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The Carson Scholars Program offers one-year, one-time- only, $5,000 graduate scholarships to exceptional University of Arizona graduate students committed to interdisciplinary research on environment and society. The scholarships are designed to support and retain University of Arizona graduate students whose research is related to the environment and/or social justice and who are interested in communicating science to a broad audience. Current UA PhD students, UA JD students, or UA master’s students in terminal master's creative or professional programs, or those applying to such programs for the upcoming academic year, are eligible to apply.

Program Benefits

Once selected, Carson Scholars begin the program by attending an intensive weekend science communication retreat at Biosphere 2 run by UA faculty. Carson Scholars are assigned faculty mentors who, throughout the scholarship year, provide hands-on training and other resources to develop skills, strategies, and products to effectively convey the value of their research. Scholars will enhance their skills communicating science to a variety of audiences through a variety of techniques, such as videography and public speaking. Scholars will interact with a range of stakeholders interested in their work, from visiting scholars to area donors. At the end of the program year, the Scholars put their training to work by completing a video, exhibit, public presentation, website, blog, or other communication project.

Carson Scholars join a growing network of researchers interested in a range of issues related to ecology, earth, and environmental sciences, including environmental and energy policy, environmental governance, climate science, solar and renewable energy, environmental education, global change, water, sustainability, wildlife and natural resources conservation, the intersection of arts and culture and the environment, and outreach to stakeholders.

Carson Scholars continue to participate in the network after completing the year-long program, providing them with opportunities for collaboration and skills that can inform and enhance their future professional efforts. The Institute of the Environment works to sustain the network of Carson alumni by promoting scholar accomplishments and publications, and by encouraging interaction among current and former recipients of the award.

Eligibility Criteria

First- and second-year PhD students and graduating UA master's students who are applying to UA PhD programs are eligible to apply. Students must be in their first, second, or third year of their PhD program during the year of the scholarship. In addition, the program is now open to students in or applying to terminal master’s creative and professional programs, as well as JD students.

Applicants must be:

  • a University of Arizona graduate student in their first, second, or third year of their PhD program during the year of the scholarship
  • a current UA PhD student, UA JD student, or UA master’s student (in terminal master's creative, such as MFAs in creative writing, or professional programs) or those applying to such programs for the upcoming academic year
  • in residence on campus (actively enrolled at UA main campus – not off doing fieldwork somewhere for the duration of the scholarship) for the calendar year they are selected
  • involved in research related to the environment and/or social justice

(Current and past Carson Scholars are not eligible to apply.)

Application Requirements (all in .pdf format)

1. A 750-word essay containing the following:

  • a description of your current or intended research/scholarship area (targeted to a layperson audience, i.e. try to avoid too much jargon and explain your terms where necessary)
  • your communication interests and experience with respect to environmental and/or social justice and/or energy, and those areas where you seek to improve your skills
  • your commitment to meeting deadlines and completing projects, as well as your ability to work with, contribute to, and learn from a vibrant cohort of mentors and peers
  • how a Carson scholarship will help you develop various skill-sets to communicate and translate your research to diverse, broader audiences

Note: if you have particular strengths or interest in the specific areas of ecology as practiced at the Biosphere 2, global change, or social justice, please emphasize that in your application. The selection committee may choose to award one or more scholarships to students in these specific areas, depending on the applicant pool and donor interests. Important: such specialization is not required and "general" scholarships will always be awarded.​​

2. CV

3. A letter of recommendation from the applicant's faculty adviser (or proposed adviser in the case of master's students applying to PhD programs)

4. A second letter of recommendation; this can be from UA faculty or staff or an outside person

Application Process

Carson Scholarship applications are submitted online. We recommend that you finalize your essay and CV and line up your references before beginning the online application process. Once you have started the online application process, you will need to complete the process all at once; you will not be able to return later to make any changes. Once "Submit" is selected, you will receive an email notification that your application has been received, and emails will be automatically sent to your references containing instructions for uploading their confidential letter of recommendation.

If you plan to wait until the deadline to submit your application, we recommend you contact your references much earlier to let them know that 1) they will be asked to upload a letter of recommendation, and 2) instructions will be sent by email to them once you submit your application online.

Application Requirements (submit all in.pdf format)

As part of the year long program, Carson Scholars are required to:

  • Attend a mandatory weekend retreat and communications training at the beginning of the program year.
  • Attend at least two professional development, outreach, or team building events organized by program mentors or others.
  • Attend at least two events involving interaction with donors and interested parties.
  • Produce a science communication product such as an exhibit, blog, or video.
  • Make a long-term commitment to participate in the Carson Scholars network by posting updates, communication products, accomplishments, or items of interest to other current or past scholars.

 Program Schedule

  • January – Scholar Weekend Retreat at Biosphere 2 (Jan 19-20, or 26-27, 2019 tbd)
  • February – Science Communication Training
  • March – Scholar Presentations at Donor Reception
  • April/May – Writing/Video Project Training
  • June/July/August – Off for summer research
  • September – Scholar Post-Summer Mixer
  • October – Science Communication Training
  • November – Scholar Presentations at Donor Reception
  • December – Scholar Presentations at Community Event Finale

Important Dates and Deadlines (2019 Scholarship Application)

  • September 21, 2018 - Deadline for student online application materials. Applications must be submitted through the online system by 5:00pm.
  • September 28, 2018 - Deadline for Faculty Letters of Recommendation. Faculty letters must be submitted through the online system by midnight.
  • November 9, 2018 - Award Notifications. The Institute of the Environment will send email notifications to all applicants.

Submit Application ››


Please contact:

Liz Marsalla, Institute of the Environment at