Covid-19 Resources for graduate students

In this section of the newsletter, we share tips and strategies that you may find helpful in navigating the challenges associated with the pandemic:

Part 1

Below, we outline resources and tools that, according to our needs analysis survey, have been helpful to your peers in adjusting their teaching, research, or routine in general during the pandemic. 

Most survey participants mentioned the following tools as helpful in continuing or adapting their research projects:

  • Data collection (Qualtrics, Google surveys, LimeSurvey, The Words in the World Open Office Hours)

  • Data analysis software (E-Prime Go, PsychoPy, corpus tools)

Most of the responses credited tools that enabled transitioning to online instruction while resembling in-person teaching, such as:

  • Communication technology (Zoom)

  • Collaboration tools (Google Suites, Google Docs)

  • Course management systems (Canvas)

  • Video-sharing platforms (YouTube)

  • Video editing technologies (iMovie, VoiceThread, Flipgrid)

  • Scheduling and record keeping platforms (Doodle, MyWConline)

  • Poling platforms (Poll Everywhere)

  • Cloud storage (Google Drive)

Some survey participants also benefited from social media along with open online courses available on the web:

  • Social media (Facebook)

  • Open online course (webinars, MOOCs, writing spaces)

Others were more pragmatic in their use of tools and resources and mentioned physical equipment that was helpful while working online:

  • Ergonomic tools (laptop stand, wireless keyboard and mouseback support)

  • Tech tools and hardware (noise cancelling headphones, printer)

Part 2

Resources for life in general during/after Coronavirus 

Resources to help you with your academic life during Coronavirus 

Resources on virtual conferencing

Resources to help you learn a new skill during quarantine

Language teaching-related resources

Part 3

Opportunities Arise When Funding Priorities Change

 

Georiga Ehlers

After 125 days of working from home as the Director of the Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement and a new school year weeks away, this seems to be a good time to reflect on changes in external funding for graduate students. Research priorities across the world have pivoted. Graduate students are rethinking time to degree and research topics. Some universities and colleges faced with budget reductions pushed the pause button on support for incoming graduate students. International students are especially affected by travel and visa restrictions. Uncertainty, vacillation and conflicted policy direction have become our constant companions. 

 

In the world of external funding, we see some programs suspended, others accepting applications, and some making awards even though the student may not be able to utilize the funding until travel bans are lifted and visas can be issued. 

 

This uncertainty has generated many questions from incoming and continuing students. Here are some of the most common and our responses. 

 

Q: I have been funded for dissertation research abroad. With the Global Level 4 Health Advisory, travel is restricted, and visas are not being issued. The funder has stated that travel may resume next this fall or next spring. What can I do?

 

A: No effort is wasted. Institutions are hoping, planning, and adapting to the elusive new normal.  If you are funded but cannot travel yet, consider requesting a one-year no-cost extension. This must be requested by the student if directly funded or by the university-sponsored projects unit if awarded to the university. Continue preparing to go, but develop a backup plan in case you are unable to travel for some time and must change your topic or methods. What else can you do here and now while waiting? Can you access awarded funds for remote research or other expenses? Has your research site made new resources available online? 

 

 If you were evacuated from the field, your commitment is, no doubt, still strong. It may take time, but you’ll find a way to go back and a way to stay connected. Sarah Renkert writes eloquently about her experience being evacuated from Peru, where she has conducted research for many years. Her resolve to continue her work there is inspiring. 

 

Q: Billions in emergency funding dollars are being poured into Covid-related research to understand how it works and to develop a vaccine. I don’t do Covid research. What can I do?

 

A: Research priorities do change over time, often associated with decadal priorities agreed upon by specific disciplines (mapping the genome or blackholes or surveying Mars). Funding priorities may change with government administrations (travel to the moon and Mars, nano-technology, cyber-security), significant health and economic concerns (polio, cancer, Alzheimer’s, pollution, climate change), or unexpected events (9/11, pandemics). In my experience, unexpected events do impact smaller fellowship programs, which may be defunded.  Funding is generally dependent on available funds. Some major fellowship programs, like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, may identify a specific group of priorities for funding. This serves as an incentive to rally researchers to current needs.

 

Though your research focus may not be specific to Covid-19, does it relate in any tangential way? The impact of the pandemic is global, affecting education, small businesses, marketing, technology, security, delivery systems and more. A report from the Lincoln Lab at MIT (Kylie Foy, July 8, 2020) describes early research in identifying vocal biomarkers of Covid-19 in people infected but not yet showing symptoms. 

 

You may be committed to a topic far removed from anything to do with Covid-19, but review the requests for proposals, read the current research which may benefit from the methods of your discipline, talk with your advisors, and consider whether there might be a way to contribute to the effort. Research is demanding, and sustained effort requires sustained interest. But your larger vision of the priorities of the field and understanding of how funding is allocated within your discipline will help you steer through the funding minefields. 

 

Q: I can’t attend school without support. I have applied for funding, but my funding requests were rejected.

 

A: Rejection can be a challenge and discouraging. I was advised to never take rejection personally and to always keep my ideas fresh and updated so as to pull them out of the hat when opportunity knocks. Keep the major sources of funding in your field in mind, and in multi- or interdisciplinary fields look at the intersections with better funded disciplines. Can you frame your work to be more broadly eligible? Although rejection is a setback, there is always much to be learned from the experience. With feedback, preliminary research, and a sharper focus, revised proposals often find funding. Consider reworking your proposal and looking carefully at the priorities of the funder, making sure your proposal and you are a good fit. 

 

Q: What can I do to find and apply for funding?

 

A: Do take advantage of the resources at your institution such as:

  • Join a Fellowship Application Development Program or Writing Efficiency Group at your school. Make time to write regularly! If there are no institutional writing groups, invite several of your peers to a writing group. Set and stick to deadlines and build in mini-rewards for each deadline met.

  •  Access the resources in your home department and across campus that support students: specific centers involved in fellowship application and management, grant writing and research methods classes, and research support centers. Scan those emails that list funding opportunities.

  • Find the best matches for yourself from funding databases such as PIVOT and Grant Forward. Internal listings and searchable databases for your field and general internet searches can also be useful. Look for new funding and always check the home website (or email if it isn’t clear) to see if traditionally offered funds are still active.

  • Network with your advisors, colleagues and peers. Join your professional society as a student for even more ideas and possible support.

  • File the FAFSA and check how CARES Act funding is being distributed on your campus. Many internal scholarships require need-based information. 

 

A final word: Crisis and unexpected change can cause great discomfort and can also create great opportunity. Grant funding is always shifting. It expands or shrinks. It is focused on this or that. Fundable projects are those in the intersection between your own interests and those interests of the funder. Use your “eagle eye” to scan the field and your “mouse eye” to adjust in this time of enormous challenge and opportunity. There will be new and evolving opportunities in each part of your life. Funding organizations are responding to the pandemic with more virtual opportunities to learn about different funding programs and some even encourage graduate students to apply to be readers of applications. We are confident that you will find a way to move ahead in your career path making the best decisions for yourself and those who rely on you.

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Georgia Ehlers (gehlers@arizona.edu) is Director of the Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement in the Graduate College of the University of Arizona. She has worked as a grants writer, development officer and grants administrator with funding agencies. She has 27 years of experience supporting graduate students seeking funding.  

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