About NAFA: President's Welcome, History and Purpose

2015 -2017 President's Welcome

April 2016

Dear NAFAns,

NAFA now boasts a record-high 454 members! As we have grown over the years, we have continued to tweak our organizational structure to support the increased size of our community. Throughout the 2015-2017 biennium, our goal is to continue providing the high quality programming and support network our members have become accustomed to, while also looking strategically towards the future. Now is the time to revisit and revamp our organizational structures to support current activities as well as plan for our continued expansion, securing NAFA’s role as the premiere voice for fellowship advisors in the higher education landscape.

Over the past year, NAFA has put an emphasis on developing our communication initiatives and revamping our financial management. Through their leadership of NAFA’s Technology, Communications, and Publications Committee, our Director of Communications Lauren Tuckley (Georgetown University) and Board Member Monique Bourque (Willamette University) have breathed new life into NAFA’s social media presence, instituted this newsletter, and have undertaken a mass reorganization of our online records platform. On the financial side, our Treasurer Jeff Wing (Virginia Commonwealth University), along with John Richardson (NAFA Administrative Manager and past Treasurer) and the Finance Committee, have led the organization through another successful financial audit and are drafting a long- term financial strategy for the organization.

We are excited to bring a robust group of events to members this summer, including study trips to the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as workshops on public service, serving diverse populations, and strategies for new professionals. I hope you also read about our recent NAFA-affiliated trip to Taiwan this past March. This excursion marked our first group venture of NAFAns to Asia and paves the way for the organization to re-envision international offerings for our members. I’d like to thank Jeanne Sokolowski (University of New Hampshire) and Brian Souders (University Maryland, Baltimore County) for their coordination of the Taiwan pilot project.

One of our priorities for the next year is to work towards defining best practices for fellowship advising, an exercise which we believe will help guide NAFA’s next five-year strategic plan. Beth Powers (University of Illinois, Chicago) has graciously accepted an appointment to the NAFA board to lead these efforts in identifying our hallmarks of excellence, which we hope to present to the membership at the next Biennial Convention in Philadelphia, July 19-21, 2017. In closing, I would like to extend my gratitude to the many advisors and foundation representatives who allow our all-volunteer organization to thrive. In particular, I would like to thank Jill Deans (University of Connecticut), who will be retiring from the NAFA Board next month, for her years of service to the organization and its leadership. I look forward to seeing some of you this summer on the Germany Study Tour and at the New Advisor’s Workshop in New Orleans, and I always welcome your thoughts on ways we can continue to improve our organization and NAFA community.


Dana Kuchem 

The History and Purpose of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors


The purpose of the NAFA is to provide its membership with access to information concerning national undergraduate and graduate grants, scholarships, and fellowships, as well as the foundations and agencies that support them. NAFA also provides a format for the exchange of ideas concerning the application process, scholarship foundations, and the ethical issues related to scholarship advising. The long-term goal is to provide support for faculty and staff who are assisting students through the process of applying for grants, scholarships, and fellowships.


Beth Powers, University of Illinois—Chicago

"Before NAFA, you were working by yourself on your campus. Few others understood your joys and challenges; you were alone. It is hugely different now for advisors. NAFA provides a place to learn, to share ideas, to let off steam."
—Jane Curlin, Senior Program Manager, Udall Foundation Education Programs
Scholarship advising has taken place in one form or another for as long as scholarships have existed. The oldest scholarship, the Rhodes, was created in 1904. The Fulbright was established in 1946; the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, in 1952; and the Marshall Scholarship, in 1953. As more and more Americans began to pursue higher education and postgraduate study in the sixties and the seventies, government and private organizations offered more funding to support students whose achievements matched their interests. The Truman Scholarship was first awarded in 1977–1978; the first Goldwater, in 1986; and the first Udall Scholarship, in 1996. Fellowship advising developed as a profession in response to this growing number of scholarships as universities realized that organizing the competitions and preparing the students took time and effort. The foundations’ practice of requesting that university presidents appoint people to recruit students for their awards and shepherd them through the process established the need for a campus facilitator for scholarships. In this way foundations fostered the development of the field of fellowship advising.
By the late 1990s many fellowships advisors and foundation representatives had long realized that supporting students as they applied for nationally competitive awards was valuable as a process in itself, helping to expand those served and increasing student reflection and planning, as well as student success. Nancy Twiss, from Kansas State University, was one of these early scholarship advisors.  She played a critical role in the beginning of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors (NAFA), though she retired before the organization was founded. The combination of a growing number of nationally competitive scholarships, the creation of the role of scholarship advisor, and the increasing need for communication between advisors and foundations set the stage for the development of NAFA.