For Faculty

Award Overview

Financial Award

2016 going forward (for PDRFs who entered before 2016, please contact the Office of Research with questions).

Each PDRF receives a four-year fellowship. The fellowship will consist of a yearly $10,000 scholarship paid in two equal dispersals over 12 months and a 20 hour/week (0.5 FTE) graduate assistantship. The graduate assistantship will be provided by the college, department, and/or program.

  • There is no expectation of work associated with a scholarship. The scholarship portion will be paid out in 2 equal payments, starting the first semester that the fellow enrolls, and continuing to graduation or 4 calendar years, whichever comes first. The Office of Research will set up and distribute the scholarship to the student. The Office of Research PDRF Scholarship is NOT pay for work and cannot correspond to any labor expectations, per IRS regulations (Section 117) and USU policy.
  • Assistantship. The Office of Research strongly encourages departments to compensate PDRFs at the same rate a student without a PDRF scholarship would be compensated under the principle of equal pay for equal work, pursuant to Federal and State laws cited in USU Policy 303 Section 1. Assistantships include an expectation of 20 hours/week-worked (0.5 FTE); however, given the nature of the PDRF as a research fellowship program, the Office of Research also encourages departments and mentors to consider assigning some of the PDRF’s assistantship hours to their own doctoral research, rather than in support of mentor-led research or teaching. Assistantships can be teaching assistantships, or research assistantships, but at least 50% of the student’s working hours each week should be reserved for research, as this is the intent of a research fellowship. The Assistantship portion of student payment will be paid out in accordance with standard department practices. The department is responsible for the EPAF for this graduate assistantship.
    • Assistantships must be paid AT or ABOVE standard department rates (no less than $10K/year)
    • PDRFs should NOT be assigned a teaching load that exceeds 1 class (3 credit hours) per semester, even if higher teaching loads are standard for departmental assistantships
  • Matching funds: Matching funds for assistantships must come from one of the following sources
    • a qualified grant with graduate assistantship funding awarded to an individual faculty member or research group
    • the student’s home department or center
    • the college.
Payment of the assistantship may not come from funds originating in the Office of Research such as faculty startups or seed grants (GEM/RC/SPARC).

Tuition Award

Guidelines for tuition awards are as follows:

  • Domestic Students.
    • Utah Resident: Tuition awards covering 100 percent of university tuition costs associated with program of study during the four-year period of the fellowship will be provided by the Office of Research
    • Nonresident: In addition to covering resident (in-state) tuition, in a student’s first year, the PDRF tuition award will cover the non-resident portion of university tuition. However, domestic non-resident PDRF students are expected to become residents of Utah after their first 12 months on campus. Thus, the nonresident portion of university tuition will not be awarded to domestic students after their first year. Residency requirements are outlined in the USU catalog.
  • International Students: The PDRF program tuition award pays nonresident and resident university tuition costs for international students over the full length of the program (four years). This is covered by the Office of Research.
  • Differential Tuition: The student is responsible to pay for any differential tuition charges. Colleges may choose to waive these costs for the student but this is a college-by-college decision. Please check with your college to see if they charge differential tuition and if this will be paid for by the college or the student.
  • Program of Study: Tuition awards may only be applied towards credits for courses listed on the student’s program of study.
    • Summer: Tuition awards can be applied to summer courses if (a) the courses are on the fellow’s plan of study, and (b) the program coordinator is informed at the point of registration PRIOR TO MAY 12.
  • Fees: Student fees are the responsibility of the student; additional course or program fees such as online surcharges for non-residents are included in this responsibility. Fees are listed in the tuition and fee schedule.
  • Late Adds: Tuition awards will not be applied to credit for courses added after the fifteenth day of the term (i.e., “Late adds” will not be covered by the tuition award component of the PDRF program).
  • Full-Time Status: To remain active, PDRFs must be full-time students, as defined by the university catalog, during fall and spring semesters.

Subsidized Graduate Student Health Insurance

USU provides subsidized health insurance to graduate students with a graduate fellowship or scholarship of $10,000 or more and/or a 20 hour/week graduate assistantship. A PDRF is required to carry the insurance unless the fellow provides proof of coverage through another insurance policy that is comparable or better than the plan offered through USU. The student will pay for 20% of the cost and the student’s college, department, or program will pay for 80% of the cost for this insurance. The department may choose to cover a further percentage of the cost, up to the full amount, but the 80% is a baseline requirement. The student’s portion will be assessed as a fee on the student’s account and the department will be billed for their portion of this cost with the assistantship. Please review the graduate student health insurance page for more details on the graduate insurance plan or how to request a waiver.

