Grad students bring millions in research funding to UNC-Chapel Hill

Did you know that more than 50,000 funding opportunities are available to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate students? The Graduate Funding Information Center (GFIC) exists to connect students to external funding that advances their academic goals.

Maudrie Alexis, GFIC graduate assistant; Julie Montaigne, director of fellowships for The Graduate School; and Alyssa Spoonts, GFIC senior graduate research assistant.

Pictured, left to right, are Maudrie Alexis, Julie Montaigne and Alyssa Spoonts,

GFIC provides current and incoming first-year graduate students with resources for funding independent research, collaborative projects and fellowships.

Prior to 2012, the center was previously included with the Grant Source Library, a resource for faculty and students to find funding. Now, it is operated by The Graduate School and staffed by current graduate research assistants.

Julie Montaigne, director of fellowships for The Graduate School, said that the key to managing the majority of the resources and databases, especially for internal funding opportunities, is having a dedicated staff that understands the needs of graduate students.

“Our graduate assistants really handle most of the day-to-day functions of the center,” Montaigne said. “From conducting workshops to learning about new resources and communicating with students about them, our GAs lead it all.”

According to GFIC’s 2016-2017 External Funding Survey, 434 graduate and professional students received awards. These awards brought in nearly $4.7 million to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, a 42 percent increase from the previous year’s report. The most common funding type came from scholarships or fellowships, representing 70 percent of distributed awards.

Alyssa Spoonts, the senior graduate research assistant who is pursuing a master’s degree in library science, handles many student-facing functions for the center.

“The most common thing I hear people say is that they had no idea these resources existed,” Spoonts said. “That’s why I would like to continue to do outreach in order to foster stronger relationships with groups across campus.”

GFIC provides several methods to distribute information to students about funding opportunities. In addition to listserv emails and departmental communications, the center also conducts workshops, class visits, panels and individual appointments to help students find resources.

Junior graduate assistant Maudrie Alexis is pursuing a master’s degree in information science and said that the most common question that the team answers for students is how to find funding.

“The advice I would give students is to start early and don’t get discouraged if you can’t find what you are looking for right away,” Alexis said. “We are here to help.”

Spoonts agreed that for many students, the process can be tedious. However, in order to get the best results, students should use their resources, like GFIC, and get started searching for opportunities sooner rather than later.

“I would tell students to get started early,” Spoonts said. “Search early and often.”

GFIC offers year-round services and funding resources. Future and current students, faculty and campus organizations are encouraged to inquire.

Visit the Graduate Information Funding Center website for more information. Access the Carolina Internal Funding Database for small source for internal funding opportunities and access the InfoEd Global SPIN Plus database for more than 40,000 large, multinational funding opportunities.

By Lauren Houston