L&S Handbook on AOFs

The following document serves as a handbook to L&S Departments on Advanced Opportunity Fellowships (AOFs), now administered by the Community of Graduate Research Scholars (CGRS) program in L&S. This information was updated June 2024.

Graduate Research Scholars (GRS) Fellowships and Communities

Graduate Research Scholar (GRS) communities are organized by the various schools and colleges within UW–Madison to support underrepresented students. These GRS Fellowships, with funding from the State of Wisconsin Advanced Opportunity Program and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, bring students together in GRS communities throughout their graduate school career for a range of social, academic, professional development, and research-related activities. In addition to fellowship funding and peer mentoring, GRS communities also offer a wealth of support through individual advising and referrals to campus resources.

The College of L&S administers the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF) under the Community of Graduate Research Scholars (CGRS) program for the L&S graduate programs.

AOF Eligibility Criteria

The UW System sets the eligibility criteria for the Advanced Opportunity Program and provides funding to the UW–Madison Graduate School to distribute to UW–Madison Schools and Colleges via the Graduate Research Scholar (GRS) Communities.

GRS Fellowships are competitive and merit-based. At a minimum, to be considered for GRS funding, students must be United States citizens or permanent residents and be admissible to a graduate program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Students on probation cannot receive GRS funding.). Beyond merit, preference is given to Wisconsin residents. Applicants should meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. McNair students: students who participated in a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program; OR
  2. Students from the following racial/ethnic groups:
    1. African American or Black
    2. American Indian or Alaskan Native
    3. Hispanic/Latino
    4. Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian, or Hmong
    5. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; OR
  3. Economically disadvantaged students:
    1. first-generation college students who participated in one of the following TRIO programs:
      1. Upward Bound
      2. Talent Search
      3. Educational Opportunities Centers
      4. Student Support Services
    2. first-generation college students who graduated from the PEOPLE Program; or 
    3. UW–Madison bachelor's degree recipients who were in the FASTrack or BANNER programs.

GRS-eligible applicants to graduate programs are identified in GWIS with a green AOF flag. 

Overview of L&S CGRS Program

The Letters & Science Community of Graduate Research Scholars (L&S CGRS) Program was established to recognize excellence in research and/or scholarship and to enhance the experiences and opportunities of graduate students from underrepresented groups in the College of Letters & Science (L&S). Advanced Opportunity Fellowships (AOF) are awarded through L&S CGRS. Funding through L&S CGRS is open to students pursuing both master's and PhD degrees through a competitive application process. In addition to providing funding, the program aims to support graduate student success through facilitating community gatherings of graduate scholars for peer support, providing professional development opportunities, and connecting fellows with resources on and off campus for their advancement as scholars. Read more about our program in the Orientation Handbook for Scholars and the Handbook for Departments.

What do we expect from Fellows?

  • Engage and participate in CGRS events, including attending monthly meetings
  • Contribute to building a community of peer scholars
  • Support each other!
  • Engage in their department community
  • Take advantage of resources to enhance their graduate career
  • Start building their professional and support network

What can Fellows expect from the CGRS program?

  • Fellowship funding support
  • Professional development to help navigate graduate school
  • Introduction to a community of peers
  • Access to other resources
  • Advocates within and beyond their department

L&S AOF Support Guarantee Details

L&S CGRS will guarantee one year of support for master's students and two years of support for PhD students. PhD students are eligible for the second year of support after achieving dissertator status. Starting Fall 2023, CGRS Fellows in all graduate programs will receive a 12-month appointment. 

  • Funding includes full tuition, segregated fees, health insurance eligibility, and stipend, set by the Graduate School.
    • See the AOF Resources page for up to date information on the stipend.
  • Students accepting an AOF offer must participate in the L&S Community of Graduate Research Scholars (L&S CGRS) program.

