Submission Guidelines

1. Introduction

1.1 Overview

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) provides financial assistance in the form of the GSA Travel Grant for students presenting their research at meetings and conferences and for travel related to a student’s academic progress (e.g. travel to a field site or laboratory). Funding for this grant program comes from the student activity fees paid by graduate students each semester. GSA Travel Grants are awarded to students four times per year on the basis of both merit and need in a competitive proposal system.

Proposal writing is a necessary skill for nearly all researchers in both industrial and academic environments. The GSA Travel Grant provides students an opportunity to practice proposal writing before they graduate.

1.2 Funding Periods and Deadlines

The four grant periods have overlapping travel dates such that any travel grant proposal has two possible application deadlines.  Students are advised to plan ahead and submit for the earlier deadline.  A call for proposals will be distributed via e-mail to all known graduate students prior to each funding period and will specify the deadline for receipt of proposals.  Information for upcoming proposal cycles can also be requested by e-mailing gsa@nmt.edu.

Funding Period Proposal Deadline
Summer: April 1 – September 30 February 1
Fall: July 1 – December 31 June 5
Winter: October 1 – March 31 September 4
Spring: January 1 – June 30 November 13

For example, a student requesting funding for travel to a conference beginning March 25 should apply for the Winter period, with the proposal due at the beginning of September. If this deadline is missed, the student may apply for the Spring period, with the proposal due at the beginning of November.

NO LATE PROPOSALS WILL BE CONSIDERED. If acceptance of your conference paper is pending at the proposal deadline, you should still submit. The award process will continue as normal, but any funding you receive could be provisional on acceptance of your paper. Please explain your situation in the proposal. You may also seek guidance from the grants officer before the deadline by e-mailing gsa@nmt.edu.

1.3 Who may submit proposals

  • Graduate Students of New Mexico Tech who are classified as “degree-seeking” and pay a Graduate Student Activity Fee during the travel period are allowed to submit one (1) proposal for a GSA Travel Grant for that time period.
    • Full-time or part-time students are eligible.
    • Dual-registered students are not allowed to request GSA Travel Grants, because they do not pay graduate student activity fees.
    • Students that are enrolled in a “5-year Masters Program” are eligible once they have received their Bachelor’s Degree and are therefore considered Graduate Students by the Registrar.
    • If you are unsure of your classification, contact the Registrar. Student status will be verified by the Registrar upon receipt of your application.
    • Proposals must be completed by the graduate student who will be doing the travel. Group proposals are not permitted — each student must complete an individual proposal.
  • Students enrolled in an active graduate department; this means that the student’s department must have a department representative on file with the GSA.
    • An individual student may appeal to the GSA based on exceptional circumstances. Decisions regarding these circumstances will be made by committee.
    • An example of exceptional circumstances would be if a student volunteers regularly, but is unable to attend meetings and no one else is willing to serve as department representative
  • The limit for the number of awards is not a hard limit. Once you have arrived at the limit, you may still apply.  Your application will still be considered by the Review Committee, however it will be placed at a lower priority to students that have not received an award (or have received fewer).
    • Masters students are limited to two (2) awards during their time at New Mexico Tech.
    • Ph.D. students are limited to three (3) awards, regardless of any awards they received as Masters students at New Mexico Tech. Ph.D. students who received a Masters at NMT may be eligible for up to five (5 grants total).

1.4 Allowed Travel

The GSA Travel Grant is intended to fund travel to conferences/meetings and travel for work related to a student’s degree.

  • Conference travel is intended for students who wish to present results of their work at New Mexico Tech at a meeting of professional researchers. The proposal should indicate the nature of the original work performed at New Mexico Tech, the significance of the specific meeting being attended, and the importance of presenting this work to that audience. The grant supports presentation of work completed for graduate work at New Mexico Tech. For example, a student who transferred from another school may not apply for funding to present work actually performed at the other school. However, a New Mexico Tech student working on a Ph.D. while employed by an external organization such as Sandia Labs may apply for funding to present thesis work performed at the external organization.
  • Work related funding is intended to support travel necessary for a student to complete work toward earning a de­gree from New Mexico Tech. This is normally used to travel to field sites to collect samples, or travel to external institutions to use specialized laboratory instrumentation. This grant supports only travel to such locations -fund­ing for the purchase of specimens, use of external laboratory equipment, or purchase of equipment is not allowed.  Such applications may be covered by the separate Matuszeski Graduate Research Fund.
  • The GSA Travel Grant may also be used for a student to attend an important meeting even if no work is being presented. This may be used for a student to travel to a specialized conference related to the student’s thesis before significant work has been completed, or travel to a short “school” on a topic related to the student’s thesis. However, the merit of such proposals is usually ranked low relative to other types of approved travel, so it is important for the student and advisor to explain the importance of this travel toward completing a degree at New Mexico Tech.

