Professional Development Grant

The Graduate School (TGS) at Northwestern University has established a Professional Development Grant to support meaningful graduate student and postdoctoral fellow professional development programming at the program/department level.

TGS supports professional development programming for its graduate students and postdoctoral fellows across all disciplines. While this programming will continue to be developed, TGS recognizes that student groups and program faculty/staff may be well positioned to offer professional development programming tailored to the specific student and postdoctoral fellow populations.

For this reason, TGS offers the Professional Development Grant to support program, cluster and student/postdoc group efforts to offer professional development programming. This includes any activity that provides professional development relevant to the preparation of graduate students and postdocs for their future careers, whether inside or outside of academia. TGS is especially interested in supporting original ideas for encouraging engagement with alumni through formal programming.

Examples of fundable topics include:

  • Career decision-making (e.g., academe vs. industry)
  • Job searching
  • Negotiation skills
  • Opportunities to connect with alumni (such as panels, workshops, mentoring programs, etc.)
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Work-life balance
  • Organizational and time management skills
  • Conflict management and communication skills
  • Mentorship and advising skills
  • Presentation/communication skills
  • Academic career topics — the academic job search, applying for positions at teaching institutions, finding a postdoctoral position, first year on the job, the tenure process, job searching in a difficult economy, etc.
  • Career paths outside of academia — careers outside academia for PhDs, invited speakers from industry, alumni events, curriculum vitae to resume workshops, etc.


Deadlines are quarterly.  It is expected that applications will be submitted at least two full quarters in advance of proposed programming to allow time for the review process.

  • Deadline for Fall 2016 events:  Friday, July 8, 2016
  • Deadline for Winter 2017 events: Friday, September 30, 2016
  • Deadline for Spring 2017 events: Friday, January 20, 2017
  • Deadline for Summer 2017 events: Friday, April 14, 2017


  • Directors or administrators of any academic program that falls under the purview of TGS.
  • Graduate students in The Graduate School and/or postdoctoral fellows. (It is recommended that student/postdoc groups work with faculty or staff in a program to develop and administer professional development events.)

Award Information

Both one-time events and event series will be considered. Funds up to $2000 may be requested. Groups may receive only one grant equivalent to $2,000 (or multiple grants whose cumulative total may not exceed $2,000) per fiscal year.  The Professional Development Grant may fund:

  • Honoraria, speaker fees, and/or travel costs for guest speakers or alumni
  • Reasonable operational costs (non-alcoholic refreshments, food, recording costs, etc...).  If more than half the proposed expenditures are to be used for food/drink, then the application will not be considered. 

Funds may not be used for any individual professional development (such as individual travel grants or conference attendance for individual students or postdocs).

Application Instructions

Applicants must complete the application form and email it to Mearah Quinn-Brauner by the published deadline.

Review Process and Criteria

A Proposal Evaluation Committee comprised of TGS staff and deans will review the grant proposals. In addition to reviewing whether or not the proposal adheres to the guidelines, the committee will also strongly consider proposals that:

  • Bring together students/postdocs and alumni across disciplines
  • Include programming for those considering a broad range of career options and are consistent with the strategic plan of TGS (to deliver programming that will ensure the successful careers of our graduates, whether they pursue academic or non-academic career paths)
  • Provide programming not already offered at NU or that expands upon programming already offered
  • Provide a detailed and well-justified budget

The Proposal Evaluation Committee may request additional information or budget changes on selected proposals and will determine the amount of funding to be granted. Applicants will be notified in writing of the outcome of the selection process typically one month following the deadline. 

Award Administration and Reporting

Awardees must include the credit line, "Supported in part by TGS Professional Development Grant" on marketing materials and must submit events to TGS for inclusion on the Professional Development calendar. Awardees must also track attendance and collect feedback to include in a report to be submitted following the event(s). This report must include:

  • A list of events that were funded by the grant and brief descriptions of events
  • A summary of event attendance (number of attendees, individual participant demographics and programs represented, alumni names and titles)
  • A list of alumni participants and their contact information (if applicable)
  • A brief summary of feedback about the events
  • An expense report detailing how funds were used and the amount of unused funds, if any. (A list of expenses and amounts will suffice; receipts are not required). Programs/groups that do not use the grant for the purposes specified in the proposal will be asked to return the funds