Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship Guidelines

2021-22 Fellowships

  • Fellowship Applicants: Submission deadlines vary by program. Contact your graduate representative for your internal application deadline.
  • Graduate Program Representatives: Submit your program’s nominations to the Graduate School by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

Description of Award

The Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) award recognizes and supports the most academically excellent PhD students who have achieved dissertator status at UWM or will do so by the start of the academic year of the award. Students are nominated for this award by their programs and compete with other nominees from across the university. Fellowship award decisions are made by a university faculty committee.

Awards are for full-time study only. The current academic fellowship stipend is $16,500. In addition, recipients will benefit from a $1,000 travel award that will accompany each fellowship award. The money should be spent in accordance with UWM travel regulations by the end of the fiscal year following the year in which the fellowship award is held. The money will be spent on travel to present at a major national or international conference in the student’s discipline. Fellows receive coverage of resident graduate tuition, a remission of the out-of-state portion of the tuition (if applicable), and are eligible for low-cost comprehensive health insurance.


  1. Dissertator Status: Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship applicants must have:
    1. Completed all major and minor coursework.
    2. Passed preliminary examinations.
    3. Completed PhD residency requirements.
    4. Attained dissertator status by the start of the academic year of the fellowship award.

    A DDF recipient who has not attained dissertator status by the start of the academic year forfeits the award.

  2. Concurrent Fellowship/Scholarship Support: No other scholarship or fellowship may be held concurrently with a Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship with the exception of small monetary awards, the UWM Chancellor’s Graduate Student Award, or a philanthropic award.
  3. Maximum Dissertation Support: A Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship may be held for a maximum of one academic year.
  4. Concurrent Employment: Concurrent employment of Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship recipients is limited to the following:
    • University employment of a maximum of 25% TA, PA, or RA.
    • Student hourly of up to 15 hours per week.

Fellowship nominees/awardees must maintain a 3.0 GPA and make reasonable progress toward their degree. Fellowship nominees/awardees cannot be on academic probation and cannot have engaged in academic or non-academic misconduct during their current graduate program, based on transcript notations at the time of nomination/award. If the fellowship nominees/awardees become ineligible, the graduate fellowship award/offer is forfeited, effective the date that the sanctions are implemented.

Selection of Nominees

For the sake of these fellowships, a “graduate degree program” is defined more broadly than the UW System definition to include any graduate program that meets both of the following criteria:

  1. Student must make specific application to the degree program on their applications to the Graduate School or department.
  2. Students cannot transfer out of the program without making explicit application to another program, even within the same department or unit.

If a program offers both the master’s and PhD degrees, it is considered a single graduate program and can nominate only two students.

Selection Criteria

Distinguished Dissertation Fellowships are highly competitive. Fellowships are awarded on the basis of the applicant’s previous academic record, scholarly and other achievements, status toward degree*, and faculty recommendations.

  • Evaluation is based on the totality of information available. No single factor is decisive.
  • It is understood that excellence takes many forms across disciplines.
  • Each application is considered holistically, and factors such as academic background, experiences, perspectives, aspirations, values, and accomplishments are taken into account.

View rubric for the DDF.

Because funding is very limited and fellowships are extremely competitive, graduate programs are asked to be highly selective in nominating no more than two students for a DDF. (Programs may nominate an additional student for an R1DDF fellowship.) Nominees should represent exceptional students in your graduate program.

*See Eligibility; please be sure that your degree program’s nominees achieve dissertator status by the start of the fellowship award year.

Graduate Degree Program Nomination Instructions

Note: Both the students’ applications and your program’s nominations are submitted entirely online.

Before submitting your degree program’s online nomination, please make sure that you have followed the instructions and have included all the necessary documentation.

  1. Verify all information submitted by your nominee:
    • Application. This should be filled out completely. To see what information is requested of students, see Required Application Information.
    • One letter of recommendation from student’s major professor.
  2. After the applicant’s information has been verified, use the online application to submit a summary statement explaining why the nominee is a good candidate for the Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship and verify the student’s status in your graduate program.
  3. Students with all completed documents will be considered nominated for your degree program.

Program nominations for the 2020-21 award year must be submitted online no later than January 13, 2021. THIS IS THE DEADLINE DATE. No nominations will be accepted after this date. See programs for internal deadlines.

Degree Program Follow-Up to Applicants

After you submit your nominated applicants to the competition, please notify all of your degree program’s fellowship applicants (non-nominated as well as nominated applicants) of the status of their fellowship applications.

For questions regarding any of these procedures, please contact the Graduate School at (414) 229-7177 or gs-fellowships-distinguished@uwm.edu.

Award Caps

DDF awards are capped at three awards per degree-granting program as recognized by the UW System.