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Conference and Research Funding

Guide for the Perplexed:

Applying for Conference and Research Funding

The department and university offer funding for activities that benefit your professional development, such as presenting at conferences and conducting research. Two of the most common sources of funding are the Student Support Grant and the Theology Fund for Graduate Student Development. This guide offers tips for making the most out of both sources.

Step One: Apply for GSA/GSAS Funding

The Graduate Student Association and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offer a Student Support Grant (SSG) to cover conference and research costs. You need to apply for the SSG to be eligible for departmental funding later. The money for this grant comes from your student fees, so think of this application as a chance to get your money back to further your research!

SSG requirements and deadlines differ by semester. For the most recent information, refer to this website. Deadlines are usually in November and March.

Keep the following tips in mind as you write your application:

  • In the Project Narrative:
    • Go beyond summarizing your conference presentation or project by clarifying how it benefits your development as a scholar. Even if it seems self-evident to you, make a crystal-clear connection between your participation in the conference or research project and your personal goals. Consider covering multiple reasons. For example, in addition to saying that your conference presentation will help you gather feedback on a portion of your dissertation or a future article, you might mention other aspects of the conference such as workshops for graduate students or opportunities to network with scholars from your field. Even if it seems obvious that traveling to an archive is necessary for your research, spell out how and why it is useful.
    • Keep in mind that most of the faculty and students reading your application are probably not closely familiar with your discipline. Avoid jargon. Imagine you’re writing for Commonweal rather than Theological Studies. Furthermore, offer context that committee members might not know. For example, if you’re presenting at the American Academy of Religion, you might mention that this is the flagship conference for scholars of religion and that being accepted to present at the annual meeting is a prestigious opportunity. If you’re doing research on unpublished materials such as papers or letters, make sure that the committee knows that there is no other way to have access to these materials than to travel to archives.
  • In the Budget Proposal and Justification:
    • Use the provided Budget Proposal and Justification form. Some committee members are critical of applications that do not use this form.
    • Point out any money-saving measures that you’re taking. For example, you might stay at a less expensive hotel, split accommodations with a colleague, or purchase a more economical flight. If you are sharing a hotel room with somebody else, make sure to follow the guidelines for receiving reimbursement (e.g., have the hotel split your bill so that you can each submit a receipt).
    • Explain any factors that require you to spend more than the committee might expect. For example, you might mention if you have a medical condition that necessitates rooming alone or if family commitments limit the flexibility of your travel options.
    • Stay within funding limits. For example, for hotel accommodations the SSG usually reimburses a maximum of $125 per night. Furthermore, be aware that some expenses are not funded by the SSG, such as food, books, or computer equipment.
  • If you need to submit a Faculty Recommendation (this usually only applies if you pass a certain threshold of funding, or if you’re in your first semester of coursework):
    • Don’t hesitate to ask faculty members for a recommendation. They expect to do this as part of their responsibilities, and they’re pleased to help in your growth as a scholar.
    • That being said, be considerate to your recommender. Give as much notice as possible. Send a draft of your project narrative a few weeks before the letter is due. Write a thank-you email or note with a recap of your experience.  
    • Tell your faculty recommender to email your recommendation to, with the subject line: SSG Letter of Recommendation – [applicant surname].

Although the department will probably be able to reimburse eligible costs that aren’t covered by this step, there are several reasons to take this application seriously and to try to maximize the funding you receive from the SSG:

  • It helps the department stretch its funds for graduate student support as far as possible.
  • When the department allocates funds from its own sources, it prioritizes the applications of students who have made a good faith effort to apply for the SSG and any other available outside funding sources.
  • You’ll need to write funding requests throughout your scholarly career. Writing a strong project narrative takes practice, so this is an opportunity to hone your skills.
  • Receiving funding from the SSG generally means that you’ll get your reimbursement sooner, relieving pressure on your bank account.

Step Two: Apply for Department Funding

The department manages the Theology Fund for Graduate Student Development, a donor-supported fund to cover conference and project expenses. The following guidelines apply to this funding:

  • To apply for this funding, you need to have applied to other sources. At the very minimum, you must have applied for the SSG.
  • The department only covers costs that follow the SSG guidelines. So, for example, it is unable to reimburse for food or electronic equipment.

This step is much easier! Each semester, the Department Chair will announce a deadline by email for getting in touch with Anne-Marie about requesting conference funding. Email Anne-Marie at the same time that you apply for the SSG to give her a heads-up that you might be requesting funding. After you receive your SSG funding decision, or before the announced deadline (whichever comes first), send her the following details:

  • The total cost of your trip.
  • The amount covered or expected to be covered by other sources and the names of those sources, whether or not yet confirmed, and the amount not covered.
  • The purpose and dates of the trip.