Tax Implications

Scholarship payments may be taxable and will be reported to the IRS. Domestic students will not have taxes withheld from their scholarships but may have a tax liability at the end of the year for these payments.

International students are taxed directly on their scholarship payments and taxes will be deducted from their scholarship amount. Students receive a tax document with this information called the 1042-S form. The 1042-S information is reported to the IRS. International students claiming treaty exemptions from the taxes on fellowship payments will also receive the 1042-S form to use for tax filings.

Given the nature of the PDRF program, some of the award will be in the form of an assistantship, meaning a portion of the award will be taxable income. Taxes will be withheld and withholdings reported to the fellow by the university (W-2 tax form).

While the Office of Research does not offer tax guidance, there are campus resources to assist fellows. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program housed in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business provides income tax assistance at no cost.

Yearly Agreement

Each summer, a yearly agreement will be generated by the Office of Research and will require the signature of the fellow’s advisor and department head, and the PDRF program coordinator. Fellows will be copied on the agreement.

Changes to Fellowship Status

Leave of Absence/Fellowship Hold

The Presidential Doctoral Research Fellowship may be put on hold with a written request by the fellow. The department head, faculty mentor, and PDRF program coordinator must approve the request for a leave from the fellowship.

Leaving the Program

A PDRF can withdraw from the program by written request to the program coordinator.

If a fellow leaves the program prior to completing his or her Ph.D., the Office of Research portion of the fellowship financial award and the tuition award cease. Any unused portion of the Office of Research award may not be transferred by the college, department, or program to another student.

Forfeiture of the Award

Fellows may forfeit their fellowships by failing to meet expectations at the department or university level. In this case, the remainder of the Office of Research portion of the fellowship stipend and tuition award will return to the Office of Research.


As the top graduate fellowship at USU, the PDRF includes several responsibilities for the fellow, as well as mentors and administrators, to best ensure the fellows’ academic success.

Responsibilities of the Fellow

PDRF funding will be renewed annually based on acceptable performance in his/her research duties as evaluated by his/her faculty mentor and program chair and/or department head.

In addition, responsibilities of the fellow include:

  • Make satisfactory progress towards his/her degree
  • Support graduate and undergraduate research by being engaged in research-related department, college and university events.
  • Provide a report detailing research progress each year. Reports should be submitted to the faculty mentor, with a copy submitted to the program coordinator.
  • Complete the graduate student grant-writing workshop within the first year of study.
  • Apply for external support (e.g., NSF, NIH grants), if available, within the first few years of study. (NSF Graduate Research Fellows, for example, are required by NSF to apply within the first year of study.)
  • Complete USU’s Research Scholars Certification Program.
  • Participate annually in the Graduate Student Research Symposium (e.g., poster or oral presentation in a special PDRF session), which is held during Research Week, USU’s annual celebration of faculty and student research.
  • Obtain at least one semester of teaching experience during his/her degree program at USU.
  • Gain experience in mentoring undergraduate researchers.
  • Serve as an ambassador for the program by, for example, meeting with prospective graduate students or with invited speakers, as requested.
  • Provide the program coordinator information about any change of status that might affect his/her eligibility for the f

Responsibilities of the Fellow’s Mentor

  • With his/her fellow, meet at least once per academic year with the Associate Vice President for Graduate and Undergraduate Research to discuss program experiences, needs, and challenges.
  • Advise fellows.
  • Monitor PDRF progress toward his/her degree.
  • Provide an annual written evaluation of the progress of the PDRF to the program coordinator.

Responsibilities of the Fellow’s Home Department and/or College

  • Provide feedback to the program coordinator.
  • Support overarching PDRF program goals.
  • Fund subsidized graduate student health insurance.
  • Provide matching funds for the stipend at the level described in the “Funding Model for the Fellowship” and “Scholarship and Allocation of the Fellowships” sections of this guidebook.

Responsibilities of the Associate Vice President for Graduate and Undergraduate Research

  • Identify and communicate opportunities for PDRFs (e.g., funding mechanisms, training workshops, presentation opportunities, etc.).
  • Connect university resources inside and outside of the Office of Research and the School of Graduate Studies to promote success among the PDRFs.
  • Oversee the PDRF selection process and communication on awards.
  • Organize a fall semester general meeting of all fellows.
  • Coordinate financial award.
  • Coordinate with colleges, departments and PDRF mentors.

