Fellows Benefits and Expectations

Last update: July 27, 2016

The Royster Society of Fellows (RSOF) is the flagship interdisciplinary fellowship program of The Graduate School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A small group of new doctoral students is offered membership each year. Graduate faculty selects them from among top applicants nominated by all doctoral programs across the University. Designated fellows join a long tradition of highly achieving graduate students who attain excellence in their academic graduate programs and success in their professional careers.

While Thomas and Caroline Royster endowed the primary RSOF Program--including fellowships and a distinguished Royster Professorship for faculty leadership--other donors funded specific fellowships within the RSOF. All five-year fellowships are the same, regardless of individual fellowship names, though recipients of different fellowships may meet their specific benefactor and/or help provide stewardship to these particular donors. There are also named, one-academic-year dissertation fellowships within the RSOF for which currently enrolled doctoral students are nominated and selected each year.

The five-year fellowships constitute a partnership among each individual fellow, the fellow's graduate program and the RSOF. Beyond generous financial support, fellows also receive many opportunities for professional development, interdisciplinary interaction and engagement with the broader community. With these privileges come expectations for strong academic achievement, active participation and contribution within the Royster Society, the University, and the world.

Fellows are expected to engage in monthly research seminars, professional development meetings and special Graduate School events. These are opportunities for fellows to learn from colleagues, become acquainted with faculty from many disciplines, and build professional and social networks that can last a lifetime. Fellows have the opportunity to learn about and participate in activities that will broaden their perspectives and develop their leadership and career skills.

UNC-Chapel Hill's identity includes a long legacy of service founded on the belief that those who have been given great opportunity have a commensurate responsibility to give back. Each fellow has the ability to ensure that the RSOF is known not only as a prestigious fellowship program but also one whose members value service to others.

Specific Participation Expectations

  1. All fellows are expected to attend monthly Royster Society research seminars and support other fellows by providing feedback on their research presentations. You should attend these meetings unless they conflict with academic commitments. It's acceptable to arrive late or leave early for conflicting academic responsibilities. You will also be expected to share your own research with your colleagues; typically, fellows present their work during the final year of their fellowships, though you are welcome to contribute earlier if space permits.
  2. First-year fellows and final year fellows are expected to attend and actively participate in monthly Royster Society professional development meetings organized for their specific benefit. Please provide your ideas on what you'd like to learn/experience/organize so these best meet your needs. It's acceptable to arrive late or leave early for conflicting academic responsibilities.
  3. All fellows are expected to attend major Royster Society events such as the graduation celebration each spring. These are opportunities to become acquainted with other fellows, build a personal and professional network, and celebrate one another's successes.
  4. Other activities will evolve in response to specific opportunities and the expressed needs of the fellows. Examples include the opportunity to team-teach an interdisciplinary "First-Year Seminar" with other fellows, and presentation training in providing research talks to lay and interdisciplinary audiences.
  5. All fellows are expected to build and nurture community with other fellows. You should seek opportunities beyond those events sponsored by the Royster Society to get to know and work with one another.
  6. You may also define, develop and implement a collaborative project with your peers that will serve the University, a part of the University, or the local community. The StigmaFreeCarolina initiative and Royster-Carolina Covenant program are examples of these types of fellow-initiated service projects.  
  7. All fellows serve as ambassadors for the Royster Society and graduate education. The role of ambassador is not fixed; it may take many forms, including informal conversations with peers and faculty. You may be invited to participate in activities such as interacting with alumni at Graduate School events, presenting your research to the Graduate Education Advancement Board or other external audiences, and representing graduate students and the Royster Society in other ways. The Graduate School highlights the accomplishments of graduate students in many ways – on our website, in our alumni/donor publications, and by featuring students' research at events. You may be featured and represent other graduate students across the University. 

