Fellows Benefits and Expectations

Last update: August 14, 2020

The Royster Society of Fellows (SOF) 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 members select them from among top applicants nominated by all doctoral programs across the University. Designated fellows join a long tradition of high 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 Royster SOF Program—including fellowships and a distinguished Royster Professorship for faculty leadership—other donors funded specific fellowships within the Royster SOF. All five-year fellowships are the same, regardless of individual fellowship names. There are also one-year dissertation fellowships within the Royster SOF 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 Graduate School. Beyond generous financial support, fellows also receive many opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement, professional development, and interaction with the broader community. With these benefits come expectations for strong academic achievement, active participation and contribution within the Royster SOF and the University.

Fellows are expected to engage in monthly research seminars, professional development activities, interdisciplinary workshops, 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 global 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 Royster SOF is known not only as a prestigious fellowship program, but also one whose members value service to others.

Participation Expectations

  1. Fellows are expected to be active participants and collaborators within the Royster SOF community, and there is a variety of opportunities to do so. Fellows should feel free to provide ideas of programming would be interested in attending so that the Royster SOF can best meet their needs. It is acceptable to arrive late or leave early for conflicting responsibilities. Fellows are encouraged and expected to build and nurture community with other fellows as well. Fellows should seek opportunities beyond those events sponsored by the Royster SOF to get to know and work with one another.
    1. Interdisciplinary workshops and events: The Royster SOF is a unique program that helps fellows experience their research and the research of their peers through different perspectives.
    2. Research seminars: Final-year fellows share their research with their colleagues through a monthly seminar series. This is an opportunity for presenting fellows to hone presentation skills and receive constructive feedback, as well as stimulate conversation and collaboration with other students.
    3. Professional development: Fellows are encouraged to actively participate in the professional development offerings through their program, The Graduate School, and the Royster SOF. These opportunities are strategically designed to support all graduate students through their graduate careers.
    4. Community-building: The Royster SOF cohort is a valuable resource; there are opportunities and activities to help fellows get settled in the first year and to establish lasting relationships.
    5. Celebrations: The Royster SOF hosts a Fall Welcome and Graduation Recognition each year. These are opportunities to become acquainted with other fellows, build a personal and professional network, and celebrate one another’s successes.
  2. All fellows serve as ambassadors for the Royster SOF, The Graduate School, and graduate education broadly. The role of ambassador may take many forms, including: informal conversations with peers and faculty; interacting with alumni; presenting research to the Graduate Education Advancement Board or other external audiences; and representing graduate students and the Royster SOF in other ways. We encourage you to include the Royster logo in the acknowledgements section of your research presentations, when appropriate. For instance, fellows may collaborate with their peers in service activities that benefit the University or the broader community. The Stigma Free Carolina initiative is one such example of a fellow-initiated service project.
  3. The Graduate School highlights the accomplishments of graduate students in many ways — on the website, in alumni/donor publications, and by featuring students’ research at events — and fellows should share their accomplishments with the fellowship programs coordinator. Fellows should also feel free to share that they are a Royster SOF Fellow when they are featured in other forums and by other organizations across the University. We encourage you to include the Royster logo in the acknowledgements section of your research presentations, when appropriate.

