About NAFA: President's Welcome, History and Purpose

2019 -2021 President's Welcome

Fall 2019

Dear NAFAns:

As the summer turns to fall, and we can take our first collective breath of the new academic year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect and to look ahead at the upcoming biennium. We have closed the book on another successful conference in Minneapolis, MN. We had record attendance and, as always, it was a wonderful week to come together to share ideas, best practices, and camaraderie around our noble pursuit of fellowship advising. The chance for us all, advisors and foundation representatives, to charge our collective batteries is always welcome and most appreciated. Our shared stories of the students who both inspire and frustrate us has always grounded me in the value and the great joy in our work. I wanted to thank everyone who contributed to the success of the conference. It was a mammoth team effort. I want to thank all who took the time to provide thoughtful feedback on the conference; our current Vice-President, Cindy Schaarschmidt is hard at work with a team of NAFAns on our 2021 conference in New Orleans, and she is working to make that experience even more impactful for us all. As we grow as an organization, we want to develop our programming to meet the varying needs of our membership. 

Looking ahead to the next two years, we have a lot to be excited about as an organization. As NAFA grows, we have a renewed interest in our own opportunities for professional development and support. I am excited to turn our pedagogical tools that we use for our students' growth toward our own benefit as an organization. We will have an exciting slate of workshops and study tours this summer. The communications team is hard at work on developing a series of webinars for the upcoming year as well. The board will be working on the professionalization of the organization by hiring a brand new professional NAFA staff member to assist with the conference planning. Be on the lookout for the newly approved membership structure this coming year. 

We are also focusing on areas for our collective growth and improvement. I have created new committees to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion and also graduate advisors and their needs. Since I first joined the organization over ten years ago, NAFA has always been about collaboration and support (much to the confusion of friends and colleagues who expect us to be rivals and find the rising tide philosophy we share a bit confounding). Perhaps most importantly for me, and I hope for many of you, NAFA is about relationships-the ones we have with our students, those between foundations and advisors, and of course, the relationships we have with one another. I enjoy your company more than you may know. You inspire me and challenge me to bring my best effort to all that I do. I cannot wait to see what the next two years hold for us, and I am humbled every day to be in this position to serve NAFA, as we charge into the exciting future of our organization.


D. Craig Filar, Ph.D.

Associate Dean and Director, Office of National Fellowships

Florida State University



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.