1.4.1 Special cases

  • The GSA recognizes that there often special cases that may arise regarding travel. To that end, the GSA will consider the following situations:
    • If the applicant is already visiting family and intends to travel for “approved travel” from the family’s locale, the GSA may fund the portion of travel from the family’s locale to the destination.
    • If the applicant intends to visit family immediately following “approved travel”, the GSA may fund travel from the destination to the family’s locale.
  • In either case, an explanation should be given on the application as the why travel does not originate or terminate at New Mexico Tech. It is up to the Review Committee to decide to fund or not fund the full amount required for such a trip.
  • If the length of the trip is longer than required for the “approved travel”, then an explanation should be given explaining this difference. It is up to the Review Committee to decide to fund or not fund the full amount required for such a trip. The applicant should be aware that the GSA may decide to only fund per diem, etc. for the time period of the “approved travel”.
  • The GSA does not fund travel to visit family or for one’s recreation.

Just in case it isn’t clear enough, allow me to re-iterate: It is up to the Review Committee to decide if your justification/explanation is sufficient and if you deserve full funding.

1.5 Funding Limits

Currently, individual funding requests are limited to a maximum of $1000. The GSA Grants Committee will award as many grants as the budget allows. The budget for each travel period will be indicated in the grant announcement. In some cases, grant requests may be only partially funded in order to provide assistance to more students.

1.6 Review Process

  • After each proposal deadline, copies of the submitted proposals will be distributed to the members of the GSA Grants Review Committee. Names and e-mail addresses will be blocked out on these copies to minimize reviewer biases.
  • After the committee members have separately judged the proposals the committee will meet to rank the proposals and determine award amounts.
  • For each proposal the award decision of the committee and reviewer comments will be emailed to the applicant. If a proposal is awarded grant money, additional instructions for travel reimbursement will be included.
  • The GSA Grants Review Committee must meet IN PERSON within two weeks of the travel grant deadline.
  • The GSA Grants Committee is comprised of volunteer graduate student peers from New Mexico Tech.  Calls for volunteers to serve on the committee are usually made during regular GSA meetings (see the events schedule on the GSA web page) or via email.
  • In the event of a shortage of members on the Grants Committee, the Student Grants Officer may sit in as a member of the committee.  The Grants Officer may also appoint up to one alternate to the committee, from any department.

2 Proposal Instructions

Proposals are submitted online using the web forms http://infohost.nmt.edu/~gsa/?page_id=73.

  • A complete proposal consists of (1) the student application prepared by the student and (2) a recommendation letter prepared by the student’s advisor.  Instructions for completing each section of the forms are given below.
  • Proposals are due at 11:59 PM Mountain Time on the date indicated in the grant announcement.  Late proposals will not be accepted. Only proposals which are complete will be considered for funding.
  • Applications without recommendation letters in by the due time are considered incomplete proposals.

2.1 Student Application

The student application is found at http://infohost.nmt.edu/~gsa/?page_id=73.  The GSA recommends you prepare the contents of your application in a plain-text word processor and copy the final draft into the web form when ready.

You should consider this travel grant to be highly competitive.  Indeed, you are competing against many other applicants seeking the same funds for travel that they also feel is important.

2.1.1 Applicant Information

  • The first four sections of the application provide us with information about you and your travel activity.  Please ensure that your e-mail address is correct, and do not forget to select your level (Masters / Ph.D.).
  • In the Travel Information section, select the option which best describes the purpose of your travel.  If you are presenting, enter the Conference Name and Presentation Title in the boxes provided.  If you are not presenting, enter the Reason for Travel (Conference Name if appropriate) and the Justification for Attendance in the boxes provided.  Check your Destination and Travel Dates, as any discrepancies will not be seen favorably.
  • In the GSA Information section, enter the amount of funding requested.  This amount should match the total given in the Budget.  Provide a brief description of any service you have provided to the GSA or student body.  Complete the questions regarding previous travel grants.

