in the field and in graduate school.

How to succeed in a graduate seminar

Prepare for class

Do the reading. All of it. But don’t stop there. Annotate your reading. Ask questions of the text in the margins. Maybe even type up your notes. Always consider what’s at stake in the reading, how the reading informs your understanding of the class themes, other course materials, the methods, the content. How does the reading relate to your own burgeoning research questions?

Come to class with questions and discussion points. If you are reticent about speaking in class, recruit a friend to chat about your ideas for five minutes the day before class. Do not, however, memorize one point in the reading so that you make your one perfunctory comment in class. Everyone is on to that game!

In class

Do your part to help foster community. This means: Listen. Participate fully. Be respectful.

Showcase your intellectual curiosity by engaging with all types of ideas, not just the ones in your designated area of study.

When you speak, remember to look at your classmates, not exclusively at the professor.

Use your breadth of knowledge — connect the readings to other readings in your class and other out-of-class readings. Feel free to apply the readings or theme of the day to your project, but don’t be so focused on utilitarian knowledge that you fail to engage fully with all of the issues at hand.

Do not fall into the trap of wholesale skewering the reading of the week. This is intellectually lazy. The work must have some redeeming value if the professor has chosen to assign it. Even if you want to make a serious critique of the reading you should attempt to articulate its contributions/interventions as well as limitations.

Writing

Turn in all writing assignments on time. Do not save your seminar papers for the last week of class. Begin generating ideas the first week of class. Talk about your ideas with your classmates and your professor. If the professor has not given you a series of deadlines, create deadlines for yourself (i.e., identify paper topic in the third week of class, generate working bibliography in the fourth week of class, create abstract in the fifth week, write your first draft in the sixth week, etc.).

Graduate seminars are your first practice attempts at being a scholar. It should be fun to engage with ideas. Be prepared to spar respectfully — and always be prepared!

by Ralina Joseph, professor, Communication

Intentional Career Planning

No matter what career you plan to pursue after earning your graduate degree, being proactive in the career development process and using your time strategically while enrolled in graduate school will enhance your career success. Getting an early start with the steps outlined below can prove instrumental to success, and can make the difference between falling into a job because it’s available—and finding an intentional match that meets your professional desires.

Orientation (beginning of your program)

Orient yourself to the career and professional development resources offered by:

  • Your department
  • Career Center
  • Alumni Association
  • Graduate School
  • Counseling Center
  • Library system
  • Many other centers, offices, and programs

Self assessment (beginning of your program and beyond)

Learn more about who you are and what you want out of life. It’s important to know your:

  • Strengths
  • Work & life values
  • Decision-making style
  • Interests
  • Sources of motivation
  • Geographic preferences

Career exploration (beginning and middle of your program)

Learn more about the career paths you are considering. Be sure to explore:

  • Different employment sectors that offer careers that interest you (academia, corporate, non-profit, government, self-employment, etc.)
  • A variety of job titles and responsibilities
  • Salary and job outlook information

Try exploring careers using three methods

  • Reading about careers
  • Talking to people in careers that interest you (informational interviews)
  • Experiencing careers (volunteering, internships, etc.)

Focus on the essentials (middle of your program)

Get serious about making yourself marketable for career paths of interest. Secure the necessary:

  • Coursework
  • Experiences
  • Skills
  • Contacts

Job market preparation (middle and end of your program)

Start preparing yourself for the job market. Do what it takes to feel confident about your:

  • Job search plan
  • Cover letter
  • Interviewing skills
  • Résumé or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Portfolio
  • Negotiating skills

Job search preliminaries (9–12 months prior to degree completion)

Look for employment using a variety of strategies.

  • Asking professors, classmates, alumni, colleagues, and contacts for referrals
  • Connecting with and joining professional organizations
  • Applying to campus, general, and niche job boards
  • Attending career fairs and similar events

Transition to a job/start a career (end of your program)

Prepare to exit the university and start another adventure.

  • Thank those who helped you in your academic success and your job search
  • Read books, attend workshops, and participate in groups related to the transition process
  • Start your new job
  • Reflect on your job responsibilities, work environment, standard of living, relationships, mental and physical health, and leisure activities

References

http://web.mit.edu/career/www/graduate/timelines.html http://cardinalcareers.stanford.edu/communities/graduate/ guides.html
http://www.career.uci.edu/Graduate/graduate_ GetStartedEarly.aspx

by Briana K. Randall, associate director, UW Career Center

Preparing for Your Career

Planning for the right type of job

Start early. Finding time to devote to your career planning is not easy. But early exploration and preparation are crucial for later success.

Think broadly. Explore different ways to use your graduate degree. In addition to teaching and research inside and outside of the academy, consider jobs in government, the non-profit sector, and industry. Informational interviews with people in different jobs and working in different kinds of institutions can help you make the career decisions that are best for you. Following the business press (e.g., The Wall Street Journal) or trade publications specific to your discipline can help you learn about many issues relevant to your chosen field and what trends are shaping that field.

