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Fellowship Finder

Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowship Program

Deadline: Anticipated 2/2020 ( Previous deadline 2/15/2019 )

DEADLINE: For UIUC students, applications (both new and renewal) must be submitted to the Graduate College Office of External Fellowships by 5:00 p.m. on February 15, 2019.  As part of the application process, FAFSAs must be completed online by February 14, 2019.

Offered by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), DFI fellowships support underrepresented graduate students who intend to teach or become administrators in higher education in the state of Illinois following graduation. To be eligible, a student must be a US citizen or permanent resident, a member of an underrepresented ethnic group, a resident of the state of Illinois, enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program, able to demonstrate financial need, and able to demonstrate academic excellence. Applicants must also commit to working full-time in higher education in the state of Illinois starting upon graduation and continuing for as many years as was supported by the fellowship. 

The program's goal is to increase the number of minority full-time tenure track faculty and staff at Illinois' two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities.

Award Amount:

  • Stipend:  New DFI awardees receive $12,000.  Renewing awardees receive $15,000. 
  • Tuition Waiver: Tuition waivers may be available.  Note, however, that students in cost-recovery or self-supporting programs (see program list here) are not eligible for the waiver.
  • Use as concurrent funding (for UIUC students).  For UIUC students holding up to a 50% assistantship, the fellowship may be held concurrently with the assistantship.  Students wishing to hold a concurrent fellowship with the DFI must request approval from the Graduate College's Business & Fellowship Processing Office. 

Duration of Support:

  • Total DFI funding will not exceed four years. The fellowship will support master's students for a maximum of two years, and doctoral students for a maximum of four years. Master’s students funded through DFI are eligible to apply for an additional two years of support if they transition into doctoral study.


  • Admission: Applicants must be admitted unconditionally to a master's or doctoral program at a participating institution (UIUC is a participating institution) at the time of application; and, if awarded, enroll as a full-time student as defined by the institution. 
  • Online Programs: Students in online programs are ineligible. 
  • Citizenship: Applicants must be either a US citizen or a legal permanent resident of the US.
  • Illinois Residency: To be classified as an Illinois resident, the applicant must meet one of the following:
    • Received a baccalaureate degree from an accredited educational institution in Illinois OR
    • Received a baccalaureate degree from an accredited educational institution outside of Illinois and has lived in Illinois continually for a period of at least three years prior to application and is a registered voter in the state of Illinois. Applicants must provide a copy of their current voter registration card.
  • Underrepresented Groups: Applicants must be a member of at least one ethnic group that is underrepresented in higher education. Historically, this has included Black/African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Pacific Islander.
  • Academic Ability: Applicants must demonstrate academic ability as evidenced by:
    1. An earned baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning;
    2. A minimum grade point average of 2.75 in the last sixty hours of undergraduate work or over a 3.2 in at least 9 hours of graduate study;
    3. Unconditional admission to a post-baccalaureate degree program.
  • Academic Pursuit: Applicants in all academic disciplines are eligible. Students in any of the sciences, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields are encouraged to apply and will receive priority consideration. Applicants must be pursuing a doctorate or master's degree. 
  • Financial Need: Applicants must demonstrate financial need. A FAFSA must be filed each year to maintain eligibility.


Upon graduation or separation from the DFI institution, an award recipient must agree to actively seek and accept when offered a teaching or non-teaching full-time appointment at an Illinois postsecondary educational institution, or accept a position as an employee of this state in an education-related position equal to the number of years for which he or she receives the DFI fellowship. Students failing to fulfill this condition of the award shall be required to repay 20 percent of their cumulative award amount, subject to revision by the DFI Program Board.

TO APPLY (for UIUC students and students seeking to use the fellowship at UIUC):

There are separate application processes for new applicants and renewal applicants.  Read the appropriate set of guidelines below depending on whether you are a new or renewing applicant. 

For New Applicants:  

Applicants should read the instructions below and the instructions on the DFI webpage well in advance of the deadline.  There are several parts to a completed application.  Incomplete applications, late applications, and applications that do not follow the instructions below will be disqualified without review.    

Applicants should prepare the materials below and submit them to the Graduate College's Office of External Fellowships (110 Coble Hall) by the campus deadline.  Materials must be submitted in hard copy, and they must be single-sided, arranged in the following order, and assembled without staples.  Letters and transcripts must be in signed and sealed envelopes. 

  1. Completed and signed Preliminary Questionnaire
  2. Copy of your official acceptance letter for the degree program for which funding is being sought.  If you no longer have your acceptance letter, you will need to obtain a copy from your department.
  3. Completed DFI Application Form. All questions and checkboxes on the form must be completed.
  4. Completed Financial Information Form (found at the end of the DFI Application Form).  To complete the Financial Information Form, applicants must complete a 2019-20 FAFSA online no later than February 14, 2019.  Applicants who do not complete the online FAFSA by this date are ineligible for the DFI fellowship. 
  5. Professional Goals Statement.  See the DFI Application Form for guidelines on this statement.
  6. A copy of the applicant's Voter Registration Card is required from students who did not receive a high school or post-secondary degree from an accredited educational institution in Illinois.  In other words, applicants who are claiming Illinois residency by virtue of their having lived in Illinois for at least three years must submit a copy of their Voter Registration Card.
  7. Statement of Underrepresented Status. See the DFI Application Form for guidelines on this statement.
  8. Three letters of recommendation.  Each letter must be written on official letterhead and submitted in a signed and sealed envelope as part of the student’s assembled application package.  Letters emailed directly to the Graduate College will not be accepted, nor will letters hand delivered separately or mailed to the Graduate College through the postal system. 
  9. Official transcripts.  Students currently enrolled at UIUC must submit an official UIUC transcript.  Students entering UIUC in the fall of 2019 must submit official transcripts from their current institutions.  Transcripts must be submitted in envelopes sealed and signed by the Registrar's office, and they must be included in the student’s application package.  Transcripts emailed or sent through the postal system directly to the Graduate College will not be accepted.   

ALL materials listed above must be included in a single hard-copy application package.  There are no components that should be sent or emailed to the Graduate College or IBHE separately. 

Selection Process: The University of Illinois may submit only 25 new applications for consideration by IBHE.  The Graduate College will convene a review panel to review applications and select the 25 finalists.  Review criteria will include evidence of academic achievement (GPA, publications, presentations, etc.), coherence and strength of the statements, and the level of endorsement found in the recommendation letters. Finalists’ applications will be sent to IBHE, and IBHE will select awardees.  

For Renewal Applicants:  

UIUC students who are eligible for renewal should have already received a copy of the DFI Renewal Application from Catherine Ocen, the UIUC Institutional Representative.  Students intending to renew must email a completed and signed renewal application (including a current CV), as a single pdf, to by the campus deadline. Late or incomplete materials will not be accepted.

UIUC Contact:
Office of External Fellowships
Graduate College




Categories: Annual stipend of at least $10,000; Social Sciences; Sciences/Engineering/Math; Fine Arts; Humanities; US Citizens, Nationals, or Permanent Residents; Master's; Early Years of Doctoral Program; Fellowship/Grant; Underrepresented Students

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