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Rackham Merit Fellowship Program

The Rackham Merit Fellowship (RMF) Program helps sustain the academic excellence and inclusiveness of the Michigan graduate community, one that embraces students with diverse experiences and goals, and who come from many educational, cultural, geographic, and familial backgrounds. By offering this named prestigious fellowship to students, we aim to promote the values of diversity and inclusion by encouraging the admission of students who represent a broad array of life experiences and perspectives, because this enhances the quality of the intellectual environment for all students.

Goals

  1. Recruit students from RMF populations into Rackham graduate programs by offering a prestigious, named fellowship;
  2. Offer incentives to Rackham graduate programs to devote faculty effort to identify, recruit, and matriculate students from RMF populations;
  3. Offer incentives to Rackham graduate programs to devote faculty effort to create an inclusive, student-centered climate so that students from RMF-eligible populations thrive in the program and complete their degree.

Advantages

The Rackham Merit Fellowship is a highly competitive named fellowship awarded to students who have outstanding academic qualifications, show exceptional potential for scholarly success in their graduate program, and demonstrate promise for contributing to wider academic, professional, or civic communities. Beyond the collaborative funding (tuition, stipend, and health insurance) for awarded students, there are a number of other advantages of the RMF award.

  1. A $1,000 relocation stipend for incoming Rackham Merit Fellows.
  2. Early awareness of Rackham and University of Michigan resources through the RMF Connection Program.
  3. Flexibility in accessing the Rackham funding portion of the RMF through the RMF Utilization System.
  4. Access to a network of over 50 years of RMF alumni through panel discussions and mentoring opportunities.
  5. Participation in year-round RMF programming aimed at supporting academic, professional, and career development while cultivating self-awareness and wellness.
  6. Opportunities to engage in year-round RMF community-building activities designed to assist students in developing their social support networks while promoting inclusion and an appreciation for diversity.

Eligibility and Evaluative Criteria

The Rackham Merit Fellowship is open to newly admitted students in a Rackham graduate degree program who:

  • Have a record of superior academic achievement;
  • Are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA);
  • Are excellent in one or good in two or more dimensions of the RMF criteria (see below) as described in the RMF Rubric and the RMF Assessing Eligibility and Evaluating Criteria Guide.
    1. Have demonstrated a sustained commitment to diversity* in the academic, professional, or civic realm.
    2. Have experienced financial hardship as a result of family economic circumstances;
    3. Have participated in programs in the Rackham application open to students from disadvantaged backgrounds;
    4. Are first-generation U.S. citizens in their families;
    5. Are first-generation in their families to graduate from a four-year college;
    6. Come from an educational, cultural, or geographic background that is underrepresented in their discipline in the U.S. or at the University of Michigan.

*By commitment to diversity, we mean efforts in the U.S. to reduce social, educational, or economic disparities based on race, ethnicity, or gender or to improve race relations in the U.S.

Collaborative Funding Model

The Rackham Merit Fellowship is a collaborative funding package in which the graduate school and individual graduate programs work together to recognize entering students who have outstanding academic qualifications, show exceptional potential for scholarly success in their graduate program, and demonstrate promise for contributing to wider academic, professional, or civic communities. Graduate students do not apply directly for the RMF, but are nominated by faculty in their admitting graduate program.

Types of Collaborative Funding

To meet the needs of specific graduate programs, Rackham has created customized versions of the RMF. Although the intent and purpose of these fellowships are all similar, the award terms differ. Please contact the Partnerships for Access, Community, and Excellence (PACE) team for additional information. See the chart below for the funding collaboration for each type of RMF.

Award Type Year 1 Year 2 Year 3* Year 4* Year 5* Spring/Summer
Rackham Master’s Award (RMA) Rackham/Program          
Rackham Merit Fellowship (RMF) Rackham Program Program Rackham Rackham One term
Rackham Engineering Award (REA) Rackham Program Program Rackham Program Two terms
Rackham Science Award (RSA) Rackham Rackham/Program Rackham/Program Program Program One term
Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) Rackham Rackham/Program Rackham/Program Program Program One term

* Students must be a candidate to receive RMF and REA support in Years 4 and 5. For RSA and PIBS, students must be a candidate by the beginning of Year 3. If a student has not achieved candidacy, they may hold their Rackham RMF support until candidacy is achieved.

