Second Place: University of California, Irvine, CA


The COVID-19 pandemic greatly limited opportunities for graduate students to support themselves in the summer through internships and other employment, leaving many students unable to meet basic needs without additional financial resources. At the same time, the pandemic highlighted substantial gaps in other campus priorities, such as updating courses for both scholarly relevance and anticipated remote and hybrid learning, the need for county-wide public health support in contact tracing and shoring up other campus-wide priorities around DEI, the research mission, entrepreneurship, and more. We developed a multi-pronged summer fellowship program to provide additional training and support to graduate students in teaching and curriculum development; diversity, equity, and inclusion; research and research translation; and contact tracing. Graduate fellows then used this knowledge to support campus priorities in these areas. The financial hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic impacted mental health, could have led to early departure from graduate school, and were felt more acutely by our minoritized students.

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