Understand what you want. The best job is one that is right for you. Know what you want out of your career — in academia or elsewhere. Have a career vision and link your goals to the preparation that you will need for being a standout candidate. Having a career plan will help you think about which publications, presentations, and activities you can do to show that you are right for the type of job that you want.

Position yourself for the market. Focus on cultivating professional relationships with your committee members, demonstrating professionalism to them, and doing quality work—regardless of the type of job you want to secure. After all, your committee members and references are asked to comment on multiple facets of you as an applicant, not just your writing, research, teaching, or organizational skills.

Planning for an academic job

The above principles apply especially to academic jobs, the preparation for which involves very long cycles. Decisions about research presentations and publications need to be made years before you go on the market. For example, in order to give a presentation on your dissertation research before you go on the market, you will need to have a paper ready for submission often a full year before job application deadlines. To have an article listed on your vita for the academic job market as “in press,” it should be under review by the January before you go on the market at the very latest. Cultivating a professional reputation in the field, in advance, will help you significantly when you go on the market.

Successful academic searches

Match skills and interests to the position. Early planning will help you get your ideal job. Interested in research-oriented positions? Having a publication record of your own and collaborating with faculty will help you here. Demonstrate distinction in teaching as well as research on your vita. Want to stay open to industry? Working on consulting projects during graduate school will help you build a portfolio of projects and skills that translate easily outside of the academy.

Communicate clearly and effectively. Each advertised academic job can yield more than 100 applications. Help the search committee understand what you might bring to the department, what makes your work interesting, and how you fit the advertised position—don’t make busy people hunt for buried information. Compelling cover letters are crucial! Work with your advisers on the best way to communicate your skills, achievements, and interests in your application materials. Pay particular attention to grammar, style, and formatting in all materials as your attention to details reflects upon your ability to be a professional scholar.

Help your letter writers help you. By communicating your interests clearly, providing copies of materials, and allow- ing ample time, you can help your letter writers write better, more detailed recommendations for you. Remember, we’re all busy—make sure you help your letter writers understand your deadlines and give them ample time to do a good job. Be sure to ask your chair for personal introductions to people at the schools where you are applying.

Remember: It’s about the fit

Hopefully your job search will be successful the first time out. If it isn’t—don’t despair! Use the time to push yourself back into your work and into the preparation for the next cycle of applications. Remember, this is a process that matches your skills and interests with the needs of an organization or department—it might take a while to find the perfect job match for you.

by Gina Neff, associate professor, Communication

Forming an Interdisciplinary Dissertation Committee

Doctoral students in interdisciplinary programs face unique challenges in forming dissertation committees. Based on our experience as directors of three such programs (Public Health Genetics, Urban Design and Planning, and Astrobiology), we offer the following suggestions.

Your first challenge

Find the optimal set of members — especially the right chair (or two co-chairs) for your committee. Committee members need to:

  • be the best match for your intellectual interests
  • have the expertise to help you succeed in designing and completing your dissertation
  • be able to help you prepare for your career

In planning for a dissertation, you should consult extensively with faculty members in your program for guidance about:

  • potential research questions
  • planning/timing methodology
  • potential committee members

The role of the committee

The final decision about the appropriate content of your project rests with the dissertation supervisory committee. You should work closely with the committee (especially the chair) to determine your project’s scope and content. The committee will guide your research and should meet regularly with you. Being sure you and your committee agree on what is meant by “regular” meetings is also a good idea. You may find it useful to meet individually with the members and obtain their feedback at several stages of your dissertation process. The interdisciplinary nature of your work may require that feedback at an advanced stage of your dissertation will be provided by the committee in an integrated form. You may want to discuss with your chair how the committee could produce a collective memo integrating their shared feedback.

The composition of dissertation committees

The dissertation supervisory committee must have at least four members, including the chair and the Graduate School representative (GSR). At least three committee members (including the chair and the GSR) must be UW graduate faculty members with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees; a majority of your committee members must be graduate faculty members, identifiable through the Graduate Faculty Locator.

Committee members should include faculty expertise in your dissertation’s core fields. You might consider having five members, especially if your project involves different disciplines requiring advice and guidance in all areas. Four committee members must attend general and final exams — so having five on your committee provides flexibility if one member cannot attend. However, having more than four committee members may make it more difficult for them to find time to work together.

Selecting a Graduate School representative

You must select the Graduate School representative for your committee by consulting with your chair, other committee members, and/or program directors. The GSR votes and represents the interests of the Graduate School. GSR requirements:

  • be a graduate faculty member
  • have an endorsement to chair doctoral committees
  • no conflict of interest with you or your committee chair

Also, the GSR may not have an official faculty appointment within your committee chair’s department(s) or the department in which your program is housed. This can be challenging for students in interdisciplinary programs. Exceptions to this rule can be made, with appropriate justification, by petition to the dean of the Graduate School.

by Professor Emeritus Melissa Austin, Public Health Genetics; Marina Alberti, professor, Urban Design and Planning; and Woody Sullivan, professor, Astrobiology