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Career Exploration Fellowship

The Graduate College's Career Exploration Fellowship Program connects doctoral students with administrative units within the university for substantive, mentored work experiences.

The main goal of the program is to enable doctoral students to gain experience and build skills beyond traditional research and teaching roles, aligning their professional development to a wider range of career aspirations. Graduate students develop a number of vital, transferrable skills through their work in research and teaching at the university, but students often tell us that they wish they also had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in other kinds of work. Such experience gives graduate students the chance to develop new skills, explore unfamiliar career options, and market themselves more effectively to employers when they graduate. Read about our Fall 2022 cohort of Career Exploration Fellows here.

How the Program Works

As a Career Exploration Fellow, selected students will receive in the following:

  • A 10-15 hour per week hourly position at a campus unit (at $25/hour). See host units below.
  • A $6,000 Career Exploration Fellowship from the Graduate College, which will generate a tuition waiver for the semester.
  • Ongoing professional and career development activities facilitated by the Graduate College.

The student's tasks and responsibilities as part of the hourly position will be determined by the host unit (in consultation with the student), and the host unit will provide mentoring and targeted professional development opportunities. In addition to their work with the host unit, the student will participate in a twice-monthly career exploration seminar, during which they will reflect on their work and engage in career development activities.

Host Units

We are pleased to announce the lineup of Spring 2023 host sites! Each of these units will host one Career Exploration Fellow. Read more about the units and the work a Career Exploration Fellow might do for them below:

  • Center for Social & Behavioral Science: The Center for Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS) is dedicated to supporting innovative social and behavioral science from diverse disciplines to address major societal challenges. CSBS provides a wide range of services to help faculty in the social and behavioral sciences conduct innovative research. The Career Exploration Fellow will contribute to a variety of projects and services provided to our faculty. Some possible example include 1) supporting our small grant program via reviewing research proposals and providing feedback to applicants, 2) providing research development support to research teams like identifying external federal funding opportunities for particular research projects and helping with research proposal preparation, 3) assisting in strategically designing CSBS programming for future semesters such as identifying research trends and key topics for workshops and symposiums, 4) helping in the implementation of CSBS events and communication strategies with our research community, and 5) promoting CSBS’ community engagement to connect research with societal impact. The Fellow will join an interdisciplinary team dedicated to supporting the social and behavioral science community across campus. Working at the CSBS will give the Fellow the opportunity to leverage the research skills acquired during graduate school to support a wide research community and the services of a campus level research center.
  • Graduate College - Career & Professional Development: Graduate College Career Development supports graduate students and postdocs as they build meaningful careers at Illinois and beyond! As part of the Student Success team in the Graduate College, we provide a range of services to help grad students explore career paths, develop effective job search strategies, and achieve their professional goals. The Career Exploration Fellow, depending on their interests, would have the opportunity to contribute through a variety of guided projects. Some possible examples include developing career and professional development resources (workshops, handouts, webpages, videos) or conducting interviews with alumni for podcasts or blog posts. The Fellow will contribute to a small, dynamic unit dedicated to supporting the Illinois graduate student community. Working with Graduate College Career Development will give the Fellow hands-on experience aligned with career paths in student services, program development, and communications.
  • Graduate College - Strategic Marketing and Branding: The Graduate College at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign serves more than 20k graduate students across many different academic and professional disciplines with a wide range of educational goals, interests, and needs. The communications team within the Graduate College works closely with units across campus to support graduate students, administrators, and faculty and to understand the changing needs of graduate education. The Fellow will have the opportunity to contribute and learn through participation in team projects, particularly the creation and use of marketing personas. Aspects of this project the Fellow will experience include working with survey data, conducting focus groups, strategizing best use cases, and creating presentations and communications to disseminate information to different stakeholders. Previous knowledge and experience in these areas are not required. Activities are done as part of a highly collaborative team that engages with staff in units across campus.
  • Molecule Maker Lab Institute: The Molecule Maker Lab Institute is a National Science Foundation-funded research Institute that brings together chemistry, chemical engineering, and computer science to democratize molecule making. The MMLI supports faculty and graduate research, collaborates with industry partners, provides educational and outreach activities for the broader community, and more. Depending on their interests, the Career Development Fellow would gain experience in one or more of the following areas: (1) Grants Management (budget, NSF reporting, HR activities); (2) Industry Engagement (participate in quarterly meetings, site visits, and Seed Grant programming); (3) Education and Outreach (planning for summer camp).
  • Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation - Office of Proposal Development: Learn about proposal and research development activities that the Office of Proposal Development (OPD) undertakes, including how it supports researchers at UIUC and helps with development of large and strategic research proposals from campus. Meet with OPD staff to learn about their professional work and their career paths. Become familiar with reading and analyzing solicitations from different federal funding agencies (such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, Department of Education). Shadow a research development manager on a proposal development project to learn about using project management tools for proposal development. All activities you will take part in during the fellowship are designed to expose you to a range of activities that research development professionals perform.  
  • Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation – Research Development Community: Research Development (RD) is a growing and evolving field of practice, encompassing a variety of jobs that support research and researchers.  This Fellowship opportunity will enable you to learn about the field of RD and the many different careers in it.  Meet with RD professionals from across the campus, working in a variety of roles supporting the UIUC Research Enterprise, which is led by and supported through the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation.  Learn about their career paths and day-to-day activities, and choose 3-4 RD projects to work on with RD professionals.  Interact with members of the campus RD Community (RDC), a group of RD professionals from across the UIUC campus, and sit in on meetings of one or more of the four RDC subcommittees to learn more about the projects and activities they are working on. 
  • Student Affairs Assessment and Planning: Assessment and Planning leads assessment, evaluation, and strategic planning efforts for Student Affairs and coordinates co-curricular institutional surveys. Student Affairs encompasses 25 departments that support the academic, social, and personal growth of all students.  The Assessment and Planning Fellow will work alongside the Director to design and implement evaluation instruments, analyze large-scale survey data, create customized reports/data visualizations, and assist in consulting/training across units.  Fellows will have the opportunity to work with existing data sets (e.g. Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL), National College Health Assessment (NCHA)) and share findings with campus partners to improve the campus experience. Fellows will also develop a professional development workshop on an assessment or planning topic of their choice.  This fellowship is ideal for those looking to apply research methods, statistics, or data analysis/visualization in a professional environment.   