Department Guarantee of Support

Department support must guarantee funding for at least:

  • One year for master's students (in addition to the L&S AOF support).
  • Five years for PhD students (including two years of L&S AOF support).
  • CGRS funding support must be part of a full graduate student support package. The anticipated means of support (TA, PA, RA, etc.) must be indicated on the nomination form.

L&S CGRS Fellowship Nomination Process

In late Fall, L&S departments will receive communications with relevant details and deadlines for nominating incoming Fellows. All information on processes and timeline is available in the Handbook for Departments. This handbook gets reviewed and the timeline updated every year, so please note the version of the handbook.

Nominations for Incoming Graduate Students 

The nomination forms and instructions are available in the Handbook for Departments. (revised each Fall)

  • CGRS nominations must include a faculty mentor name for each nominee. This mentor is not required to be the student’s academic advisor, but will be tasked with tracking the student’s progress, particularly in their first year on campus, and will be the point of contact at regular intervals during the student’s course of graduate study.
  • The Council of Graduate School (CGS) states that we do not require students to accept their fellowship/assistantships prior to April 15.
  • When new students accept departments’ offers, a department representative will email cgrsadmin@ls.wisc.edu with the update and whether or not they wish to have housing priority.

Request for Continuing PhD Student Funding

The nomination forms and instructions are available in the Handbook for Departments.

Requests for the second year of CGRS funding must be submitted before L&S can review new nominations for your department or graduate program.

Note: The deadline for achieving dissertator status will be moving up earlier for students requesting a second year for 2024-25.

Offer Letters

All CGRS Fellows selected through the review process will receive offer letters. These letters will be drafted by L&S Administration and sent to departments in mid-to late February or mid-to-late March for distribution to fellows. Acceptance letters need to be received before appointment letters can be distributed. 

Appointment Letters

All CGRS Fellows (incoming and continuing) will receive appointment letters. These letters will be drafted by L&S Administration and sent to departments in early May for distribution to fellows.

Welcome Checks

Incoming Fellows are eligible for a $600 welcome check. Welcome checks are distributed by the Graduate School. Students must request the welcome checks via this process:
  1. Students must be enrolled in fall term. Once enrolled, they are able to set up their e-refund profile in their Student Center. 
  2. Students must then complete their direct deposit form (this is a separate direct deposit form from payroll). MyUW > Student Center > Financial Account > eRefund (Direct Deposit)
  3. If they are enrolled in direct deposit, they will receive the check that way. If not, the check will be mailed to the address they have on file. Students should also update their address in my student center to their Madison address.

Please contact Irina Diaz, Fellowship Manager for the Graduate School Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Funding, irina.diaz@wisc.edu if you have any questions about the welcome check distribution.


Department AOF Checklist

A detailed process checklist is available in the Handbook for Departments. 

Additional Departmental Responsibilities

The graduate program (student’s faculty advisor or graduate program coordinator) should notify CGRS right away of any changes in the student’s performance, timeline, enrollment, or degree program. Please contact us in a timely fashion as we may be able to identify additional resources to help our students make progress towards successful degree completion. If a department becomes aware of any challenges or of a fellow’s intention to leave their department (or the University of Wisconsin system in general), that department should immediately contact our Faculty Director (see below):

Contacts for L&S

  • Erika Marin-Spiotta, Faculty Director of L&S CGRS at cgrsadmin@ls.wisc.edu
  • Brenda Lynn Powles, L&S HR Manager at brenda.powles@wisc.edu

For more information

L&S AOF Resources

L&S CGRS Events 

KeywordsAOF,Advanced Opportunity Fellow, AOF Nomination, Nomination form, 2021-22,grad funding,AOF, Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, nomination forms, eligibility criteria, graduate student, stipend amounts, Community of Graduate Research Scholars, Resource Book, C-GRS, CGRS aofhandbook   Doc ID108211
OwnerLaura D.GroupL&S KB
Created2021-01-08 13:38:39Updated2024-06-05 13:36:14
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