2.1.2 Project Summary

  • The project summary is a written description of your area of study, the work you are involved in, and the travel activity you are planning to do.  The applicant’s area of academic interest should be explained in general terms and also specifically as it relates to the proposed activity.  Points will be deducted in the review process if either aspect of the summary is missing.  The project summary must not exceed 500 words.  Each applicant must write an individual and original proposal even if several applicants are involved in the same activity.  Group proposals will not be accepted.
  • The following components should be present in your project summary:
    • The project’s relevance to the applicant’s degree program, its significance to the academic field, and any tangible benefits to society and/or the community should be fully described.  Points will be deducted for not describing all of these aspects.
    • The specific activity for which funding is requested should be described.  For conferences, indicate the signifi­cance of the specific meeting being attended.  If presenting, you should indicate the importance of presenting the work to that audience.  Points will be deducted for not fully describing the specific activity.
    • Include a brief statement about the sources of funding you have investigated for this travel.  Points will be deducted if the statement about funding is omitted.
    • All explanations must be in plain English, understandable to graduate students from other departments; do not use technical jargon.  Remember, your proposal will not be judged by your advisor, but by graduate students in other areas of study at New Mexico Tech.  It is your responsibility to convey the importance of your travel to such students in a language that they can understand.  This is an important skill to develop, as virtually all proposals you write in the future will be judged by people who know considerably less about your area of work than you do.  Points will be deducted for highly technical, poorly written, or otherwise confusing explanations.
  • Make sure you address all of the project summary issues listed above.  Do not just state that you need funding to present your work.  You will probably need to rewrite your project summary a couple of times.  Have your adviser or other graduate students familiar with your work assist you.
  • Please do not include any extraneous material, such as conference schedules, abstracts, authored papers, or resumes.  Extraneous material will by deleted by the Student Grants Officer and not forwarded to the review committee.

2.1.3 Budget

  • A detailed, itemized budget should be given.  It is important to include a total budget (even if it is more than the allowable funding request), not just a budget for the amount requested of the GSA.
  • Clearly indicate which items you would like the GSA to fund ; if you neglect to indicate that the GSA will fund a particular travel cost, the GSA will not fund it.
  • The GSA will partially fund items if so requested in your budget.
  • Listed expenditures should represent actual costs, not estimations, whenever possible.
  • Items the GSA may fund include:
    • Transportation -please provide an airfare quote or round-trip mileage if driving. If travelling from a location other than Socorro, amount requested cannot be more than what it would cost to travel round-trip from Socorro.
    • $30/day Per Diem for meals.
    • Hotel accommodations -please try to share a room.
    • Presentation materials up to $80.
    • Conference registration.
  • Items the GSA will not fund include:
    • Conference banquets -meal costs are to be paid out of the Per Diem
    • Equipment costs -you can purchase colored paper to make a poster, but you cannot purchase a color printer. Equipment for sample collection for field work is also not allowed.
    • Professional organization membership is not covered by the GSA.
  • Read and follow the above instructions carefully.  Airfare and hotel cost estimates are easy to obtain from the Internet (check www.travelocity.com, www.orbitz.com, or www.expedia.com).  Some reviewers have been known to check budget estimates for proposals themselves.  If a significant discrepancy is found in your budget, the review committee may decrease the funding you are awarded and points will be deducted.
  • Check with the New Mexico Tech Travel Office for additional rules on calculating travel expenses.
  • Pay attention to the maximum funding amount indicated in the announcement; requests for more than this amount will not be taken seriously and will lose points.

2.1.4 Service to the GSA

As outlined on the Volunteer Page, there are a number of ways that you can volunteer your services to the GSA. One of the ways that you can utilize the points that you earn by volunteering is to apply them to your travel grant application. You are allowed to apply a maximum of 10 points to each application. The points are considered “spent” when the application is submitted, whether or not the student receives an award.

2.2 Letter of Recommendation

  • A letter of support from the applicant’s adviser is required.  The letter should contain:
    • A short explanation of the activity and why the student should be funded.
    • A statement as to the availability of travel funds.
  • Advisers should be aware that the GSA travel grant is a competitive grant.  Lackluster letters of recommendation will reflect badly on the student’s application and may result in a lower funding priority.
  • If the applicant’s adviser is on sabbatical or leave, the department chair or a member of the thesis/dissertation committee may write the letter.
  • Please do not include any extraneous material, such as conference schedules, abstracts, authored papers, or resumes.  Extraneous material will by deleted by the Student Grants Officer and not forwarded to the review committee.
  • The recommendation form is found at http://infohost.nmt.edu/~gsa/?page_id=75.
    • The GSA recommends that advisers prepare their letter in a plain-text word processor and copy the final draft into the web form when ready.
  • A confirmations e-mail will be sent to the advisor.  We ask advisers to send a quick reply to verify they wrote the recommendation.

