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Forest and Wildlife Ecology - Department Policies - State-funded Graduate Research Assistantships

Policy and procedures for distribution of state-funded graduate research assistantships; includes process for allocation

As of 2015-2016 academic year, the Department was allocated approximately four 101-funded research assistantships (RAs). We recognize the high importance of this allocation of these RAs in that they cover both fringe benefits and tuition remission, in contrast to those funded by other sources. The purpose of this policy is to outline their allocation for the benefit of the Department. 

Highest priority
When new faculty hires occur, one three-year RA is typically part of the start-up package.  This use trumps all other uses. However, other funds may substitute when they are available and appropriate (e.g., gift funds dedicate to graduate support).

Assuming that all RAs are not allocated to faculty start-ups, distribution will be as follows.

Chair’s discretion
One RA is annually allocated to the Department Chair for “hardship” cases. Decisions regarding distribution are at the discretion of the Chair. There is no regular call and interested faculty should make requests directly to the Chair. The Chair shall report on such allocations annually.

Department priorities
The remaining RAs (three or fewer) shall be allocated competitively to any of three equally important priority areas: faculty collaboration on major research grants, (2) increasing graduate student diversity, and (3) recruiting top-flight graduate students. The Graduate Affairs Committee, in consultation with the Chair, is responsible for allocation decisions. The application process is detailed for each is described in the next section. Priority in all three will be given to proposals that support students in the Forestry and Wildlife Ecology graduate programs.
  • Faculty collaboration on major research grants – the Department will provide up to two years RA support as an insurance for teams of at least two Forest and Wildlife Ecology faculty that have submitted or are planning to submit a major collaborative competitive proposal (defined as one that funds at least one student for three years, or brings in more than $250,000; Hatch and McIntire-Stennis are excluded) to an external funding organization. To be eligible to receive this support, faculty teams requesting departmental support must secure an award as part of the the Graduate School Fall Research competition as insurance for one year of student support as well.  Together, the GS and Department RA awards will provide insurance for three years of student support: enough to hire a student on the project.  If the Graduate Affairs Committee selects a project for an RA allocation, Department support will not be granted if (a) the full proposal is funded, or (b) the full proposal is not submitted.  If the major collaborative proposal is funded by the second or third year, Department support will be deemed no longer necessary.
  • Increasing graduate student diversity – The Department will provide two years of RA support for an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF) eligible MS and PhD student to match the two years that the AOF program provides, as long as the major advisor provides one year of additional RA or TA support, and reasonable research and professional development expenses. Taken together, candidates from underrepresented groups under this arrangement can be offered a five-year package including full stipend and tuition, along with support for project expenses.
  • Recruiting top graduate students – Prospective PhD students starting in the Fall semester can apply for a two-year RA.  In addition to standard application materials, applicant will provide a list of publications. Prospective advisor(s) would provide addition details on complete funding picture to include subsequent RA or TA support, and reasonable research and professional development expenses. The focus here is on attracting the very best graduate students to our Department.

Application process
Faculty Collaboration Support
The faculty team submits their required materials by February 15. This include a one-page memo including a short description of the project for which insurance funds are sought and the funding source and program (if any), the proposal to the funding source, and the submitted Graduate School Fall Competition proposal.

Diversity and Academic Merit Application Process
  1. Candidates submit full application materials by February 1*. Merit candidates are also asked to provide a list of publications.
  2. Potential advisor(s) submit their required materials by February 15.
    1. For diversity candidates, a two-page memo outlining the advisor’s assessment of the candidate, general research plan, general budget, professional development, and funding plan (to include proposed sources to cover project expenses and advisor-provided one-year RA)
    2. For academic merit candidates, a two-page memo outlining the advisor’s assessment of the candidate, general research plan, general budget, and funding plan (to include proposed sources to cover project expenses, professional development, and advisor-provided RA support to complete program).

Review Process
An ad hoc review committee appointed by the Graduate Affairs Committee reviews all applications and prioritizes all applications for funding (recognizes that some applications may be deemed as “do not fund.” The Department Chair or her/his designee is a non-voting ex officio member of the review committee, whose role is to provide the latest information on and oversee spending and management of Department resources. The Chair will also be responsible for monitoring compliance with this policy and may reconvene the ad hoc review committee as needed.

The review and prioritization process must be completed by March 1 to allow for AOF consideration. Graduate students who might be funded will be notified by April 1. The Graduate Affairs Committee will report on allocations annually.

Unallocated RAs (or portions thereof) revert to the Chair as soon as possible for hardship and general distribution to avoid the RAs being lost when the budget year closes on June 30 and we cannot carry these dollars over”?
*This allows us to meet the second AOF deadline of March 1.

Key contact and responsible party: F&W Ecol. Chair and Graduate Affairs Committee

Process for updating or changing policy: Any formal policy would require action by the Department Faculty.

History of changes: Original policy was adopted in January 2016.

If you have questions about this policy, contact Mark Rickenbach.

Keywords:russell lab hub administration FWE forest wildlife ecology research assistantships graduate student support   Doc ID:59560
Owner:Mark R.Group:Russell Labs Hub
Created:2016-01-09 10:50 CDTUpdated:2016-01-13 14:09 CDT
Sites:Russell Labs Hub
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