If you work at a unit on campus and are interested in hosting a Career Exploration Fellow in Fall 2023 or later, please contact us at


  • Applicants must be enrolled in good standing in a PhD, DMA, EdD, or AudD program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Applicants must be graduating May 2023 or after.
  • During Spring 2023, Career Exploration Fellows may not hold more than a 25% appointment (or equivalent) in addition to their hourly position and Fellowship. Any additional employment must be confirmed in advance by the Graduate College.
  • At the finalist phase, applicants must confirm their participation with their advisor or Director of Graduate Studies before they can be selected.
  • Career Exploration Fellowship activities are expected to happen primarily in-person, on campus.


Applications consist of the following items:

  • A completed application form
  • A professional resume (see this handout for more information about resumes, and consider making a career advising appointment to work on yours)
  • Statement 1: Why are you interested in your preferred host site? What aspects of their work do you want to learn more about? (150-300 words)
  • Statement 2: What are some of the key skills or experiences you would bring to the Career Exploration Fellowship? How do you see yourself contributing to your host site? (250-500 words)
  • Statement 3: How will the Career Exploration Fellowship contribute to your career and professional development? How could it help you clarify or pursue your goals? (250-500 words)

In order to provide more comprehensive answers to these questions, we encourage you to to use tools that can help you reflect on your career goals. Consider engaging with individual development plans (like myIDP or ImaginePhD) or self-assessments (like our skills worksheet and values worksheet).


Submit your complete application through the online form by 11:59 pm (CST) on Sunday, October 16.


Contact us at