IRIS Area and International Studies Awards for Incoming Graduate Students


The purpose of these grants is to recruit strong incoming graduate students who will at some point in their graduate training require a period of international fieldwork or development of language or cultural competence off the UW-Madison campus.


Grants are offered to prospective graduate students as an inducement to study at Wisconsin. Any UW-Madison program that admits graduate students may nominate 1 prospective student. The grants are intended to help programs that admit internationally-oriented or area-studies-oriented graduate students recruit their top candidates.

Grant Details:

These are grants of $5,000 to be used in the first 3 years of the recipient’s career at UW-Madison.

New, as of fall 2023: Funds will be released directly to the awardee, upon advisor request. Working with their advisor, awardees can request release of award funds by completing this funds release request form. The awardee’s advisor should then email the completed form to the IRIS Assistant Director for Awards.

UW-Madison/System guidelines dictate that U.S. citizens (and foreign nationals who are considered citizens for tax purposes) will receive their awards through the Bursar’s scholarship system. Those awardees with “non-resident alien” status will receive their awards through payroll. Please note that research awards are considered taxable income, as determined by the United States IRS. Awardees who have non-resident alien status will have taxes deducted from their award prior to payout.


Nominations for 2024-2025 grants were due by Wednesday, February 14, 2024. The review committee will aim to notify nominating units by early March of its decisions so that programs can inform selected incoming students.

Nomination Procedure:

Programs wishing to make a nomination should submit their nominations through the online nomination form. Students may not apply directly; nominations will only be accepted from admitting programs.


Nominations will be reviewed by a faculty-led IRIS Review Committee.

A Few Frequently Asked Questions…

Our department has master’s degree students who are applying to continue to a PhD. We also have applicants to the PhD program from other master’s programs on campus. Are they eligible?

The spirit of these awards is to help departments recruit top admissions candidates in area and international studies, persons who probably are being recruited by other universities and whom we’d rather not lose to the competition. Students currently enrolled at Wisconsin are not automatically ineligible. After all, it’s sometimes the case that one of our own undergraduates will rank toward the top of an admissions list but also would look good and has applied to, say, Berkeley or NYU. Likewise, some MA/MS students apply elsewhere to do their PhD work but are attractive candidates here as well.

We do not want to see these fellowships used as bonuses for students already enrolled at Wisconsin and highly unlikely to leave, no matter how good or promising such students might be, and no matter how much they could use a research fellowship.

Only the department knows whether a given student, finishing, say, an MA program here, is on the market for different PhD programs. Only the department has a sense of the probability of that person leaving. Departments should put up persons who meet the spirit of these fellowships and the spirit is definitely recruitment: attracting top admissions candidates to Wisconsin.

If departments do this, the great majority of their nominees are going to be applicants from outside. If now and then there’s a student already here who’s great, whom Wisconsin could lose, and for whom a $5,000 research scholarship stands a good chance of making the difference, then the department, still abiding by the spirit of the awards, certainly should feel free to make that nomination.

About that 1200-character limit on the form for the supporting case… it’d be helpful to have some guidance about what we should include in that short paragraph. Do we need to spend that space connecting the candidate to a prospective advisor? Should we simply state the nature of the international work that is anticipated? It just seems like an awfully short bit of text.

Sing the applicant’s praises. Definitely note where in the world the applicant is likely to work, and thus where (or on what sort of language learning program or the like) the applicant may wish to use the $5,000. It’s understood that this may be speculative, but if the applicant is a Korea specialist, or at least an East Asia specialist, who will certainly need to undertake fieldwork or in-situ learning of some kind in East Asia, say so. It can’t hurt to mention who on the faculty is likely to emerge as the advisor, or which two or three are likeliest. You can also highlight the particular achievements of the candidate and what would make him/her attractive to “rival” programs at other schools. You can also note whether the department plans to offer the applicant X years of TA support, has put the person up for a University Fellowship, or whatever the case may be. Our selection committee will be eager to invest in admissions candidates in whom the department is highly invested.

Do you have additional questions?

Email them to

Reports from recipients

All awardees are required to submit a brief report on the activities funded by their award. Reports are listed below by year award was made, name of recipient, and departmental affiliation.

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The 2024 competition is now closed. The deadline for submission was Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

A pdf version of the award details & nomination procedures is available here.

Programs submit nominations through our online nomination form – (using a UW-Madison Google Workspace Form)


Awardees receive funds upon request award by completing this funds release request form and submitting it to the IRIS Awards Office per instructions. Requests must be submitted six-to-eight weeks (and no fewer than four weeks) prior to the awardee’s intended use. Awards are disbursed approximately one month before the project start date.