The University of Iowa

Lulu Merle Johnson Fellowships

Lulu Merle Johnson Fellows

The Graduate College’s Lulu Merle Johnson Recruitment Fellowship enhances departmental recruitment packages by offering our most accomplished new underrepresented minority doctoral students.

Academic-year appointment

Year 1

  • Fellows receive a $25,000 non-service year fellowship plus tuition and 50% mandatory fees scholarship from the Graduate College. Fellows also receive a summer fellowship of $5,000, up to two hours of tuition, and 50% of the mandatory fees.

Years 2-4

  • Fellows are appointed as 50% teaching or research assistants and receive a tuition scholarship and 50% of the mandatory fees funded by their department.
  • Fellows will receive a $5,000 academic year stipend, $5,000 summer support, and a summer tuition scholarship up to 2 credits and 50% of their mandatory fees from the Graduate College.  

Year 5

  • Fellows are appointed as 50% teaching or research assistants and receive a tuition scholarship and coverage of 50% of the mandatory fees.
  • Fellows will receive a $5,000 academic stipend from the Graduate College. There is no summer support in year five.

Fiscal-year appointment

Year 1

  • Fellows receive a $30,000 non-service year fellowship, a tuition scholarship, and 50% mandatory fees scholarship from the Graduate College.

Years 2-4

  • Fellows are appointed as 50% teaching or research assistants, receive a tuition scholarship, and 50% of the mandatory fees funded by their department.
  • Fellows will receive a $10,000 stipend and a summer tuition scholarship up to 2 credits and 50% of their mandatory fees from the Graduate College.  

Year 5

  • Fellows are appointed as 50% teaching or research assistants and receive a tuition scholarship and coverage of 50% of the mandatory fees.
  • Fellows will receive a $5,000 stipend from the Graduate College.

Stipend amounts are effective July 1, 2020.

Fellows also are eligible to be nominated for post-comprehensive fellowships offered by the Graduate College (including the post-comprehensive exam fellowship and the Ballard and Seashore dissertation fellowship). The Graduate College will contribute $10,000 to fiscal-year appointments.

The fellowship is open to US citizens or permanent residents who are Black or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.

The fellowship is named in honor of Lulu Merle Johnson, Ph.D., the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa and in the state of Iowa (1941). She was also among the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in history in the United States. Dr. Johnson grew up in Gravity, Iowa. She earned all three degrees from Iowa. After graduating, she served on the faculty of Talladega College (Alabama), Tougaloo College (Mississippi), Florida A&M University, and West Virginia State College before joining Cheyney State University (Pennsylvania) in 1952 as a history professor and dean of women.

Tuition scholarships are paid during the academic years (fall, spring) by the appointing unit for years 2-5, while the Graduate College provides two credit hours tuition and 50 percent of the mandatory fees for the summer terms. Nomination for a Graduate College Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Fellowship must be submitted by the Director of Graduate Studies of the department/program to which the prospective student has been admitted.

Typically fellowships cannot be used in combination with any other source of support (e.g., fellowship/scholarship, grant, graduate assistantships, or employment outside the University of Iowa) since the fellowships are meant to provide protected time for the student to advance his/her studies. Failure to report additional employment can be considered in future applications/nominations/continued Graduate College funding for both the student and the department. For more information or to ask for a possible one-time exception, contact the Graduate College. Please direct any questions to: Executive Director of Operations Donna Welter (335-2145) or Associate Dean Shelly Campo (335-2136) or via email at grad-fellowships@uiowa.edu.

Departments/programs may nominate up to two candidates for consideration. Students must be nominated by their departments or programs.

The first cohort of Lulu Merle Johnson Fellows began at the University of Iowa in fall 2018.

Online nominations must include the following items as PDF files.

