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Student Pugwash USA's 14th National Conference on Science and Social Responsibility: Promoting the Integrity of Science

Conference Funding Through Your University: Tips for Students

Every year students from across the country, graduate and undergraduate alike, travel to attend conferences. Student Pugwash's National Conference may be the one for you and yet, you find yourself asking, "How can I find the time, funding, and other support necessary to do so?" The reality is that most colleges and universities have funding available for students to attend conferences. The problem is that sometimes sources of funding aren't so well advertised. Don't be afraid to ask and dig around. And remember, once you're in Washington, DC, all of your on-site expenses, such as meals and accommodations, will be covered by Student Pugwash!

The Process: Locating the money, and some other things to think about

  • Plan ahead - more often than not requests for individual funding to attend conferences require at least a month for the university or college to process. Moreover, often times there a limited number of travel and/or conference scholarships available, so the sooner you appeal for funds the better your chances are of receiving them.
  • Inquire! Ask questions. If you don't, you'll never know. Make an appointment with your president, dean, or director, and state your case. You might just lay the groundwork for others' with similar interest to do the same thing in the future.
  • If you can't get the total amount from a single group or department, check with another. You may get some funding from one organization and additional funding from another.
  • Be prepared with a clear request. Write your detailed funding needs down before you make an appeal to your dean, director, or student organization - or your family.
  • The conference is an educational experience, so some of the expenses should be yours. When you ask for money from an organization, be sure to indicate how much of your own money you are willing and able to spend.
  • Go above and beyond - offer to write a paper or make a presentation in return for the funding.
  • When searching your university or college's website for sources of funding, think in terms of key phrases: "travel reimbursement," "conference funding," "travel grants," "conference travel support," etc.
  • When you discuss the conference with a professor or dean, list talking points that will help you make your case effectively.
  • If you're worried about the class time you will miss, explain the conference to your professors and why it's relevant to your education that you attend it. Professors and faculty members are flexible. Obtaining release time may be easier than you think.
  • Send thank you notes to your supporters after the conference - or even better, send a postcard from Washington, DC!

Adopted from the 2006 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders' website.

Potential sources of funding at your college or university

  • Associated Student government
  • Student government grants for specific projects/conferences
  • Student activities office/director
  • Office of Vice President of Student Affairs
  • Endowed chairs (endowed chairs sometimes have discretionary funds available)
  • Departments/departmental chairs/departmental deans
  • Dean of Students
  • Graduate division/deans
  • Chancellor/president of the university
  • Alumni association
  • Career placement/planning center
  • Associated Students Offices
  • Women's Center, Minority/International Student Office, Disabled Student Office

Don't forget to check out our sample Student Pugwash travel funding request letter. Though directed towards chapter members, it can be modified for individual use and will help with justifying your request for funding.

Examples of University Conference Funding Pages (Try searching your college or university's website to see if they have similar pages):

Carnegie Mellon
Colorado School of Mines
Northeastern University
University of Arkansas
University of Miami (site also includes potential external sources for funds!)

Questions about conference costs? Check out our accommodations page or email