How Funding Works

The RMF is a funding partnership between Rackham and the graduate program that includes tuition, stipend, and health and dental coverage during each fall and winter semester, with select summer stipend and benefits. Graduate programs are expected to provide support equivalent to a 0.50 appointment (typically in the form of a fellowship, traineeship, GSRA, or GSI) during the non-Rackham funded semesters. The funding collaboration is intended to provide the maximum educational benefit for the student.

For Ph.D. students, the RMF is typically five years of funding. For master’s students, the RMA provides tuition, stipend, and health and dental coverage during each term of the award; the RMA funding collaboration is typically one semester by Rackham and one semester provided by the program.

RMF awards may be deferred on a term-by-term basis by students and with endorsement from the fellow’s graduate program and Rackham.

Additional RMF Policies

Registration Requirements

To receive Rackham’s support during the fall and winter terms, fellows must be registered full-time (minimum of 9 hours each term for master’s students and pre-candidates, and 8 hours for candidates). Rackham support during spring/summer terms includes stipend and health insurance only; it does not include tuition. Students do not need to be registered to receive Rackham support during the spring/summer. The stipend level is currently $12,990 per semester for the 2023–24 academic year.

Supplemental Employment

The Rackham Merit Fellowship awardees are expected to be engaged full-time in making academic progress (e.g., coursework, research). Therefore, a fellow may not accept supplemental employment involving more than 10 hours of work each week while receiving RMF fellowship support. In the case of Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRAs), or Graduate Student Staff Assistants (GSSAs), the supplemental employment would be limited to a 0.25 appointment.

According to university contracts and policies, units appointing students to Graduate Student Assistant (GSA, includes GSI, GSRA, and GSSA) positions are required to pay the tuition and benefits when an appointment is at least 0.25. When students are on the RMF fellowship and have a 0.25 GSA (the maximum supplemental employment), Rackham continues to pay the tuition and benefits.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Rackham Merit Fellows are expected to meet the satisfactory academic progress standards established by their graduate degree program and the graduate school throughout the period of fellowship tenure. All graduate students are encouraged to routinely seek direction and counsel from their faculty advisor, graduate program chair, and faculty mentor(s) during every term. Fellows experiencing academic difficulties are strongly advised to obtain early assistance from their graduate program and the Rackham Office of Graduate Student Success.

Program Changes/Dual Degrees

Rackham Merit Fellowships are awarded for study in the Rackham program that nominated the student. Fellows who wish to change fields or add programs must have their eligibility for continued RMF support reviewed and approved by their new graduate program and the Rackham Office of Finance and Fellowships prior to making the change.

Note to joint or dual degree students: Fellows pursuing joint or dual degrees with non-Rackham degree programs must file their program(s) of study with the Rackham Office of Finance and Fellowships before the funding can be released. Rackham funds may not be used to pay tuition for University of Michigan courses taken while registered in a non-Rackham degree program.

Award Acceptance/Deferral

All RMF awardees must indicate their award acceptance decision. To accept the RMF, the student must complete the Rackham Merit Fellowship Program Decision Form by April 15, 2025.

With graduate program approval, fellowship recipients may defer the RMF award for up to one academic year.

RMF Students with Additional Fellowship Funding

Graduate students are strongly encouraged to seek funding from sources external to the University of Michigan. Rackham Merit Fellows may not hold other competitive fellowships simultaneously with the RMF, with the exception of the GEM fellowship, which is used concurrently with the RMF. In the case of awards external to the university for which Rackham provides cost-sharing (e.g., Ford, NSF, DOD, NASA), fellows may be able to use a portion of, or defer the entire, RMF award. Please see the cost-sharing guidelines for more information.

