Thursday, 3 September 2015

Dear RRU Faculty, Can I have a Hand with CGSM Scholarships?

Can you help me find excellent students and support them in their application for the $17,500 Canada Graduate Scholarship Masters (SSHRC/NSERC/CIHR)?

As faculty you know your students and you care about their learning opportunities. I would be grateful if when you find a student early in the program that exhibits skills as a promising researcher that you send him or her my way. I’d love to determine GPA eligibility to start, and then work with him/her early in the competition to put together a strong application for this research training funding.

Via the following Q and A, I hope to dispel some myths and create awareness of this incredible funding opportunity to find out best, brightest, and most deserving candidates at Royal Roads University.

Q. Are the students tied to conducting the project for which they received funding?
A. No.  These are research training awards and students are selected for the awards based on these factors: academic excellence, research potential, and personal characteristics. Students show research potential through how they present a research plan in their 1-page Outline of Proposed Research. Practically none of our students have reached the research planning point in their program when they apply for this scholarship so I advise they describe a project that interests them and then I give a very basic introduction into how to write a proposal.

The project will change as they progress in their program and that’s okay as long as students who receive SSHRC funding do a social science or humanities project, NSERC recipients conduct natural science or engineering research, and CIHR recipients do research in the field of health studies and that it’s a project that meets the expectations of a major grant recipient and the academic program’s requirements.

The difficulty comes in when faculty member know that the project proposed for the CGSM application isn’t in line with the program requirements and the student asks for a reference. How do you provide appropriate support knowing that you want students to succeed with this grant but the project isn’t going to fly? There’s plenty you can evaluate about the student’s research potential from the Outline of Proposed Research. The selection criteria section of this webpage lists the qualities for evaluation (e.g. logical flow of thought, ability to think critically, leadership potential, other characteristics that show promise of a good researcher like ability to communicate effectively, manage time, understand appropriate scope, etc).

I strongly encourage students to have at least one RRU faculty member as a referee who can comment on the research learning experience at RRU. Ideally this reference will connect the student and his or her research goals to the program.

Q. What does it mean to be a referee?
If you agree to be a referee, you are committing to only providing an assessment on the student’s qualifications for the scholarship. That's where your obligation ends.

Once the student enters your name and email address into his/her application, you will receive an email with a link to the Reference Assessment Form.  Here are the Instructions for Completing the Reference Assessment Form.

While it’s not required, it would be nice if you could provide some feedback on the student’s one page Outline of Proposed Research. Even if the proposed project isn’t in line with the program’s requirements there’s a lot you can assess. For example, logical flow of thought, scope appropriate for a master’s program, or appropriateness of the method and theoretical framework.

There is a world of difference between a CGSM proposal and a research proposal prepared for the program. Since none of our students have had formal research proposal training, I provide only basic instruction on how to write a proposal and provide examples, but I try not to drive up competitiveness by being too critical with feedback. You are welcome to take it up a step, though, if you want your students to have a competitive edge!

Q. Are only thesis students eligible to apply?
A. No. As long as a student is conducting some sort of research training activity (s)he may apply (i.e. gathering data, interpreting it, and producing a written piece that may contribute to knowledge in the research community). Granted, it’s easier for a thesis student to rise to the top of the pile for research learning opportunity, but I’ve seen many competitive applications from students doing research projects, field practice, or OMPs.

Q. Is there an opportunity to give School-specific instructions to our students who are thinking of applying for this funding?
A. Yes. I send out a Call for Applications every fall to Program Associates, requesting they forward it to eligible cohorts. Your School is more than welcome to add instructions in the forwarded message.  I would like an opportunity to review the instructions, however, to identify anything that might conflict with the scholarship policies or procedures.

Q. How can we better prepare new students for this [really awesome] scholarship opportunity?
A. I started with a step-by-step blog for students and will add a video or something of my canned Federal grant presentation that I normally give to students in first residency as pre-residency introduction. It would be nice to have students’ attention before they’re engaged in the program content and get them asking you better questions while they’re on campus for first residency.  

Q. How competitive are our students for CGSM awards compared to other schools?
A. I think our students are amazingly competitive but that doesn’t matter. We are allocated a certain number of awards and we decide who gets them.  Mary Bernard chairs two TriCouncil nomination selection committees: one for SSHRC/CIHR, the other for NSERC applications. The membership of the committee is listed here.

Tips from me and other faculty:

1.       It’s ok to set deadlines for reference requests. If it’s a last minute request because of poor planning by the applicant, you can say no.
2.       Please complete your reference well before the December 1st deadline. A student cannot submit his/her application without complete references.
3.       Write your reference in Word first and then do a character count (2000 characters max) and copy and paste into the electronic form. The electronic form has a security feature that refreshes every 20 minutes. If you are working directly in the form and haven't saved, it will delete your text.
4.       For the question “how long have you known the student”, please enter the number of years and months. Enter “0” in either field rather than leaving it blank.

      Thank you for your support in finding the best students for these awards and please let me know if there are any other questions you have so that I can address them in the next update of this blog.

Gwen Campden MAPC, Manager, Student Success
Student Services | Royal Roads University
T 250.391.2502 | F 250.391.2670 |
2005 Sooke Road, Victoria, BC  Canada  V9B 5Y2 |


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