A note to students:  Many of your future proposals will require statements from supervisors and fiscal management from your workplace.  Such statements are necessary to demonstrate the capability of you and the institution you work for to carry out the proposal should you receive funding.  Treat these people with respect; give them plenty of notice that you plan to write a proposal and request statements from them well in advance of the deadline.

3 Review Criteria and Process

The GSA Travel Grants are competitively awarded based on merit, need and GSA involvement.  After the proposal deadline has passed, the GSA will distribute copies of the proposals received to the members of the review committee.

  • The criteria they will use to score your proposals are:
    • Quality of Project Summary:  How well written is the project summary?  Is the project summary comprehensible to a person not in the applicants field?  Is the importance of the student’s work understandable to the reviewer – i.e. a person not in the applicant’s field?
    • Quality of Travel Purpose: Is the proposed travel reasonable for the work the student has accomplished?
    • Importance to Completion of Student’s Degree: Will the student benefit from the travel?  If the student is unable to travel, will the student’s research be unaffected, or will the student’s research be impaired, or will the student be forced to change thesis topics?
    • Budget Assessment: Is the total budget indicated by the student reasonable for the type of travel proposed?  Are the items selected to be paid by the GSA reasonable?
    • Financial Need: If the GSA does not award funding, will the student be unable to travel?  How many other sources of funding has the student sought?  A student whose advisor has no available funding will be ranked higher than a student whose adviser might be able to pay $400 is the student receives no funding from the GSA.
    • Quality of Letter of Recommendation: What is the strength of the letter of recommendation from the adviser? Is the adviser supportive of the student’s travel?
  • Each reviewer will grade each of the above mentioned five areas of the proposal from 0 to 10, and add up the results for a combined score. The combined scores from each reviewer will be added to make up the total score of the applicant.
  • The applicant has the opportunity to apply up to 10 additional points to their application.  More information about ways to earn these points can be found on the Volunteers page.

4 After the Applications are Reviewed

4.1 Award Decisions

After the GSA Grants Committee has made its award decisions, the results will be sent to each applicant by e-mail.  The e-mail will include all reviewer grades for that proposal, the individual reviewer ranking, and the reviewer comments.  Reviewer names will be kept confidential.

4.2 If You Receive Funding

If the student receives funding to travel for part of their research work (e.g. travel to a field site or laboratory), the student is requested to acknowledge the Graduate Student Association in any written report (paper) resulting from this work.

If you receive funding, you may fall into 1 of 2 categories: You accept the funding, You do not accept the funding.

  • If you accept the funding:
    • You will be required to submit a “Travel Request and Reimbursement Voucher” before your travel (the top, white, layer) This form is available from your department or from the Travel Office.
    • You will be required to submit a “Travel Request and Reimbursement Voucher” after your travel (the second, yellow, layer). This form is available from your department or from the Travel Office.
    • You will be required to submit a “Summary” of the travel. If you presented at a conference, the abstract and verification of your presentation are sufficient (a copy of where you appeared on the program will suffice). If you performed field work, a short summary of the work performed should be submitted.
  • If you do NOT accept the funding:
    • You should be aware that this will still count towards your “allowed award total”.
    • You are required to submit a letter of explanation to the GSA Travel Grant Committee.
    • The GSA recognizes that there are sometimes circumstances beyond the student’s control that may lead to not using the travel award. Examples may include:
      • Your abstract is not accepted by the conference
      • The conference is cancelled
      • Sudden illness makes you unable to travel
      • Your alternative sources of funding were pulled and made travel impossible
    • In any of these cases, your explanationwill be considered by the committee, and they may decide to remove the award from your record.
    • Failure to submit a valid and timely letter of explanation may impact the result of future travel grant applications.
  • Some students may find themselves in the situation where they feel that they must revise their travel request. Examples of such revisions include:
    • The original activity has been changed, e.g. the original activity was canceled or the applicant’s conference/workshop submittal was not accepted.
    • Field work has been delayed, e.g. due to weather conditions or equipment issues.

