The Department currently guarantees at least five years of financial support to all students admitted to the doctoral program, assuming they are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees. We think this support provides students with some financial security while contributing to a more cooperative learning environment. Students need not compete with other students each semester for a few available positions as teaching or research assistants. A substantial number of our students also receive outside fellowships or grants to support their studies at Wisconsin. Both PAs and TAs receive a salary and valuable fringe benefits such as excellent health insurance and tuition remission.
Financial support can take many forms. First-year students are first considered for University Fellowships, a small number of university-wide awards for which competition is intense. Minority background applicants can be considered for Advanced Opportunity Fellowships as well as nominated for CIC Fellowships which are shared among the “Big Ten” Universities and The University of Chicago. Those who plan to specialize in Russian, East European, Central Asian, African, Latin American, South Asian, South East or East Asian politics may be eligible for a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS). These and other campus opportunities have the advantage of providing financial support while providing students with the maximum amount of time to pursue their studies.
The many additional students who are not on fellowships are funded by means of research assistantships (called PAs, for project assistant) or teaching assistantships (TAs). For PAs, we try to match first year students who have the necessary skills with faculty members who have research projects that need assistance. This is not only a form of financial aid, but an invaluable opportunity to work closely with a faculty member pursuing a research project. First year TA positions generally involve introductory courses in the student’s area of interest or previous study. Teaching Assistants teach discussion sections, advise undergraduates on academic work and grade exams or papers for professors teaching courses with large enrollments. Serving as a TA also provides invaluable training in how to teach undergraduates. Advanced graduate students may consider lecturing in their own courses.
The Department makes certain that all students who are making satisfactory progress in their courses and exams are funded for ten consecutive semesters of study. Some such funding comes in the form of competitive outside fellowships, and students are urged to apply for these opportunities as well. The University has been successful in finding funds for students through the MacArthur fellowship program, the SSRC pre-dissertation fellowship program, and the National Science Foundation.