There are numerous ways for graduate students to acquire support for their graduate studies. Working for pay outside the university and acquiring student loans are the most obvious, but they are not always the most advisable in terms of financial health and intellectual enrichment. That is why the Department of Sociology and WMU endeavor to provide qualified graduate students with competitive awards and opportunities. In addition to the funding opportunities discussed below, one can receive further information from the Office of Student Financial Aid.
In most years, the department has about 15 graduate students on assistantships and many more receive other forms of support. The department's current policy is to provide assistantship support for up to two years for master's degree students and up to another three years for doctoral degree students. Funding from outside the department does not count against the time limits.
There are a number of forms of support available either through the department or the Graduate College. First, there are fellowships, which carry no service obligation, then there are assistantships, which do require some service. There are also supplemental sources for the support of graduate student research and professional travel. These different forms of funding to finance graduate studies are outlined below:
The department offers this highly competitive fellowship for either M.A. or Ph.D. students once every five years. It is named after the founder of the department and his wife, and only one is available at a time. It is good for up to five years of full-time graduate support (including one summer session annually) at the highest level the department offers, plus full tuition remission. It carries no service obligation. All told, it is worth well over $100,000.
The College of Arts and Sciences provides funding to the department for graduate education. This is departmental support, and the funds are distributed by the department in the form of graduate assistantships.
These assistantships require 15 hours of work per week on research under the supervision of a faculty member.
These assistantships require work on one course per semester either as an assistant to a faculty member or as an instructor of record.
Western Michigan University recognizes the Teaching Assistants' Union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO), as "the sole and exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to wages, hours, and all other conditions of employment for all employees" considered teaching assistants (Article 1, Agreement between Western Michigan University and the Teaching Assistants' Union). Teaching assistants are "all graduate assistants, doctoral graduate assistants, or doctoral associates appointed by Western Michigan University with the classification of teaching" (Article 1, Agreement between Western Michigan University and the Teaching Assistants' Union).
As an employing unit, the Department of Sociology provides the following information about teaching assistantships in compliance with language in the Teaching Assistants' Union contract (Article 8, Agreement between Western Michigan University and the Teaching Assistants' Union).
SOC 2000 Principals of Sociology
SOC 2100 Modern Social Problems
SOC 2600 Introduction to Criminal Justice
SOC 2820 Methods of Data Collection
SOC 2830 Methods of Data Analysis
An application for a research or teaching assistantship is due on December 15. Completed applications and inquiries about the application process should be directed to the graduate academic advisor in the Department of Sociology. The Central Graduate Committee will review applications for assistantships in conjunction with the information provided by each applicant for the department's annual review of graduate students. Applicants will be informed about assistantship decisions between March 15 and April 15.
Work study is a need-based financial aid program funded by the federal government, the State of Michigan, and Western Michigan University for students who are enrolled at least half-time during the period of their employment. Work study awards and amounts are subject to eligibility requirements and fund availability. Early application is very important. More details are provided by the Office of Student Financial Aid.
These are available to U.S. students from historically underrepresented groups who have gained regular admission to a doctoral program and who wish to pursue a full-time teaching career in post-secondary education in Michigan or Illinois. In exchange for a salary/stipend, no service is required in the department, but there are other requirements that must be met. The application deadline is February 15. More details and applications may be obtained online from the Graduate College.
Thurgood Marshall fellowships are extended to students who exemplify the values and accomplishments of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Justice of the United States Supreme Court. They include a stipend/salary and cover at least partial tuition costs. They also carry a service requirement. The application deadline is February 15. More details and applications may be obtained online from the Graduate College.
These fellowships are valued at approximately $21,000 and are awarded for two semesters and two summer sessions through an open competition based on superior scholarly achievement. They are designed to aid full-time doctoral students with the completion of their dissertations. Doctoral candidates are eligible for the award if they can establish a record of superior academic achievement and timely, steady progress toward completion of the Ph.D. degree. Applicants must have completed all requirements for the doctoral degree save the dissertation and must have successfully defended a dissertation proposal. Partial tuition remission is provided for non-resident students. The application deadline is February 15. Applications and more information are provided by the Graduate College. More details and Application.
The Graduate College maintains a research fund that is designed to support graduate students with their independent scholarly research, scientific inquiry, inventive technology, and original artistic activity. Awards from this fund aim to allay the extraordinary or unusual costs associated with research projects. The amount of an award for a project will vary with the available budget, the number of applications, and the priority ranking given by the selection committee, with a maximum award of $600 possible. Preference is given to applications submitted before a project is completed. The application deadlines are September 15, November 15, and March 15. More details and applications may be obtained online.
The Graduate College maintains a travel fund designed to support graduate students with their independent scholarly research, scientific inquiry, inventive technology, and original artistic activity. Awards from this fund can cover costs associated with travel to meetings or events sponsored by professional organizations for the purpose of reporting the results of research, exhibiting or performing creative works, or otherwise disseminating results from scholarly activity. The amount of an award for a project will vary with the available budget, the number of applications, and the priority ranking given by the selection committee, with a maximum award of $600 possible. Preference is given to applications submitted before the travel has been completed. The application deadlines are September 15, November 15, and March 15. More details and applications may be obtained online.
The Kercher Endowment Fund is another way the department provides support for graduate student research and travel. While there are annual limits, the application is simple, involving a brief description of the project/meeting, a rationale, and an estimated budget. In addition, a parallel application to the appropriate Graduate College fund is required. In recent years, virtually all such applications have been supported.
Summer session department awards are considered separately, and will be made as funds are available.
Students who receive awards are expected to make a full-time commitment to a graduate career or time proportionate to fractional awards. Sociology's assumption is that any scheduling conflicts created by outside activities have to be resolved in favor of departmental expectations.
Students in the doctoral program who have received department support for three academic years are ineligible for further department support. (Academic year is defined as fall and spring semesters. Summer I and summer II sessions are not included in these calculations.)
In order to be eligible to maintain an award, graduate students must enroll in, and are expected to complete, a minimum of 21 hours for the academic year (fall and spring semesters), or 9 hours if the award is made for a fall or spring semester alone; Summer I/summer II session assistants must take a minimum of 3 hours in whichever summer term classes applicable to their program of study are offered. Students at the end of a degree program who need less than the required number of hours may, with special permission of the Central Graduate Committee and the Graduate College, be given permission to decrease hours enrolled to six hours.
Assignments are made subsequent to awards on the basis of department needs, faculty requests, special skills, previous course work, and other considerations.
Students receiving University or department awards are entitled to some additional advantages:
The KCSR offers Sociology graduate students positions in funded projects. See the Director in the Center for a current list of projects and an application.
Students may be employed directly by the project director (faculty member) of an independently supported research or training project. This is an independent arrangement between the student and faculty involved, and does not come under the jurisdiction of the department's Awards Committee.
Students who meet department qualifications for teaching (M.A. and successful completion of SOC 624 or equivalent) may be employed as part-time instructors.
Student efforts to obtain outside fellowship support from other programs at WMU or external sources are both encouraged and much appreciated. Under certain circumstances the time a student is supported externally would not count against the time limits specified above. Faculty in the department are available to provide assistance in making such applications, and their aid should be solicited. For further information, contact the department chair or the director of the Kercher Center for Social Research.
Western Michigan University participates in some state and nationally supported student loan programs. For further information, see the Graduate College website or contact the Student Financial Aid office on campus.