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L&S Handbook on AOFs

The following document serves as a handbook to L&S Departments on Advanced Opportunity Fellowships (AOFs).

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. Strong faculty and peer support augment the funding provided by the fellowship. GRS communities also offer a wealth of assistance to underrepresented graduate students through individual advising and referrals to campus resources.

College of L&S administers the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF) 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. Applicants whose GWIS record does not contain the flag are eligible to be nominated for the fellowship if the academic program believes the student would find the GRS cohort-based experience valuable.

L&S AOF Support Guarantee Details

L&S Guarantee of Support

L&S C-GRS will guarantee at least one year of incoming support for one qualified new graduate student per L&S department.

  • For prospective doctoral and professional master’s students, L&S will guarantee a second year of support when the student EITHER
    • (i) becomes a dissertator or
    • (ii) enters the final year of their professional master’s program.
  • Funding includes full tuition, segregated fees, health insurance eligibility, and stipend, set by the Graduate School, worth:
    • $23,727: Academic Year (9 month) appointment (Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities)
    • $29,000: Annual Year (12 month) appointment (Natural, Physical & Mathematical Sciences and Computer, Data & Information Sciences)
  • Students accepting an AOF offer must participate in the L&S Community of Graduate Research Scholars (L&S C-GRS) program.

Department Guarantee of Support

Department support must guarantee funding for at least:

  • One year for MA/MS students (in addition to the L&S AOF support)
  • Three years for PhD students (in addition to the L&S AOF support)
  • This funding support must be part of a full graduate student support package. The number of years guaranteed must be aligned with the department’s established practice. The anticipated means of support (TA, PA, RA, etc.) must be indicated on the nomination form.

L&S AOF Nomination Process

In early Spring, L&S departments will receive communications with further details and deadlines. The general outline of the processes is listed below both for new graduate students and continuing AOF students.

Nominating New Graduate Students for AOF

The nomination form and technical instructions are available on the Gateway:

  • AOF 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.
  • After the department's submission, L&S will review and approve the department's ranked nominee lists. However the department is only authorized to make an offer to one student for the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship at a time.
    • If the offer is not accepted, the department may make an offer to the next nominee on their approved list.
    • If you exhaust the approved list and none of the offers were accepted, please let us know right away. We may be able to allocate the unused funds to another department.
    • Departments may use their own funds to match AOF terms to recruit graduate students. This will allow them to make multiple offers.
  • 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 with the update and whether or not they wish to have housing priority.

Updating Information for Continuing AOF Students

In early spring Departments will receive a spreadsheet with information about their department’s AOF students. These updates must be submitted before L&S can review your new nominations.

Please note: Continuing students are eligible to receive their second year of AOF funding in an academic year if they will either

  • Achieve dissertator status in a in a PhD program by the first day of the fall semester of that academic year or
  • will be entering their second year in a professional master’s program in the fall semester of that academic year.

Appointment Letters

All AOFs (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.

Department AOF Checklist

New Incoming Students

  • Recruit incoming AOF eligible students-recruiting season
  • Submit ranked list of nominated students-recruiting season
  • Send offer letter to the prospective incoming student-recruiting season
  • Admit the student-recruiting season
  • Update L&S with final acceptance and declines-April 15-20

Continuing Students

  • Review and update list of eligible AOF continuing students-Early winter

Incoming and Continuing Students

  • Respond to L&S’s message that will include updated information about the incoming and continuing AOF students for the upcoming academic year and confirm the list of incoming and continuing AOF students-Early to Mid May
  • Report any changes for continuing or incoming students AOF fellows as they come up.

Additional Departmental Responsibilities

L&S has a vested interest in the progress of those scholars receiving the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship. In an effort to better track our fellows’ progress through their respective departments we ask that departments apprise L&S in the event that their fellows begin experiencing difficulties that hinder their academic progress. If a department becomes aware of such difficulties or of a fellow’s intention to leave their department (or the University of Wisconsin system in general), that department should immediately make this known to Erika Marin-Spiotta ( 

Contacts for L&S

  • Erika Marin-Spiotta, Faculty Director of L&S CGRS at 

See Also:

Keywords:AOF,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 ID:108211
Owner:Laura D.Group:L&S KB
Created:2021-01-08 12:38 CSTUpdated:2022-05-11 10:29 CST
Sites:L&S KB
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