Financial Planning and Fellowship Funding

  1. It is the fellow’s responsibility to understand the financial and service details of their fellowship. A basic plan has been developed in partnership with directors of graduate studies (DGS) to best meet most students’ graduate education and training needs:
    1. Non-service: The Royster SOF funding plan includes two non-service years, typically used during the first and final years. During these years, The Graduate School provides full support (stipend, tuition, health insurance and fees). Fellows may receive supplemental non-service funding from their program or external sources, as long as the total funding does not exceed the maximum compensation rate of $34,000/year.
    2. Service: The funding plan also includes three service years, typically used during the second through fourth years. Service assignments may include Teaching Assistantships (TA) or Research Assistantships (RA). During a service year, the department provides a base TA/RA/ Fellow/Trainee stipend (at the required minimum level), and The Graduate School provides an additional non-service stipend. The base during these years may also come from external fellowships or service assignments outside of the academic program in certain cases.
    3. Fellows receive full tuition support, fees and health insurance for each of the five years. In-state tuition and health insurance are prorated by stipend source, and The Graduate School provides out-of-state tuition and fees. Please note that tuition awards are applied at the academic rate. School-based tuition is NOT included and should be discussed with the program. Payment of any special deposit or fee required for courses in which fellows enroll or specific to an academic program will be the fellow’s responsibility.
  2. When circumstances warrant, this pattern may be altered to better meet fellows’ individual academic needs. Please discuss these needs with the associate dean and director of fellowships at least 30 days prior to the start of the semester. The fellow’s advisor and DGS will also need to concur that this plan is in the fellow’s best academic interest.
  3. Travel Funding:
    1. Each fellow receives a personal travel allowance of $2,000 in order to present his/her research or participate in career advancement opportunities such as professional conferences, job talks or interviews.
    2. Fellows should check with the fellowship programs coordinator for their travel allowance balance prior to making any travel arrangements, gain approval prior, and submit required reimbursement paperwork to the Student Finance Assistant within 30 days of the completion of the trip.
    3. It is the fellow’s responsibility to understand all policies related to travel prior to making travel arrangements.
  4. Fellows 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 for the fellowship. The Royster team will work with fellows to maximize their academic and financial opportunities without violating the tenets of the fellowship.
  5. Fellows should communicate with their department to ensure they are planning appropriately and reserving a TA or RA slot during service years. Fellows should not make assumptions, since directors of graduate study and staff do change and those new to their roles may not know or remember the details of the fellowship.
  6. Academic programs are permitted to increase the base stipend. This will not affect the amount of supplement fellows receive from The Graduate School unless the total exceeds the maximum permitted (currently $34,000).
  7. Graduate School support is limited to ten semesters (not including summer). Additionally, each graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill is limited to no more than ten semesters of state-funded tuition support (including time getting a master’s degree).
  8. The Graduate School offers an Off-Campus Dissertation Research Fellowship that fellows are welcome to apply for if they need to conduct research away from Chapel Hill. Such support from The Graduate School support will count as one of the semesters of Royster SOF fellowship (normally in lieu of a service semester).
  9. Fellows should apply for external, competitive fellowships. This is a critical part of graduate training, helps students clarify and focus their research, and is vital for future success. The Graduate Funding Information Center is a good resource initiating a funding search.
  10. The Royster SOF works with fellows are successful in obtaining an external fellowship to maximize the academic and financial opportunities without violating the tenets of the fellowship. Fellows may be able to reorganize their funding plan or receive an increase in their non-service funding (provided the overall stipend does not exceed the $34,000 funding maximum). Such changes are approved on a case-by-case basis, and should be discussed with the associate dean and director of fellowships early.
  11. Fellows are responsible for understanding the personal tax implications of their fellowship, as each person’s situation is unique. Workshops and online tax information resources are available to assist.
  12. Fellows should apply for in-state residency for tuition purposes if they are eligible. This helps The Graduate School’s limited funding support more graduate fellows.

