Funding, Finance, and Resource Information

Assistantships and Senior Lecturer Appointments

Students are assigned to Graduate Assistantships (i.e., TA, RA, or PA) and Student Lecturer Appointments (SLA) by faculty each semester based on need. Appointment letters are generally distributed to current students in early May for the following fall semester, and early December for the following spring semester.

Legally, all students with funded positions are required to be on campus and available for meetings beginning with the first day of the faculty contract date set by the Secretary of the Faculty (see Students should thus consult with faculty supervisors as early as possible about when any meetings or other advance course preparation will occur, and should take care to schedule travel and other employment to accommodate those dates.

Graduate assistantships are typically offered at the 50 percent level, which is a full-time appointment for a full-time student. These assistantships include full tuition remission and benefits. For information about current stipend rates, students should speak with the Graduate Coordinator.

Graduate Assistants sign a workload agreement each semester that specifies the amount of time and the tasks they must complete during their appointment. Graduate Assistants report to their faculty supervisor during their appointments. Other questions about funding and appointments should be directed to the appointment’s faculty supervisor or the Graduate Coordinator. Questions about payment and benefits should be directed to the Department Administrator.

Students with graduate assistantships must be enrolled appropriately. Detailed information about enrollment requirements can be found in the Graduate School’s academic policies:

Student Hourly Employment and Course Graders

During the academic year and in the summer, graduate students may work on a student hourly basis. This employment may encompass a range of activities, including (but not limited to) working for a professor on research projects, working for the department in a staff-related capacity, and working as a grader for a course. In cases where student hourly employment and course grading may occur in addition to a regular appointment as a TA, PA, or lecturer, students should discuss these situations with their advisors before accepting any additional employment. Students accepting additional employment should be aware of maximum appointment levels.

Maximum Appointment Levels

The Graduate School sets the maximum levels of graduate appointments. For U.S. citizens, the maximum appointment level during the academic year is 75 percent. This means that a student with a 50 percent assistantship and/or lectureship may work no more than an additional 10 hours a week as a student hourly and/or course grader.

International students with a 50 percent appointment may not accept any additional hourly or grader assignments during the academic year.

During semester breaks and the summer, students who have no TA and/or PA appointments may work up to 40 hours a week through student hourly employment. Students teaching a 3-week or 4-week summer course are considered to be working at 100 percent during this period, and they may not accept any additional employment while teaching. Students teaching an 8-week summer section are considered to be working at 50 percent, and they may accept additional employment up to 40 hours a week (including time spent teaching).

For more information from the Graduate School on maximum appointment levels, see:

TA and PA Collective Bargaining

The contract between the state and the Teaching Assistant’s Association covering TAs and PAs ( is no longer in force; however, the university is continuing to use the terms of the contract until final university policies are adopted. Since the TAA no longer represents TAs and PAs, sections of the contract referring to “union” rights and responsibilities are no longer in effect. TAs and PAs can find policies in the contract related to: grievance procedures; appointments; orientation, training, and evaluation; non-discrimination; termination; health and safety; and benefits, including sick leave, vacation, and leave of absence.


Fellows are selected in a campus-wide fellowship competition that is open to students in all fields at any stage of graduate study. Incoming applicants will automatically be considered for University Fellowships. These fellowships may be for terms from one semester to two years, with tuition remission and benefits. Ongoing fellowships in the form of Chancellor’s Fellowships are generally awarded to dissertators. When other competitive Fellowship opportunities arise students will be notified by the Graduate Coordinator or the Director of Graduate Studies.

The Graduate School administers a number of different fellowships on campus, including: the University Fellowships, Chancellor’s Fellowships, Mellon-Wisconsin Fellowships, the Dickie Fellowships, and a variety of external fellowships. If you have questions about these fellowships, please contact the Office of Fellowships and Funding Resources:

Department Awards

The Communication Arts Department offers a variety of awards, which come with monetary prizes, to graduate students. Sometimes called the spring awards, the awards are typically decided by the Graduate Committee in the spring. Nominations for the awards are generated by the faculty in the four areas of graduate study in the Department. To be eligible for consideration for these awards, graduate students must be continuing in the program, must be making satisfactory progress towards their degree, and must not have any incompletes on their transcript. The monetary prize associated with each award varies every year by the number of recipients awarded and the availability of funds. The awards are:

Wackman Award: Awarded to residents of the State of Wisconsin for outstanding scholarly work (either completed or in progress). Residency is determined by the following: having been born in Wisconsin; or having graduated from a Wisconsin high school; or having a life partner who was born in Wisconsin. An individual may receive this award more than once.

Helen K. Herman Award: Awarded to graduate students who demonstrate academic ability, need, and participation in extra-curricular activities.

Risser Award: Awarded to outstanding female graduate students.

Frankenburger Award: Awarded for scholarship in speech.

Pearce Award: Awarded for the purpose of funding student research or encouraging and improving performance skills.

Wickhem Award: Awarded for achievements in media production.

Kepley Communication Award: Awarded for excellence in Communication Arts.

Sharon Sites Award: Awarded to female graduate students concentrating in Film and Media and Cultural Studies.

