Every year, during the MEES student enrollment period (Jan-Apr), the GEC awards 1 or 2 GRA fellowships, depending on available funds. The awards are made to outstanding MEES applicants, based on nominations by CBL faculty, primarily as an incentive for attracting the most promising students to CBL. For this reason, awards are generally made only to new students i.e., the GEC specifically does not support transitions of CBL staff to a GRA position, or of MEES M.Sc. students to a Ph.D. position. Furthermore, awards are generally directed to CBL faculty who have no alternative means to support the student, especially to junior faculty in order to help them build a research group and to improve their chances of securing external grants. However, exceptions are commonly made for truly stellar applicants.
The GRA fellowships provide full salary (at the current rate, commensurate with the level of appointment), benefits, and up to 10 credit hours of tuition per semester, for a period of 2 years. Renewal of the fellowship for a second year is contingent upon full enrollment during the first year and the ability to maintain a 3.0 GPA.
The GEC encourages faculty who have existing research support to combine an offer of a GEC fellowships with a grant-based GRA to permit a multi-year offer to be made. Such offers should be made in consultation with the GEC chair to permit appropriate budgeting.
Requests for faculty nominations are generally made via e-mail in the second half of January. If all available fellowships have not been awarded after this first round, a second round of requests may be made in the first half of March. This arrangement is a compromise between being able to attract early applicants before they accept a position elsewhere, and not missing late applicants (the timing depends in part on how different AOS chairs handle the MEES applicant review process). However, the GEC is aware that eligibility for certain University of Maryland fellowships requires an earlier decision and therefore encourages CBL faculty to contact the GEC Chair before the first request for nominations goes out, if they think an applicant might also qualify for one of these. Faculty may nominate only one applicant per request but, in case a second round of requests is made, they may nominate a different applicant if the original nominee was deemed not competitive by the GEC or if s/he declined the offer of a fellowship. Otherwise, the original nominee will automatically carry over to the second round.
To nominate a MEES applicant for a GRA fellowship, the prospective advisor(s) should e-mail a nomination letter to the GEC Chair. The letter should outline in some detail what the applicant's unique qualifications are and why s/he is particularly suitable for the available position. The nominee's complete MEES application file (posted on Moodle) must also be attached. The nominee's acceptance into the MEES program is preferred, but not mandatory. However, it is strongly suggested that the advisor stay in continuous contact with the nominee so that the GEC may have a reasonable assurance of acceptance once the offer of a GRA fellowship is made. Requests for less than the maximum 2 years of support will be considered, if appropriate.
After the nomination deadline, the GEC will award fellowships to the most qualified applicants, which are selected by a majority vote, whereby the final decision rests with the GEC chair. The selection is to a large extent merit-based and applicants with a GPA of less than 3.7 are often not competitive, depending on the number of nominations. The GEC chair then sends a written offer to the applicant (with cc-s to the MEES director, CBL director, prospective advisor, and the CBL HR office), typically with a 2–3 week deadline for acceptance. The applicant accepts the offer by returning the signed letter to the GEC chair. If the applicant declines or fails to respond before the deadline, the offer is withdrawn and a new offer may be made to the next most qualified applicant, or a second round of nominations may be requested.
All tuition waivers for GEC fellows are signed by the GEC chair. GEC fellows are required to submit University of Maryland transcripts to the GEC chair after the first year of their fellowship. The GEC chair will notify the HR office of termination of the fellowship after the second year, or if the fellowship is not renewed after the first year. The advisor will then be asked to provide the HR office with a grant number for continued support of the GEC fellow, if necessary.