Responsibilities of the Office of Research

  • Distribute and collect the signed yearly agreement to each PDRF, the PDRF’s advisor, and the PDRF’s department chair.
  • Provide programming opportunities through its various divisions.
    • Research Scholar Certification Program
    • IRB/IACUC (human and animal research subjects) training
    • Grant-writing workshop
  • Support marketing and publicity of PDRF accomplishments.

Allocation of the Fellowships

Given current funding and costs, for the foreseeable future there will be 45 Presidential Doctoral Research Fellows at any given time. The Office of Research will reserve a small number of “at large” fellowships to target the development of new PhD programs and to address extraordinary opportunities to recruit outstanding doctoral students that arise, while the majority of the fellowships are allocated to six PhD-granting colleges.

The dean of each college will decide which department, program, or faculty in the college will be allocated a fellowship to recruit a new doctoral student. Any fellowship that is allocated to a college is ongoing, pending continuing support for the program from central administration. If a fellow leaves the program, either because they have come to the end of their fellowship period, graduated, or left the degree program for any other reason, or if the fellowship goes unfilled, it reverts to the dean for reallocation.

College Allocation

For purposes of tracking and projection, the Office of Research requests that each college dean provide us with a plan for allocation which includes the following:

  • Criteria for allocation
  • Departments/faculty who have been allocated fellowships
  • Recruitment plan for allocated fellowships
  • Reassignment plan for unfilled fellowships

We strongly encourage deans to create a timeline by which a fellowship must be filled that will prevent fellowship openings from remaining vacant, as vacancies negatively impact the overall formation of the PDRF cohort.

Office of Research Allocation of the “At-Large” Fellowship

The at-large fellowships will be allocated on a temporary (four year) basis to an individual department selected by a committee of Office of Research and School of Graduate Studies representatives, based on an open call for applications.

Any college, department, or individual faculty member with doctoral programs may apply for these positions. See the ‘At-Large Application’ tab of the guidebook for detailed information.

Funding Model for Fellowship

The PDRF Program was established in FY2012 with a funding model in which the then Office of Research and Graduate studies shared the cost of the fellowship with colleges/departments/programs. This is still fundamentally the model by which the PDRF operates. However, as the program has evolved and undergone review, some changes have been made to ensure the equitable and logistically fluid administration of funds.

To ensure departments have the resources to recruit the best possible candidates, the PDRF program offers fellows a $10,000 yearly financial award for four years. Departments must provide at least a department-standard graduate assistantship for each of the four years a $10,000 stipend is awarded.

Source of the Match

Matching funds take the form of a graduate research assistantship, a graduate teaching assistantship, or a graduate instructorship. It is up to the department to determine the type of assistantship and the time frame for when the assistantship will occur (generally 12 months or over the academic year). The matching funds can come from sources including the college, department, program, or an individual faculty member; other fellowships can also be used to fund the match. Note that the source of the match may not originate with Office of Research (e.g., faculty start-up, GEM, RC, or SPARC grants).


Presidential Doctoral Research Fellowships should be utilized for finding the best and brightest students to attract to our graduate programs. This is not intended as a program to reward existing graduate students or to fund students already intending to complete a graduate degree at USU (for example, students in a combined bachelor’s/master’s track). Success in recruiting high-quality candidates for the fellowship is absolutely critical. The timing of the allocation (i.e., early fall semester) is designed to encourage colleges, departments, and individual faculty members to recruit—and secure a commitment—early, by leveraging the fellowship to identify, recruit and enroll world-class doctoral students.

Given the importance of recruiting, the Office of Research and the School of Graduate Studies have several key resources available:

Graduate School Recruitment Resources

Recruitment resources are designed to help departments increase the quality, quantity or diversity of graduate students in their programs. Recruiting is best done by faculty, alumni and current graduate students because they are able to provide the most detailed description of a program’s curriculum, participant experiences and career choices, and answer other questions prospective students may have.

These resources includes a summary of best practices compiled from other research universities, a guide for creating a sustainable recruitment strategy and details on specific USU resources to find and recruit the right students.

Graduate Student and PDRF Recruiting Grants

The School of Graduate Studies offers graduate student recruiting grants of up to $1,500 to support program activities that directly contribute to the recruitment of high-quality graduate students.

An additional pool of recruitment funds may be available for PDRF recruiting. Each PDRF position may request up to $500 of funds (requiring a 1:1 match from the college, department, center, or faculty member) for identifying and/or recruiting outstanding candidates for the program.