Awards external to the university with a minimum stipend of $20,001 will extend the student’s funded period at the university. RMF recipients who are concurrently recipients of other awards (regardless of type or funding source), including assistantships or fellowships, may receive up to 50% in additional stipend in excess of the established stipend level for that term (for academic year 2023–24, the established stipend for each term is $12,990, and 50% is $6,495). In circumstances where an RMF recipient is receiving combined stipend support (regardless of type or funding source) exceeding 150% of the established stipend level for that term (for academic year 2023–24, 150% is $19,485), the Rackham stipend can be reduced to bring the combined stipend support in compliance with Rackham policy, or the non-Rackham stipend can be deferred to a later term, if allowable. Graduate programs are required to provide their support of RMF students prior to post-candidacy RMF funding. Fellows and their graduate programs are expected to notify the Rackham Office of Finance and Fellowships about any supplemental fellowship awards or other funding received by a fellow, or the student’s remaining RMF funding may be forfeited. Upon notification, the Rackham Office of Finance and Fellowships will work with the graduate program to create an individualized funding plan for the student that integrates the RMF, graduate program, and external award funding.

RMF Competition and Allocation Information

Both doctoral and master’s students do not apply directly for the RMF, but are nominated by faculty in their graduate program. Nominees are encouraged to provide their graduate program with relevant information regarding their personal background and life experiences, including educational, cultural, familial, or other opportunities or challenges in their personal statement in the Rackham application for admission. Programs also may request additional information from newly admitted students to help with the evaluation of the different dimensions of the RMF criteria (see RMF Rubric).

Competition Nomination Procedures and Evaluation

Most Ph.D. programs and all master’s programs may nominate eligible entering students for the RMF competitions through the RMF Nomination website*. Instructions for using the RMF Nomination website are available. Within the nomination website, graduate programs will need to:

  • Select nomination type “Doctoral Competition, Master’s Competition, deadline: specific date”
  • Complete the RMF nomination; and
  • Upload a PDF of the nominee’s admissions letter.

Programs must complete and submit nominations prior to the deadlines:

Ph.D. Deadline

February 6, 2025, and March 6, 2025

Master’s Deadline

February 20, 2025, and March 13, 2025

Ph.D. programs may submit up to 10 nominations across both rounds, and DMA/master’s programs may submit up to five nominations across both rounds. An email will be sent to the graduate program confirming Rackham’s receipt of the nomination.

Nominations for the RMF competition are reviewed by faculty committees and for the RMA by internal Rackham committees on a rolling basis following each submission deadline. Individual nominations are evaluated on a competitive basis based on RMF eligibility and evaluative criteria (see RMF Guide). Programs will be notified of award decisions within three weeks of the nomination deadline.

Programs Receiving an RMF Allocation

Selected Rackham programs receive an award allocation to administer their own internal award process using the RMF eligibility and evaluative criteria. Allocation letters are sent by Rakcham to select graduate programs late in the fall term, prior to the admissions season. Students newly admitted in these programs are selected for RMF awards by their admitting program and are not entered in the competitions.

Award allocations must be submitted as nominations to Rackham for review of eligibility and evaluative criteria before they can be awarded to admitted students. Review by Rackham of allocation nominations are done within two business days. Similar to the competitions, RMF allocations are awarded to students through the RMF Nomination website. Instructions for using the RMF Nomination website are available. Within the nomination website, graduate programs will need to:

  • Select nomination type “Doctoral Allocation, Master’s Allocation, deadline: April 15, 2025”
  • Complete the RMF nomination; and
  • Upload a PDF of the nominee’s admissions letter.

All program allocations that have not been awarded by April 15, 2025, will revert back to Rackham.

After your graduate program fully commits the RMF allocation and has identified additional students who are eligible and evaluated for the different dimensions of the RMF criteria, the graduate program may submit additional nominations across both rounds of the competitions, but may not nominate a student more than once. Fully committing the RMF allocation means that students are admitted into the program and their RMF allocations have been entered and submitted prior to the competition deadlines.

Nominate Students

Nominate eligible entering doctoral and master’s students for the RMF and RMA.

Contacts

For RMF General Questions

Rackham PACE Team
Phone: 734.615.5670
[email protected]

For RMF Programming Including RMF Connection

Rackham PACE Team
Phone: 734.647.4013
[email protected]

For RMF Utilization, Award Processing

Rackham Office of Finance and Fellowships
Phone: 734.764.8119
[email protected]