A nomination letter from the DGS describing the nominee's exceptional qualifications and preparation for doctoral study. The letter must include:

  • A rank order of the nominee if two nominations are submitted.
  • A comment on the standing of the nominee within the pool of applicants for doctoral study nationally.
  • A statement that the Fellow will be provided with assigned desk space through the first 5 years of graduate study.
  • A statement that the Fellow will be supported through research/teaching assistantships for up to 5 academic years.
  • The Recommendation on Graduate Application form in MAUI showing that the nominee has been admitted to the PhD by the department.
  • A completed University of Iowa graduate application.
  • A Statement of Purpose written by the nominee.
  • Transcripts from all institutions of higher education the student has attended.
  • Copies of all letters of recommendation that accompanied the admission application.
  • GRE scores, if required by the department (or GMAT, if appropriate).

Letters of support from at least two faculty members (at least one from within the program and at least one who is at the associate professor level or higher) agreeing to serve as mentors for the student. Faculty members must have at least one of the following credentials: 1) a record of successfully mentoring minority doctoral students to completion, 2) successfully completed or committing to completing National Research Mentoring Network training offered at the University of Iowa and elsewhere, 3) successfully completing or committing to completing a UI BUILD Certificate, and/or 4) the completion of another type of formal program demonstrating commitment to diversity and/or mentoring. The letters must address how the mentor addresses this qualification.

Nominations must be submitted online by the department or program, with all materials prepared as PDF documents. Applications submitted by the student (and not someone in the department such as the DGS, DEO or grad coordinator) will be voided and not considered.  

Selection Process

A Graduate College committee will review nominations on a rolling basis from February 25-March 11, 2021. The committee will consider all submitted materials in its assessment of each nominee's potential for outstanding academic success and of the departmental commitment to the Fellow’s success. The Graduate College does not use arbitrary test score cutoffs in its assessment.

The department will be notified once the Graduate College reviews a nomination. The DGS or other departmental representative should then personally contact the student as soon as possible by phone or email, followed by an official letter copied to the Graduate College. Please note that prior to sending this letter, it must be approved by the Graduate College because it is committing resources to that prospective student.

After the student has accepted the fellowship offer, the Graduate College will send a confirmation letter to the student from the Dean.

Although students cannot be required to accept or decline the award until April 15, they should be encouraged to inform the department of their decision as soon as possible so that additional awards can be extended to other nominees in a timely manner.

Requirements for Departments/Program

  1. Departments must conduct a real-time interview (in-person, Skype, phone) with a prospective fellow before making the fellowship nomination. The nomination letter must provide a brief critique of the interview.
  2. Departments must state in their offer letters that Fellows will be provided with assigned desk space through the first 5 years of graduate study.
  3. A Fellow's research mentor/advisor must be identified to the Graduate College by the end of the second year of study. This is a requirement for the student to receive continuing support.
  4. Departments must meet with Fellows at the end of each academic year and submit a brief memo to the Graduate College confirming that a Fellow is making good academic progress. If a Fellow has withdrawn from courses, received an incomplete in a course, or received a course grade of B- or lower, the department must address proposed remedies.
  5. Departments/mentors must file signed (by student, mentors, and DGS or DEO) individual development plans annually for fellows for the coming years. They need to be updated annually to reflect changes.

Requirements for Fellows

  1. Fellows must complete annual progress report each year by April 15 that also addresses their summer research plan of study. This report is required to receive summer support. To receive the support the student must be registered for at least 1 credit in the summer term.
  2. Continued support as a Graduate College Iowa Fellow requires remaining in good academic standing with strong evidence of academic progress, successful completion of the comprehensive examination, and submission of all annual progress reports.
  3. If all of the above requirements are not met, the Graduate College may withhold awarding of funds.

Awards and Annual Renewal

All Graduate College Fellowship renewals are contingent on demonstration of strong progress toward degree objectives, according to the standards outlined in the student's departmental graduate student handbook.

Please Call or Email with Questions

  • Executive Director of Operations Donna Welter (335-2145) or Associate Dean Shelly Campo (335-2136) or via email at grad-fellowships@uiowa.edu.