In either case, proposed revisions must be submitted to the Travel Grant Review committee for (anonymous)review. All requests are subject to this review, and should include the following:

    • A revised project summary: this will serve to remind the committee of your application.
    • A revised budget: regardless of what revisions to the purpose you propose, your award will not exceed theoriginal awarded amount.
    • An explanation of the change: without proper justification for the change, the commmittee will not grantthe request. If you are unsure if your justification is sufficient, please feel free to contact the GSA GrantOfficer.
    • An adviser statement: without adviser support for this new purpose, the committee will not grant therequest.
    • Keep in mind that the proposed revisions must still adhere to all stipulations of “allowed expenses”.

Remember: It is up to the Review Committee to decide if your justification/explanation is sufficient and ifthey will allow the change(s).

Appendices

A Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I’ve submitted my abstract to a conference, but won’t know whether it has been accepted until after the grant proposal deadline. Can I still apply for a travel grant?

A: You may still apply for GSA funding even if you are not sure that you will be able to travel. Indicate in your Project Summary that your travel is contingent upon approval from the other organization. If a decision is made after you submit the proposal, notify the GSA of the decision as soon as possible at gsa@nmt.edu. If no decision has been made by the time of the GSA Grants Committee meeting, the committee will still evaluate your proposal, with three possible results:

  • You will be given funding to travel whether or not your abstract is accepted.
  • You will be given funding only if your abstract is accepted.
  • You will not be given any funding.

For result 1, if you abstract is not accepted and you decide not to attend the confer­ence, the funding will be returned to the GSA Travel Grant budget for the next semester.  For result 2, you must demonstrate acceptance of your abstract to the GSA (see Section 4.2).  Result 3 is straightforward.

Q: I would like to attend a conference, but will not be presenting a poster or giving a talk. Can I still receive travel funding from the GSA?

A: Yes.  While preference is given to those students who are formally presenting their research, it is possible to receive some funding to attend a conference if the budget allows.

Q: My advisor wants me to attend a conference next month.  I hadn’t planned on attending this conference, and the deadline for travel grant proposals for this funding period has already passed.  Can I still apply for funding?

A: No. The GSA normally receives more proposals than it can fund each semester.  Any unused travel funds will be rolled over to the next travel period.

B General Proposal Suggestions

Here we provide a list of suggestions to help improve your proposal preparation. These suggestions are based on comments from previous grant recipients and on comments from proposal reviewers.

  • Plan your travel early. The proposal deadline may be more than six months before your travel date. Late proposals are not accepted, so determine what travel you might want to do well ahead of time.
  • Start writing the proposal early. There are several parts to the proposal which will take time to complete. Pro­posals written at the last minute are usually poor in comparison to other proposals.
  • Give your advisor plenty of time to write a letter of recommendation. Do not assume that your advisor will have time to write something up on the afternoon of the proposal deadline.
  • Communicate with your advisor. Discuss potential travel for the next grant period with your advisor. Learn about important meetings before the grand deadlines, not after.
  • Communicate with your audience. If the reviewers cannot understand your proposal, it will probably not get funding.
  • Have someone else read over your proposal. Often, a different reader can catch errors that you miss. The Writing Center is also available to help students be successful in their writing; for more information refer to:  http://infohost.nmt.edu/~wp/WritingCenter.html
  • If your English is poor, get assistance from a friend with better English skills. Again, the Writing Center is available to help students; for more information refer to:  http://infohost.nmt.edu/~wp/WritingCenter.html
  • Use a spell-checker.
  • Check your budget carefully.  Do not request funding for items not allowed by the GSA.  Make sure your cost estimates are reasonable.
  • Double check your math.
  • Attempt to share a room with another person.
  • Rooms at conference hotels are often substantially higher than rooms in other hotels nearby.  Check the prices of nearby hotels.  If you need to stay at a location with a substantially higher price, include a justification in your Project Summary.
  • Check for student prices for conference fees and hotel room prices.
  • Look for alternate sources of funding.  The GSA Travel Grant is partially need based, so you need to demonstrate that alternate sources of funding are not available.  Check other sources in addition to your advisor.  Does someone else on your thesis committee have funding that you can use?  Does your department have funding?  Does the conference you are attending offer funding for students?
  • Do you belong to a professional organization?  Many conferences have reduced registration fees for organization members.  Many organizations also have grant programs for student research and travel which you can apply for.
  • Complete all parts of the proposal.  Proposals with missing parts will be turned down.
  • Follow the instructions.  Failure to provide requested information will seriously damage your proposal.