Dissertation Awards

Elliott Dissertation Scholarship: Given to students who have successfully defended their dissertation proposal, this award is designed to facilitate progress on researching and writing the dissertation. Students also must be in Good Standing to receive an Elliott Dissertation Fellowship. (see section VI. SATISFACTORY ACADEMIC PROGRESS). Students in Communication Science, Media and Cultural Studies, and Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture should provide their approved prospectus—signed by their advisor—to the Graduate Coordinator no later than 12 months after they have passed preliminary exams. Students in Film should provide a signed prospectus form and a copy of their prospectus to the Graduate Coordinator no later than 12 months after they have passed preliminary exams. (The prospectus form can be obtained from the Graduate Coordinator). After submitting the required materials, students in Good Standing will receive a letter from the Director of Graduate Studies confirming receipt of the award and listing its payment details and amount.

Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellowship: Awarded by the UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities, the Dana-Allen Fellowship provides one semester in residence at the Institute. The fellowship includes a one-semester stipend plus tuition and fringe benefits. Office space at the Institute is provided. Fellows participate in the interdisciplinary activities of the Institute including the weekly seminars. Fellows also prepare a seminar presentation based on their dissertation project. Applicants must have defended their dissertation proposal and have written at least one chapter of the dissertation. Application is by department nomination only, so interested graduate students should contact their area representative on the Graduate Committee.

For more information about the Dana-Allen Fellowship, see:

Health Insurance Benefits

TAs, PAs, RA, and Lecturers (Student Assistants) with appointments of 33.3% or higher (approximately 13 hrs/week) for at least the length of a semester are eligible to enroll in a health insurance program.

For information about health insurance options, see:

For information about currently monthly premiums, see:

Questions about health insurance may be directed to the Department Administrator.

External Funding and Fellowships

The Graduate School encourages all students to seek out and apply for funding from sources external to the university (e.g., federal agencies, professional organizations, private foundations). The Graduate School supports selected federal/private fellowships through the provision of tuition support and health insurance (see Students should be aware that fellowships and awards from external sources each have unique terms and conditions that the student should take time to understand. Questions on external fellowships can be directed to the Office of Fellowships and Funding Resources.

To find information on sources of external funding and fellowships, see: and

The Grants Information Collection (GIC) on the 2nd Floor of Memorial Library is a great collection of print and on-line resources to help students find external fellowships and scholarships. Students can learn how to set up a personalized profile on several on-line funding databases, and get regular notices of relevant funding opportunities. Students should remember that the timetable for identifying, applying for, and receiving such external funding is generally quite long. Students should plan on 9-12 months between the time they start a search and the time they may receive funding.

Fellows with Concurrent Appointments

Students with fellowships payrolled through the University may hold concurrent graduate assistantships and/or student hourly appointments up to an allowable maximum. Questions about concurrent work along with a fellowship may be directed to the Office of Fellowships and Funding Resources.

Funding for Study Abroad

International Student Services provides information about opportunities for international research, grants, scholarships and other funding.

Funding for Conference and Research Travel

The Department of Communication Arts provides a once-per-academic year travel scholarship for students who are presenting an academic paper at a conference. For more information see XI. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND CAREER PLANNING.

The Graduate School provides a limited amount of funding for graduate students presenting at a conference each year, preference is given to dissertators and final year MFA students. For more information, see:

The Graduate School runs a competition twice/year for funds to support travel related to dissertation/thesis research. Students must be dissertators or final-year MFA students. For more information, see:


The Office of Student Financial Aid ( assists graduate students whose personal and family resources are not adequate to cover the expenses involved in attending the University. The office also provides counseling to help students manage their money effectively, information on other potential sources of financial assistance (such as employment), debt management counseling, and small short-term loans for emergency situations.

Desk Allocation

The Department seeks to provide desk space to all Communication Arts graduate students, realizing the desire to have an office in Vilas Hall, and the various benefits of having a work space on site.

However, sometimes we are faced with a space crunch, and have less available desks than people who want desks. In such situations, it is Department practice to prioritize students (including those based in other departments) with active teaching positions in the Department, on the grounds that we have a duty to provide space for instructors of Communication Arts courses to prepare classes, meet with undergraduates, grade, and conduct other course-related tasks.

As such, in the rare instances when demand for desk space exceeds supply, those who are actively teaching in the Department will be prioritized over those who are on dissertator and/or external fellowship, who are serving as PAs, who are on leave or otherwise off campus, whose TA, PA, RA, or lecturer position is in another department, and/or who have desk space elsewhere. In such situations, students are welcome to be proactive by arranging desk-sharing arrangements themselves with friends and peers, or may be asked to share a desk by the department.

All graduate student offices are shared spaces, and thus all students should be mindful that their uses of the space don’t render the space harder for others assigned to that space to conduct their own work. In particular, clutter should be kept to a minimum, past student papers and exams must be disposed of in an orderly manner (UW–Madison requires these to be saved for a year, and then promptly shredded), and office hours should be decided upon in conjunction and discussion with office-mates.