Interdisciplinary First Year Seminar (FYS) Teaching Fellowship

  1. The ability to participate in the “Interdisciplinary First Year Teaching Fellowship” of the Royster SOF is a fellowship benefit. If fellows participate in team teaching, they will receive that semester’s TA support from The Graduate School, rather than the program. This WILL count as one of the 10-semesters of support from The Graduate School in lieu a service semester otherwise funded by the program.
  2. When team teaching, fellows may not accept additional TA or RA service assignments and should only teach the FYS seminar and work on their own studies and research. Experience with this interdisciplinary teaching experience indicates fellows will need to devote 15-20 hours per week to this seminar, so it is expected it to be a full-time TA responsibility.
  3. It is expected that fellows participate in a FYS Teaching Fellowship during a service semester. Fellows who wish to teach a FYS during a non-service year will need to consult with the Royster professor and associate dean to request an exception. Fellows who receive an exception to teach a FYS during a non-service year will receive their allocated non-service semester funding amount only (in some cases, fellows may be required to be paid via Payroll in order to serve as a FYS TA; however, the overall funding amount for that semester will not change).
  4. Currently, each fellow may only teach one FYS during the tenure of their fellowship.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. If a fellow must withdraw from a FYS team after approval, but prior to start of the course, they are advised to seek a qualified Royster replacement and contact the Royster professor and associate dean immediately.
  7. To gain approval to teach a First Year Seminar, fellows must complete their exams. Prior teaching experience is preferred.
  8. 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.
  9. The Royster professor will mentor FYS TAs and visit course meetings to provide feedback and pedagogical advice. The FYS team is encouraged to maintain open communication with the Royster professor throughout the planning and teaching process.

Progress Assessment and Expectations

  1. The Royster SOF includes a comprehensive assessment process that is outlined in Appendix A.
  2. Following the end of each semester (August, December, May), the Royster SOF team will review each fellow’s grades. Fellows who earn a low pass or incomplete on their record will be placed on conditional status and will work with the associate dean, their advisor, and DGS to develop an action plan outlining how the fellow will address the grade(s). Fellows who successfully complete their action plan will return to active status.
  3. Fellows and their advisors will also complete an annual survey that will identify completed and pending milestones as well as provide a holistic view of the fellow’s progress. If needed, the fellow will meet with the Royster team to address any issues identified by the survey. Following a successful assessment, fellows will receive a continuation letter and an updated funding plan. DGS, SSM and advisor will be copied.
  4. If the fellow has an F on their record and is academically ineligible to continue in their program, the Royster SOF Fellowship will be discontinued.
    1. See The Graduate School Handbook for information on program reinstatement.
    2. See the associate dean for information on fellowship reinstatement.
  5. If the fellow has an Incomplete on their record, the Fellowship will be placed on conditional status, and an Action Planpdf iconto address the grade(s) will be developed in collaboration with the associate dean, the advisor and DGS.
    1. If the fellow meets the requirements of the Action Plan and has a pass or high pass grade entered within by the deadline, then they will proceed to next stage of comprehensive review process.
    2. See The Graduate School Handbook for more information regarding incompletes.
  6. If the fellow received a low pass. The associate dean will set up a meeting to discuss the fellow’s semester and their plan for continued academic progress.
    1. Review The Graduate School Handbook for more information on the impact of low passes. Subsequent low passes will be addressed based on each individual situation.
  7. Inadequate academic progress or failure to meet the requirements of the action plan may be cause for discontinuation of the fellowship. A failing grade is also cause for discontinuation. Please be aware of the policies regarding grades and academic progress in The Graduate School Handbook.
  8. Ethics violations may also be cause for discontinuation of the fellowship, depending upon circumstances involved. Each situation will be reviewed individually with the fellow, the DGS, and advisor by the associate dean and The Graduate School Dean and Royster professor, as appropriate.
  9. If the fellowship is discontinued due to inadequate progress or a failing grade, there is a process for possible reinstatement that allows the fellow to demonstrate evidence of subsequent high academic performance. Please consult with the associate dean on this process.
  10. Fellows should not hesitate to speak with their advisor, DGS, the associate dean, or Royster professor if they experience any issues. Often, resources can be identified to work through and resolve various types of issues, and the Royster SOF team is here to support all fellows.

Royster SOF Team — Roles & Contacts

Brian Rybarczyk, Associate dean for professional development and funding
Contact for policy-related questions, exception requests and reinstatement procedures

Victoria "Tori" Ekstrand, Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education
Contact for fellow mentoring, Royster Global, program initiatives, and First Year Seminar support

Laura Pratt, Fellowship programs coordinator
Contact for programming logistics, Royster SOF initiative support, travel funding approval, annual assessment questions, communications updates and logistics, and biographical information

Julie Montaigne, Director of fellowships
Contact for funding plan questions and updates

Contact for student account questions


Comprehensive Assessment Process

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