Financial Planning and Fellowship Funding

  1. It is your responsibility to understand the financial and service details of your fellowship. A basic plan has been developed in partnership with directors of graduate studies to best meet most students' graduate education and training needs. However, there is flexibility to meet individual needs, with appropriate rationale. Please discuss with the Associate Dean your need for changes in the following basic plan.
    1. During two nonservice years (4 semesters) – normally, your first and last years – The Graduate School provides full support (stipend, tuition, health insurance and fees). You may also receive supplemental nonservice stipends and/or summer supplemental funding from your program or external sources, as long as your total funding does not exceed certain limits.
    2. During three service years (6 semesters) – normally, your second through fourth years – your department provides a base TA/RA/ Fellow/Trainee stipend (at the currently required minimum level) and The Graduate School provides an additional stipend set at the time you entered your program. The base during these years may also come from external fellowships in certain cases.
    3. You also receive full tuition support, fees and health insurance for five years. (In-state tuition and health insurance are prorated by stipend source, and The Graduate School provides out-of-state tuition and fees every year.)
  2. This basic pattern of financial support has been developed with graduate programs to enable your highest ability for successful completion of your doctoral degree. However, when circumstances warrant, this pattern can be altered to better meet your individual academic needs. Please discuss your needs with Associate Dean Hoeflich well in advance (at least 30 days prior to the start of the semester) of any need for changes so we have adequate time to serve you better. In most cases, your advisor and DGS will also need to concur that this plan is in your best academic interest. Please note that it is not typically permissible to use a nonservice year to conduct off-campus research. We suggest that you plan ahead and apply for external fellowships that support such off campus research activity.
  3. Travel Funding:
    1. Each fellow receives a personal travel allowance in order to present his/her research. Travel funds may be used for other purposes related to your academic success as approved by the Associate Dean.
    2. Be sure to check with the Fellowship & Funding Manager for your travel allowance balance prior to making any travel arrangements.
    3. In certain situations, we are able to work with the state travel agent to purchase airfare upfront. Otherwise, please submit required reimbursement paperwork to the Funding & Fellowship Manager within 30 days of the completion of your trip.
    4. It is your responsibility to understand all policies related to your travel prior to making travel arrangements.
  4. You should inform The Graduate School of funding awarded from other sources and additional service commitments (such as research and teaching commitments) in accordance with the policies and procedures for your fellowship. We will work with you to maximize your academic and financial opportunities without violating the tenets of your fellowship.
  5. Please ensure your department is planning for you appropriately and reserving a TA or RA slot for you for upcoming service years. Don't make assumptions, since directors of graduate study and staff change and they may not remember the details of this commitment to you.
  6. Your program is permitted to increase your base stipend at any time. This won't affect the amount of supplement you receive from The Graduate School unless the total exceeds the maximum permitted (currently $34,000). Please see Associate Dean Hoeflich if you have an unusual financial need.
  7. Each graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill is limited to no more than 10 semesters of state-funded TUITION support (including time getting a master's degree) unless your department approves a waiver of this and provides your additional tuition support.
  8. Royster Society/Graduate School support is limited to 10 semesters. The Graduate School has other fellowships (such as the off-campus dissertation fellowship) for which you are welcome to apply so you can have the advantage of non-service support. However, such non-service Graduate School support WILL COUNT as one of your semesters of RSOF funding (normally in lieu of a service semester). This can be helpful if you need to be away from campus to conduct research in another location.
  9. DO apply for external, competitive fellowships. This is a critical part of your training, helps clarify and focus your research, and is vital for future success. We will coordinate your awards so that you will always be better off for having received external fellowships.
  10. If you are successful in obtaining an external fellowship that provides for your full tuition, fees and health insurance (no supplement from The Graduate School), this will NOT count toward your 10-semester limit of support from The Graduate School. You may reserve your fellowship to have more years of financial support or perhaps utilize some funds for other academic costs. These are approved on a case-by-case basis.
  11. If you receive a significant external fellowship that provides most of your support but requires a small supplement from The Graduate School (such as partial tuition support or other support), this may also not count against your 10 semesters of support from The Graduate School. 
  12. Please understand the personal tax implications of your fellowship, as each person's situation is unique. Workshops and online tax information are available to assist you.
  13. Please apply for in-state residency for tuition purposes if you are eligible. This helps our limited funding support more graduate fellows.
  14. Languages Across the Curriculum Teaching Assistantships:
    1. UNC's Area Studies Centers provide the opportunity for students to become a Languages Across the Curriculum (LAC) teaching assistant to lead discussion sessions in a foreign language. Teaching LAC courses helps graduate students develop a broader range of teaching experiences, often interdisciplinary in nature.
    2. Fellows can apply to be a LAC teaching assistant during their service years/semesters.
    3. LAC teaching assignments are intended to be supplemental teaching experiences, not a primary source of funding; fellows are still expected to hold a part-time service assignment.
    4. Fellows should work with their director of graduate studies and The Graduate School to make sure the load for both assignments is not excessive.

