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GPSA funds for graduate research increase

According to GPSA Grants Committee’s Fall Summary, $131,632 in funds was awarded this semester — more than GPSA has ever given out. For comparison, $23,140 was awarded over the summer.

This fall 245 students applied for the grants, and as of Tuesday 129 have received funding, whereas only 50 students received grants last fall. Awardees were notified on Nov. 3, according to the GPSA’s website.

GPSA President Texanna Martin said the number of awards handed out can be accredited to a wealth of campus resources.

“I think this speaks to the outreach that GPSA has on campus, and graduate students being aware of the support that we have available,” Martin said. “We hope that the level of support continues to grow, as there are always more incredible projects underway that could use the support of the community.”

The grant money will fund trips and research projects, ranging from attending career development conferences to researching sex differences in chimpanzees in Uganda, said Grants Committee Co-Chair James Foty, a graduate student in community and regional planning.

“Our goal is to help fund research, as well as professional and career development,” Foty said. “This money is for people going to awesome conferences and doing amazing research.”

The large increase in awarded grants is a matter of two major factors. First, the Grants Committee was allocated more money from the Student Fee Review Board, a student-run board that distributes money from student fees, Foty said.

The record amount of funding is also largely due to the Grants Committee’s efforts to make the application process as accessible as possible, said Steven Maness, Grants Committee Co-Chair and a graduate student in Latin American studies.

“What we are proud of is that the system is set up so that it remains objective,” Maness said. “We want everyone to have equal access, to be on an even playing field.”

A variety of things were done to accomplish that goal, according to Maness. One approach was being flexible on times and locations for workshops, where tips are given to hopeful students on criteria of the application process.

In addition, attention was placed on those who scored the applications, called “readers.” The applications were anonymous to them, and Maness said that they strove for diversification of department representation amongst the readers. They also paid close attention to abnormal fluctuations in scoring.

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“If there was a 20- to 25-percent point spread between the readers, the application gets sent back and (evaluated) again,” Maness said.

Maness said that the benefits extend beyond the individuals who receive grant funding. He said there simply aren’t enough instructors at UNM to facilitate some of the goals that graduate students have.

“What is nice about these grants is that they serve to fill an educational gap,” Maness said. “Students are able to go (to conferences or in the field), bring back what they learned, and disseminate that information to other students.”

According to the document, the 245 graduate students who applied from Sept. 5 to Oct. 3 did so for one of three primary grant classes: the Student Research Grant, the Professional Development Grant, and the New Mexico Research Grant, according to the Grants Committee. In addition, a need-based Graduate Scholarship Fund was also available.

The components of the application included a narrative proposal, a letter from the advisor legitimizing the application and a budget for the activity the funds would help the student accomplish.

Another thing GPSA has begun experimenting with to even the playing field even further is allowing students to apply in other languages.

Beginning last spring, students have been allowed to apply in Spanish. Maness said that a few took advantage of this pilot program, but none were awarded. That changed this semester, when an applicant who applied in Spanish was notified that they received funding, Maness said.

GPSA wants to go even further with that initiative.

“In the future, it would be nice if students could apply in any language they want,” Maness said. “(A multi-language platform) is something we’ll be working toward.”

David Lynch is a freelance reporter for The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


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