SGPS takes top honours

Western’s School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) has won the 2011-12 Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS) /Education Testing Service (ETS) Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education for a pair of programs supporting students preparing applications for external scholarship competitions.

“Preparing effective scholarship proposals in a compressed period of time is a daunting task for students,” said Linda Miller, vice-provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). “The ability to articulate a clear and compelling plan of study or research project that will engage and win over potential selection committee members is a skill that is perfected over time through mentoring and coaching.”

Started in 2009, Consult the Experts Series provides strategic mentoring to students.

The program offers support to students and scholars writing research proposals for competition. Scholarship and fellowship applicants are required to write a detailed description of their proposed research project for the period during which they would hold the award if successful. A well-structured, well-written proposal is critical to the success of the application. This program allows students to tap into mentors on campus who have done just that – successfully.

Launched in March 2012, the Scholarship Library was developed to equip students with the necessary resources to put forth a successful funding proposal for external competitions. This website, accessible only by current Western students through our secure Grad Portal, consolidates years of scholarship support from various graduate units into a centralized database accessible 24/7.

Visitors are able to access a wealth of knowledge surrounding the application process and proven strategies for success. Furthermore, past applications and successful research proposals are available to consult. (These have been donated to SGPS by various Consult the Experts Series volunteers).

While Consult the Experts is exclusively for current graduate students, the Scholarship Library can be accessed by current undergraduates in order to aid recruitment efforts.

“We feel this project exemplifies innovation and excellence due to its direct impact in several facets of the graduate education process at both the central and program levels,” Miller said. “By focusing on enhancing our scholarship support portfolio, SGPS staff have surpassed the level of ‘doing enough’ and risen to the level of ‘providing the best’ for our students. We have championed enhancements in the quality of our recruitment class, in addition to the retention and student experience of our current students.”

The project is the result of three and a half years of tireless efforts to ensure our graduate students have a competitive advantage in the external funding application process, Miller added.

“If only one extra student is awarded an external scholarship based in part on the increased support they received from SGPS, we have made a difference,” she said. “The student’s experience is enriched allowing more focus on research, academics, training and development, as well as increasing the probability of the timely completion of the degree program.

“Most importantly, the contributions of our volunteer consultants were invaluable to the many Western students who sought guidance for funding competitions. It is an honour to share this award with them.”

A certificate and a $2,500 award will be presented to SGPS at the NAGS annual conference April 19-21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Award funds will be used to develop future support services for external scholarship assistance.

NAGS draws institutional membership from the northeastern United States and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.