Interdisciplinary First Year Seminar Teaching Fellowship

  1. The ability to participate in the "Interdisciplinary First Year Teaching Fellowship" of the Royster Society is a fellowship benefit. If you participate in team teaching you will receive that semester's TA support from The Graduate School, rather than your program. This WILL count as one of your 10-semesters of support from the Graduate School in lieu of one of your service semesters otherwise funded by your program.
  2. When team teaching, you may not accept additional TA or RA service assignments and should only teach this interdisciplinary seminar and work on your own studies and research. Our experience with this interdisciplinary teaching indicates you will need to devote 15-20 hours per week to this seminar, so we expect it to be a full-time TA responsibility for you.
  3. Each fellow may only teach one interdisciplinary course (current limit, may change over time).
  4. Interdisciplinary teaching teams should ideally include three fellows, though there may be exceptions for up to four fellows in a group. All fellows are expected to attend all class sessions and actively participate in all course planning and evaluation activities.
  5. Fellows must obtain support from their program and the Royster Professor prior to participating the in the Interdisciplinary FYS Teaching Fellowship by completing the Approval Form. It is understood by both the fellow and the program that a signed Approval Form commits the Fellow to the program for the designated semester.
  6. The Royster Professor must be consulted prior to any changes to the Interdisciplinary FYS Teaching Fellowship team/course are made. Changes may require a new Approval Form.

Annual Assessment / Expectations

  1. At the end of each academic year, you, your advisor (if you have one), and your program director of graduate studies will be asked to report on your academic performance and progress, including grades and incompletes, courses and degree program benchmarks, papers written and/or published,  presentations, courses taught, service to the discipline/university/community, etc. Our expectation is that you are achieving at the highest academic level and are among the most successful graduate students within the University.
  2. The Graduate School will review this information and plans for the following academic year, including planned service assignments, if relevant.
  3. Following a successful assessment, you will receive a continuation letter and an updated funding plan, if necessary. Please review this to ensure it is correct.
  4. A "low pass" grade or similar low performance may be cause for discontinuation of your fellowship, unless there are mitigating circumstances. One or more grades of "incomplete" or failure to pass an expected milestone examination in your program may be cause for discontinuation, depending upon the circumstances.
  5. Ethics violations and similar are cause for discontinuation of your fellowship, depending upon circumstances involved.
  6. Each situation will be reviewed individually by the associate dean with you and your graduate program director of graduate studies and advisor, the graduate dean, and Royster professor, as needed.
  7. If your fellowship is discontinued due to performance problems, there is a process for possible reinstatement of your fellowship that allows you to demonstrate evidence of your subsequent high academic performance.
  8. If you experience problems of any kind, please speak to your advisor and director of graduate studies, and The Graduate School's associate dean for fellowships as soon as possible. Often, resources can be identified to help you work through and resolve various types of issues.

Resources/ Opportunities

  1. As fellows, you will be given special opportunities for professional development and interdisciplinary learning opportunities. We urge you to take full advantage of these.
  2. The Graduate School Fellowship Office is a resource for you. Please let us know when you have questions or concerns. We appreciate all of your suggestions for improvements.
  3. The Royster Distinguished Professor is a resource for you, as are the faculty on the Royster Society of Fellows Board. Please don't hesitate to ask questions or make suggestions.
  4. Your fellowship colleagues are perhaps your most important resource. Feel free to initiate subgroups or meetings of fellows with whom you share interests. "Alumni-fellows" say this is one of the most important fellowship benefits.
  5. Alumni-fellows are also a rich resource for you. Feel free to contact them.