As the cost of living has risen dramatically over the past several years, financial assistance has become a vital component of student success. There is no doubt that completing a dissertation is a challenging task, but the financial demands of obtaining a doctoral degree should not stand in the way.

UCF aids students in completing their doctoral degrees and obtaining their goals by providing monetary support to assist them in their research endeavors. Support such as this allows students to streamline their focus and drives their research to be cutting-edge, which has helped make UCF No. 20 in innovation in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The College of Graduate Studies supports doctoral students with the UCF Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship. The fellowship aims to increase dissertation completion among Ph.D. students by providing a stipend of $10,000 for spring semesters, tuition support and health insurance. The award is for doctoral students in their final semester of graduate education and who have a realistic expectation of degree completion in the spring, allowing them to forgo their non-research-related employment obligations to concentrate on completing their dissertation.

The Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship recipients for the Spring 2023 semester are:

Fatema Ahmed ’14 ’17MHA
Ariege Bizanti ’16 ’18MS ’21MS
Sarah Burrows
Paula Campesino ’18 ’20MS
Sharmistha Chakrabarti ’18PhD
Devin Cowan ’15 ’16MS
Daryn Dever ’17 ’20MA
Lauren Doocy
Rebecca Entress
Md Faqrul Hasan ’19MS
En-Lin Hsiang
Jiheng Huang
Linh Le
Nicholas Leahy
Bingna Lin
Kathleen McIntyre
Abigail Moreshead ’11 ’17MA
Mrudul Nilangekar
Alexandria Orozco
Zackary Parsons
Justine Renziehausen ’19MS
Chinmay Shirpurkar ’21MS
Megan Wiedbusch ’20MA

Applications are due to the College of Graduate Studies by Nov. 15, and students should speak with their program director about the deadline to submit to their dean’s office for nomination consideration. Each college can nominate students based on their demonstrated ability to complete high-quality dissertation research under the assurance that the awarding of the fellowship will allow the students to complete their dissertations and graduate at the end of the term.

Daryn Dever ’17 ’20MA says receiving the award granted her the ability to prioritize her research without worrying about the cost. The modeling and simulation doctoral candidate is researching how different forms of data collection such as log files and eye tracking, can be used to understand how people learn to design new game-based learning environments.

“This fellowship has allowed me to ignore the usual financial pressures of being a graduate student in Orlando and focus on completing my dissertation and finishing the next steps in my professional career,” says Dever, who earned a bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in instructional design and technology.

In addition to alleviating financial stressors, the award is also fueling critical research and helping students produce their best work. Physics doctoral candidate and fellowship awardee Zackary Parsons is using the funds to further his goal of conserving the environment by creating new renewable energy technologies. His research uses scanning electrochemical microscopy to reveal structure-activity relationships for electrocatalytic materials, enabling the use of electricity from renewable sources to drive important chemical reactions.

Zackary Parsons with his pet dog.
The Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship allows students like Zackary Parsons to spend more time on his dissertation, therefore giving him time to reflect and spend with those he loves.

“I feel that the quality of my dissertation is significantly higher than it might have been if I had needed to divert my time elsewhere,” Parsons says. He also says he feels that the fellowship ensured that he would graduate without delays.

The fellowship has empowered Nicholas Leahy, a kinesiology doctoral candidate, to pursue work that aims to ensure all individuals have access to the benefits of physical activity. In the future he plans to continue working in a university setting and focus on exercise science and getting involved with the public health sector to ensure proper funding and planning are available to all individuals in the community.

“I have been extremely blessed and am grateful to receive this fellowship,” Leahy says. “Producing long-lasting change is not feasible unless everyone has access to the tools and knowledge; by which to do so, and I hope to aid in that journey.”

Each year, the College of Graduate Studies at UCF awards over $2 million in fellowship funding to well-deserving students in acknowledgment of their impressive past achievements and anticipation of future successes at the university and beyond. Students may receive fellowships from the UCF College of Graduate Studies, their college or department, or agencies or organizations outside of UCF.

Graduate fellowship funds are awarded to enhance a fellow’s scholarly and educational endeavors, but there are no specific assignments associated with the award. Instead, fellows are expected to participate fully in their program and the intellectual community of the university, thereby enriching the experience of that community.

To learn more about fellowships at UCF, contact the College of Graduate Studies Fellowship Office ( or 407-823-2766) in Millican Hall 230. For more information about graduate study, visit