Our departmental philosophy is to admit and invest in students who will be successful in our program for the duration of their graduate studies.
All our graduate students receive guaranteed financial support that includes both academic year and summer funding as they progress through the program. Students with a BA receive five-year funding packages and students who enter the program with an MA at a prior institution receive four-year funding packages, although continued funding is contingent on making satisfactory progress in the program. One of the most important of these time requirements is completion of the M.A. thesis by the first day of the third year of graduate study. Continuation of funding is, of course, also subject to the availability of funds.
Through Graduate Assistantships, which require approximately 20 hours of work per week, students in residence receive an annual stipend paid monthly during the academic year, a tuition-and-fee waiver to cover credit-hour charges and related fees, and a significant health insurance subsidy for either individual or family coverage. During the summer, all students who remain in residency during the summer session may receive an additional stipend if they work as a graduate assistant. Students who have completed the M.A. degree may teach summer session undergraduate courses.
We also work with students interested in applying for university funding and prestigious national grants to help them secure competitive graduate fellowships. A number of students have been the recipients of fellowships and traineeships funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Additional external fellowships and grants available to eligible students include American Sociological Association Minority Fellowships, dissertation grants from various federal agencies, student research grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, and grants from private foundations, the United Nations, and the governments of other countries. Intramurally, the Graduate School administers University Graduate Fellowships, Minority Graduate Scholar Awards, Grants-in-Aid, and tuition remission awards. Through the University’s Office of Student Aid, eligible students may receive National Direct Student Loans, Guaranteed Student Loans, University loans, and graduate work study assignments.
What Do Graduate Assistants Do?
The bulk of student assistantships are Research Assistantships that allow students to collaboratively work with faculty to produce coauthored papers that appear in peer-reviewed journals. Our graduate students routinely publish with various members of the faculty. Some students also gain experience as teaching assistants in undergraduate classes, observing different techniques for teaching large or small sections, introductory or specialized classes. Students are not assigned to independently teach undergraduate classes during the academic year.
Interested students have the opportunity to teach their own classes during the summer, after they have taken a seminar in Teaching Sociology and guest lectured on several occasions. During the academic year, we want our students to be able to focus on research—both collaborative and individual.
We provide travel funds to students to present papers at professional meetings.
The Graduate Student Travel Committee has the primary purpose of making financial travel awards to our students presenting at and participating in conferences and workshops, both nationally and internationally.
With this financial support, our students are able to take advantage of diverse professional development opportunities that would otherwise be too expensive. The Graduate Student Travel Committee has developed a series of guidelines and funding priorities to adjudicate the award process based on two specific aims: to maximize the productivity of our students, and to facilitate networking opportunities that aid the job search process.
Funding for Dissertation Research
Students are encouraged to apply for dissertation year funding and our students have had excellent success in securing it both internally and externally. Internal support is available from the Research and Graduate Studies Office (RGSO) of the College of Liberal Arts and a number of other Penn State dissertation fellowships, including the Alumni Dissertation Fellowship. In recent years students have received outside support for dissertation projects from NSF, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the American Educational Research Association.