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Department of Geography

Graduate Awards and Assistantships

Graduate students may qualify for several awards and scholarships offered by the department, the graduate school, the college and other campus units. Students are encouraged to explore the websites of government agencies, non-profit organizations, professional associations (including the American Association of Geographers) and research institutes for further information about funding opportunities.


The Department of Geography offers a limited number of assistantships each year. Students with funding offers are guaranteed departmental support for the duration of their program of study—4 semesters for master’s students and 6 semesters for Ph.D. students, contingent on the student’s satisfactory progress in the program. Students who take longer than the allotted time to complete their degrees are not guaranteed funding for the incremental time to completion.  Students on assistantships typically serve as teaching/lab assistants (TAs) or as research assistants (RAs); Ph.D. students may also serve as instructors of record for undergraduate courses. Students on assistantships are responsible for a number of university fees, which may be deducted from the student’s stipend.  

Students who do not receive a funding offer may still receive funding on a semester-by-semester basis. Many of our students receive funding through faculty grants; others are given ad hoc teaching assistantships. Such funding entitles students to a tuition waiver and a stipend in the semester in which the student serves as a TA or RA. Students who have not been extended a funding offer must be mindful that their funding is not guaranteed, and that they are responsible for their tuition, fees, and subsistence if funding is not available in a given semester. The department typically extends a small scholarship to students without funding, which qualifies them for in-state tuition. The Financial Aid office at USC and Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs can also help students secure funding.



The Grace and Allan Davis Scholarship Endowment

The Grace and Allan Davis Scholarship Endowment award is granted to both geography graduate and undergraduate students. Preference is given to those specializing in GIScience and to married students with children and financial need, though any geography student with financial needs can be considered. The minimum award is $500.

The Paul E. Lovingood Award

This award, named for a Distinguished Professor Emeritus, awards $500 to the author of the outstanding geography graduate research paper.

Departmental Teaching Awards

The department recognizes its outstanding graduate instructors and lab assistants with these awards. The winners receive a small monetary award that can applied toward academic travel or other expenses.

Departmental Travel Awards

The department wishes to encourage student travel to domestic and international conferences. All students presenting a sole- or first-authored conference paper or poster are eligible for a departmental travel award, with priority given to Ph.D. students. The amount of this award varies between $150 and $250 per year, depending on departmental resources.

Graduate School Travel Awards

The graduate school offers travel funding to Ph.D. students who are presenting sole- or first-authored papers or posters at academic conferences. Ph.D. students are only eligible to receive these funds twice during their time at USC. The graduate school offers up to $500 for domestic travel and $800 for international travel in four application cycles. 

Trustee Fellowships

The graduate school administers several trustee fellowships. The largest is the Rhude M. Patterson award ($5,000), which is given each year to two outstanding female graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. Female graduate students at the master's or Ph.D. level working in human geography and environment-society areas of the discipline qualify for this award. All geography graduate students are eligible for several smaller trustee awards, including the Royal ($2,500), Reeves ($750), and Parkinson ($750) fellowships.

Other Graduate School Awards

In addition to the trustee fellowships, the graduate school administers the Dean's Award for Excellence in Leadership, the Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Awards, and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award. Each of these awards comes with a monetary prize.

The Bilinski Fellowship

The College of Arts and Sciences administers the Bilinski Fellowship, which provides a substantial sum for living and research expenses to geography graduate students working in the humanities and social-science sides of the discipline.

Support to Promote Advancement of Research and Creativity (SPARC)

This award, administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research, provides $5,000 to support doctoral research. SPARC funds can be used to pay for salary, supplies, travel and other costs essential to completing and promoting student projects. The SPARC program requires all applicants to complete and submit a competitive grant proposal. The VP-R also sponsors the Breakthrough Graduate Scholar Award, which honors Ph.D. students who have made considerable contributions to their field of study. This honor does not carry a monetary award, but it is very prestigious and is awarded to only a dozen students at the university.

Walker Institute Fellowships

The Walker Institute for International and Area Studies typically offers fellowships of up to $3,000 for international fieldwork or travel.  Interested students should consult the Walker Institute for further details.