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Department of Geography

Graduate Awards and Assistantships

Graduate students may qualify for several awards and scholarships offered by the department, the graduate school, the college and other campus units. Students are encouraged to explore the websites of government agencies, non-profit organizations, professional associations (including the American Association of Geographers) and research institutes for further information about funding opportunities.


The Department of Geography offers a limited number of assistantships each year. Students on assistantships typically serve as teaching/lab assistants (TAs) or as research assistants (RAs); Ph.D. students may also serve as instructors of record for undergraduate courses.  

Students with funding offers are guaranteed departmental support for the duration of their program of study—4 semesters for master’s students and 8 semesters for Ph.D. students, contingent on the student’s satisfactory progress in the program. Funding includes a tuition waiver, a stipend, and a supplement to cover student health insurance.  Students, however, are responsible for various university fees.  Students who take longer than the allotted time to complete their degrees are not guaranteed funding for the incremental time to completion.  

Students who do not receive a funding offer may still receive funding on a semester-by-semester basis. Such funding entitles students to a tuition waiver and a stipend in the semester in which the student serves as a TA or RA. The department typically extends a small scholarship to unfunded out-of-state students, which qualifies them for in-state tuition. For more information about funding graduate studies, please visit the  Financial Aid office at USC. 




The Departmental Graduate Instructor Award recognizes outstanding graduate student instructors. Graduate students who are serving as instructor of record for a course may nominate themselves for the Instructor Award. Up to two awards will be given each year. This award comes with a small monetary prize.
The Teaching Assistant Award recognizes outstanding TAs (i.e. graduate students who lead lab sections or who have a significant role in classroom teaching; graders do not qualify). Faculty members whose courses requires a teaching assistant may nominate students for this award. A maximum of two Teaching Assistant Awards will be given each year. This award come with a small monetary prize.
The Lovingood Graduate Research Award ($500) is awarded annually to recognize the most outstanding peer-reviewed paper authored or co-authored by a geography graduate student. The competition is available to graduate students in good standing in the Department of Geography. Multi-authored papers are acceptable, but the graduate student must be the first author and must be responsible for 75 percent or more of the paper’s content. Applicants submitting multi-authored papers should specify their contributions.
Cynthia MacCharles-Medina Memorial Award ($200) is awarded annually to a graduate student emphasizing the business application of GIS in their research. The fund was established in memory of a USC Geography graduate student, Cynthia MacCharles-Medina, who was passionate about GIScience and business-related applications of GIS.
The Bennett S. Masaschi Graduate Award ($500) is awarded annually to graduate students in financial need to conduct fieldwork. A maximum of three awards will be given annually. Students may only receive one award per degree, and doctoral students have priority.
The Richard G. Silvernail Scholarship for Geographic Education ($500) will be awarded to a graduate student pursuing research in geographic education. Students may only receive this award once per graduate degree.
The Grace and Allan Davis Scholarship ($750) is awarded annually to a graduate or undergraduate student majoring in geography with a focus on geographic information science, remote sensing, and/or cartography and has a financial need (preference is given to graduate students). In addition to financial need, the award priority is given to students that are: 1) married with children; 2) married; or 3) single. All students applying must have a 3.0 GPA; graduate students must be in good standing.
The department wishes to encourage student travel to domestic and international conferences. All students presenting a sole- or first-authored conference paper or poster are eligible for a departmental travel award, with priority given to Ph.D. students. The amount of this award varies between $150 and $250 per year, depending on departmental resources.
The graduate school offers travel funding to Ph.D. students who are presenting sole- or first-authored papers or posters at academic conferences. Ph.D. students are only eligible to receive these funds twice during their time at the university. The graduate school offers up to $500 for domestic travel and $800 for international travel in four application cycles. 
The graduate school administers several trustee fellowships. The largest is the Rhude M. Patterson award ($5,000), which is given each year to two outstanding female graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. Female graduate students at the master's or Ph.D. level working in human geography and environment-society areas of the discipline qualify for this award. All geography graduate students are eligible for several smaller trustee awards, including the Royal ($2,500), Reeves ($750), and Parkinson ($750) fellowships.
In addition to the trustee fellowships, the graduate school administers the Dean's Award for Excellence in Leadership, the Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Awards, and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award. Each of these awards comes with a monetary prize.
The College of Arts and Sciences administers the Bilinski Fellowship, which provides a substantial sum for living and research expenses to geography graduate students working in the humanities and social-science sides of the discipline.
This award, administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research, provides $5,000 to support doctoral research. SPARC funds can be used to pay for salary, supplies, travel and other costs essential to completing and promoting student projects. The SPARC program requires all applicants to complete and submit a competitive grant proposal.
The Vice President of Research also sponsors the Breakthrough Graduate Scholar Award, which honors Ph.D. students who have made considerable contributions to their field of study. This honor does not carry a monetary award, but it is very prestigious and is awarded to only a dozen students at the university.
The Walker Institute for International and Area Studies typically offers fellowships of up to $3,000 for international fieldwork or travel.  Interested students should consult the Walker Institute for further details.

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