About NAFA: President's Welcome, History and Purpose

2017 -2019 President's Welcome

July 2017

Dear NAFAns:

Another NAFA biennial conference is in the books! As with every previous conference, we enjoyed record-setting attendance, for both advisors and fellowship representatives alike. Overall, the initial response from those in attendance was that the conference was a great success and provided a wealth of information, great ideas, professional development opportunities, and, well…fellowship for new and old NAFAns alike.

Throughout the week, I received numerous comments that the conference seemed to be running smoothly. I cannot emphasize enough the mighty collaborative effort that went into creating this seemingly smooth-running operation: from the conference planning committee, to all the presenters, foundation and fellowship representatives, Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia staff, and our indomitable staff members John Richardson and Laura Sells, I extend the strongest possible gratitude. 

The highlight of any NAFA biennial conference are the breakout sessions, and presenters were encouraged to explore the theme “Mind the Gap.” The panels, presentations, and posters offered throughout the week examined the gaps in our collective knowledge, the populations we serve, our advising philosophies and strategies, and our overarching professional values. Specific topics demonstrated an edifying diversity of topics, including strategies for helping faculty to write effective letters of recommendation and avoid unconscious bias; approaches for advising graduate students, arts applicants, students from underserved populations, and faith-centered students; professional development paradigms for fellowships advisors; and basic information on how to apply for lesser-known awards or even successfully navigate the application systems for more established programs.

More knowledge is offered during our conference than can be cognitively consumed in four days, and most NAFAns have returned to their campuses with notebooks full of new ideas and folders full of resources for their students. To that end, I will be working to make all of the conference materials and presentations that I received available to current NAFA members via the membership portal on the NAFA website – I’ll be sure to notify the listserv when I have done so!

And, defying all logic and common sense, we have already begun laying plans for the 2019 conference in Minneapolis! As Vice-President Craig Filar sets to work, we encourage further comments and suggestions from NAFA members, and, in particular, we welcome offers from those of you who would like to be involved in the planning process!


Kyle Mox, PhD

Associate Dean, Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University

Director, Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement


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.