Graduate Funding

The Department of Sociology and Western Michigan University endeavors to provide qualified graduate students with competitive awards and opportunities. Working for pay outside the University and acquiring student loans are the most obvious ways to acquire support for your graduate studies, but they are not always the most advisable in terms of financial health and intellectual enrichment. In addition to the funding opportunities discussed below, further information is available from the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Financial support through the department or the Graduate College include:

  • Assistantships (requires some service). The department has approximately 15 graduate students on assistantships and many more receive other forms of support. The department provides 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.
  • Fellowships (no service obligation).
  • Supplemental sources for the support of graduate student research and professional travel (see below).

Leonard and Dorotha Kercher Graduate Fellowship

Named after the founder of the department and his wife, this highly competitive fellowship is for master's or doctoral students once every five years.

  • Good for up to five years of full-time graduate support, including one summer session annually, at the highest level the department offers.
  • Includes full tuition remission.
  • No service obligation.
  • Only one is available at a time.
  • Worth well over $100,000.

Research and teaching assistantships

The College of Arts and Sciences provides funding to the department which is distributed by the department in the form of graduate assistantships.

Work requirement

  • Research assistantships require 15 hours of work per week on research under the supervision of a faculty member.
  • Teaching assistantships require work on one course per semester either as an assistant to a faculty member or as an instructor of record.

Teaching Assistants' Union

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).

Courses typically assigned teaching assistants

  • 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

Qualifications

Required qualifications include:

  • Excellent progress on annual review
  • Full-time graduate student in good standing

Preferred qualifications include evidence of:

  • Professional engagement
  • Superior achievement in classes
  • Superior intellectual ability
  • Teaching experience

Applications

Questions about the application for a research or teaching assistantship 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.

Deadline: Dec. 15

Federal work-study

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. Details are provided by the Office of Student Financial Aid.

King/Chavez/Parks Future Faculty Fellowships

This fellowship is 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. The fellowship includes:

  • A salary/stipend.
  • No service required in the department; however, other requirements must be met.

Deadline: Feb. 15. Details and applications are provided by the Graduate College.

Thurgood Marshall Fellowships

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. The fellowship includes:

  • A salary/stipend.
  • A service requirement.
  • Payment of at least partial tuition costs.

Deadline: Feb. 15. Details and applications are provided by the Graduate College.

Graduate College Dissertation Completion Fellowships

These fellowships 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. To apply, you will need to establish a record of superior academic achievement and timely, steady progress toward completion of your doctoral degree. You must have completed all requirements for the doctoral degree except the dissertation and must have successfully defended a dissertation proposal. The fellowship includes:

  • Approximately $21,000.
  • Partial tuition remission for non-resident students.

Deadline: Feb. 15. Details and the application are provided by the Graduate College.

Graduate Student Research Fund

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. Preference is given to applications submitted before a project is completed.

Deadlines: Sept. 15, Nov. 15 and March 15. Details and applications are provided by the Graduate College.

Graduate Student Travel Fund

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. Preference is given to applications submitted before the travel has been completed.

Deadlines: Sept. 15, Nov. 15 and March 15. Details and applications are provided by the Graduate College.

Kercher Endowment Fund

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 or meeting, a rationale and an estimated budget. In addition, a parallel application to the Graduate College fund is required. In recent years, virtually all such applications have been supported.

Other essential information about financial awards

Summer I and summer II awards

Summer session department awards are considered separately and will be made as funds are available.

Conditions of support

Students who receive awards are expected to make a full-time commitment to a graduate career or time proportionate to fractional awards. Any scheduling conflicts created by outside activities have to be resolved in favor of departmental expectations.

Time limitations

Doctoral students who have received department support for three academic years are ineligible for further department support. The academic year is defined as fall and spring semesters; summer I and summer II sessions are not included in these calculations.

Enrollment requirements

In order to be eligible to maintain an award, you must enroll in and complete a minimum of 21 hours for the academic year (fall and spring semesters), or nine hours if the award is made for a fall or spring semester alone. Summer I and summer II session assistants must take a minimum of three hours in whichever summer term classes applicable to their program of study are offered. If you are at the end of your degree program and need less than the required number of hours you may, with special permission of the Central Graduate Committee and the Graduate College, be given permission to decrease to six the hours enrolled.

Assignments

Assignments are made subsequent to awards on the basis of department needs, faculty requests, special skills, previous course work and other considerations.

Benefits

If you receive a University or department award, you may be entitled to additional advantages:

  • Faculty library privileges (one-month circulation, not subject to overdue fines).
  • Faculty/staff level discount at WMU's campus bookstore.
  • Parking sticker.
  • Priority for student housing.

Other funding sources

Kercher Center for Social Research

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.

Special projects

You may be employed directly by a project director (faculty member) of an independently-supported research or training project. This arrangement is between you and the faculty member and does not come under the jurisdiction of the department's awards committee.

Teaching

If you meet department qualifications for teaching (hold a master's degree and successful completion of SOC 6240 or equivalent) you may apply to be a part-time instructor.

External support

You are encouraged to obtain outside fellowship support from other programs at WMU or external sources. Under certain circumstances the time you are supported externally will not count against the time limits specified. Solicit the aid of the department faculty to provide assistance in making an application. For further information, contact the department chair or the director of the Kercher Center for Social Research.

Financial aid

Western Michigan University participates in state and nationally supported student financial aid programs. Information is available from the Graduate College and the Office of Student Financial Aid.