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Grad Fellowship Draws Top Students

Lauren Schroeder wants to do research that helps athletes prevent ACL and ankle injuries.

Schroeder recently completed her master’s degree in kinesiology at UT, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She’s been involved with multiple research projects and is co-authoring several peer-reviewed manuscripts. With this resume, she could have gone many places to pursue her PhD.

But thanks to our new Tennessee Felllowship for Graduate Excellence, she will be staying at UT to earn a PhD in biomechanics while also earning a second master’s degree in statistics. She’s forged a strong bond with her faculty advisor, Joshua Weinhandl, and will get to continue working with him.

We’ve invested $4 million in our Graduate School to support the Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence, an effort that will help us recruit stellar graduate students like Schroeder.

Our first group of Tennessee Fellows will begin their studies this fall. They come from 31 states and nine countries. Fifteen have completed prior studies at UT.

Administered by the Graduate School, the annual program provides up to 100 fellows with $10,000 a year for four years, for a total of $40,000, on top of their college-funded graduate assistantship stipends.

As Schroeder points out, these big-dollar fellowships are game changing. The combination of the fellowship and students’ assistantships will make UT’s offers competitive with those from other top-tier schools.

“I don’t know if words can accurately describe how grateful I am to have this extra funding. It means everything to me,” Schroeder said. “The previous two years, I was barely able to live month to month with the stipend I was making, so this extra funding takes a huge weight off of my shoulders financially.”

Schroeder said the time commitment required for classes and research to complete her PhD would have made it impossible for her to hold down an outside job.

The Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence awards were allocated among the colleges to use in recruiting exceptional students for their programs.

Jeffrey Fairbrother, interim associate dean for academic and faculty affairs in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, said his college used its 12 allotted fellowships to give each department one to award on its own to a qualified candidate. The remaining fellowships were awarded by an ad hoc committee after a college-wide competition.

“By reviewing prospective graduate students from different departments, it strengthened individual faculty members’ understanding of the quality of students in other programs,” he said. “Culturally, for the college, that’s a good thing.”

The college-wide competition has also helped departments emphasize the high expectations they have for all doctoral students.

Fairbrother said his home department, the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, has been using this approach for several years with previously available fellowship money to lure the highest caliber students.

“It has made us more competitive with other programs around the country,” he said.