A wide range of activities is eligible for support. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Travel for faculty or current graduate students who will give recruiting talks at out-of-state recruitment fairs, professional conferences, or “feeder” institutions.
  • Bringing prospective students to the USU campus. The annual Graduate Recruitment Weekend takes place in February and is organized by SGS. Students must be invited to participate, and recruitment grants can help cover the cost of travel.
  • Development or distribution of recruiting materials (e.g., conference program ads, video podcasts of current student research for a program’s website or program brochure development, posters for distribution at conferences or by mail, etc.).

Application instructions for a Graduate Student Recruitment grant are available online.

To apply for PDRF-specific recruiting funds, departments should provide:

  • A brief (no more than one page) statement that describes the planned recruiting activities and the anticipated outcomes.
  • A budget that details:
    • All expenditures involved.
    • Source of matching funds.

Please email your request for PDRF recruitment funding to Alexa Sand ( The request will be processed within a week. There is no deadline for these recruiting grants funds; they can be requested at any time.

Research Office and Graduate School Publicity Resources

The Project Management Team, which serves both the Office of Research and the School of Graduate Studies, can provide some assistance with aspects of the creation of recruiting materials (brochures, flyers, web resources), from writing, to graphic design and print management. Requests for materials should be made well in advance to facilitate an effective production process.

The team can also consult on other marketing channels for recruiting, including placed ads, graduate fairs and social media.

Eligibility and Admissions


The Office of Research determines fellowship eligibility criteria in consultation with the deans of the doctoral granting colleges and the Graduate Council.

To be considered for a PDRF, the potential student must meet all minimum admission standards for the School of Graduate Studies, as well as any additional departmental requirements such as GRE scores, advance degrees, or other criteria. Finally, the candidate must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher. If the department standard is above a 3.5, the candidate must meet the higher standard.


The admission process will be handled slightly differently than the standard process.

Step 1. Application to Utah State University Graduate School

Prospects who are interested in formalizing their offers of the fellowship must apply to the graduate program of their choice.

Step 2. Notification of PDRF Applicant

Departments must notify the PDRF program coordinator in the Office of Research when an applicant to its program is their nominee for the fellowship. The Program Coordinator ( will notify the appropriate parties in the School of Graduate Studies.

Step 3. Eligibility Review

Once the prospect completes their application (step 1), and the Office of Research and School of Graduate Studies are notified of their application to the PDRF program (step 2), eligibility criteria will be confirmed by the School of Graduate Studies. SGS will then communicate this confirmation back to the PDRF program coordinator. Then, the college, department head, and faculty mentor will be notified of the outcome by the PDRF program coordinator.

Step 4. Department Review

The department will review the candidate for admission and will then notify the Office of Research and the School of Graduate Studies of its decision.

Step 5. Notification of PDRF Award to Applicant

The Associate Vice President of Graduate and Undergraduate Research will send an email to recipients of the fellowship that outlines the award and its expectations, and provides instructions for setting up payment, establishing residency, etc. Departments and faculty mentors will be included in official communications between the Office of Research and the applicant.

Step 6. Accept/Decline

Each PDRF applicant will be asked to accept or decline the offer of the fellowship.

If the student accepts the fellowship, then additional materials will be sent to the applicant. If the applicant declines the fellowship or declines admission to Utah State University, the fellowship reverts to control of the college, department, or faculty member that was identified in the allocation processes outlined above, and a new prospect can be identified and an offer made.

Important Dates

In order to optimize our support for the recruitment effort, please note the following dates:

  • October 1: Notify the Office of Research of the allocation using this portal. When we know which department or faculty member has received the allocation, we can begin to work with them to make the strongest recruitment effort possible in order to attract the most outstanding student. We have set aside some funding to support the recruitment effort, and we can also provide in-kind support.
  • October 15: Proposals for “at large” PDRF due in the Office of Research. For more information on these additional PDRF openings, see the ‘At-Large Application’ tab of this guidebook.
  • March 15: Submit your proposed candidate to the Office of Research for verification of qualifications and approval.
  • April 16, 2020: Notify the Office of Research of the official acceptance of admission and fellowship by the approved candidate.


Program Director:
Alexa Sand, Ph.D., Associate Vice President, Office of Research, (435) 797.8549,, Old Main 164

Program Coordinator:
Athena Dupont, Senior Program Coordinator, Office of Research (435) 797-3762,, Old Main 164

Program Financial Coordinator:
Branden Blanchard, Financial Officer, Office of Research,, Old Main 164

Publicity and Marketing:
Anna McEntire, Director of Communications, Project Management Team, (435) 797-7680,, ECC108a