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 unit that admits graduate students may nominate 1-4 recruited students (see the nomination form for more details). Graduate programs that are part of a larger administrative department should coordinate with their co-programs and must submit as a single unit. The grants are intended to help units 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 early in the recipient’s career at the UW-Madison.

Starting with the AY 2019-2020 awards, funds will be released on request to departments to manage on behalf of recipients. Awardees, working with their advisor and designated financial specialist, can request release of award funds by completing this funds release request form and submitting it to the IRIS Awards Office.


Nominations for 2020-2021 grants are due by Monday, February 10, 2020 at 10:00 am. The review committee will aim to notify nominating units by the end of February of its decisions so that units can inform selected incoming students.

Nomination Procedure:

Units wishing to make nominations should download the nomination form and complete & submit as directed. Units are required to submit a separate form for each nominee. Graduate programs that are part of a larger administrative department should coordinate with their co-programs and must submit as a single unit. Students may not apply directly; nominations will only be accepted from admitting units.


Nominations will be reviewed by a faculty-led IRIS Review Committee. Graduate student yield is hard to predict, but we anticipate approving enough nominations in the expectation of making 11 awards of $5,000 each for 2020.

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 1000-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 activites funded by their award. Reports are listed below by year award was made, name of recipient, and departmental affiliation.




Please Note

Starting with AY 2019-2020, awardees need to request award monies by completing this funds release request form and submitting it to the IRIS Awards Office per instructions.

You can view & download the award nomination form here (MS Word; updated for AY 2020-2021 award cycle).

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

Nominations for AY 2020-2021 awards are due Monday, February 10, 2020 at 10:00 am.