Graduate Student Awards

Submission deadline: December 1, 2015

To encourage graduate student participation at the conference and to feature excellent works by young scholars, the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) is pleased to award monetary prizes for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories.

Application Guidelines

  • Graduate students may apply for only ONE paper award per year. Those who apply for more than one award may be disqualified. However, graduate students can apply for both a paper award and Travel Fellowship.
  • In most cases, graduate students should apply for the award connected to the category in which they are presenting at the conference—unless one of the non-category awards is more applicable. For example, a presenter in the Grateful Dead area should apply for the Film, Television, Music, and Visual Media award.
  • Graduate students wishing to apply for the PostScript, Charles Redd Center, or Albuquerque Visitor’s Bureau awards may choose to apply for one of them instead of the category related to their subject area.
  • Graduate students presenting in the Creative Writing area should apply for the Creative Writing Award, rather than the Languages and Literature award.
  • Graduate students presenting in the Eclectica area may apply for any one of the paper awards, as relevant to the paper’s topic.
  • Papers that are not being presented at the conference in the year of award application are not eligible for submission.
  • To be eligible, applicants must be enrolled in a graduate-level degree program at the time of the conference for which the paper is submitted.
  • Unless otherwise stated, previous award winners are eligible and are encouraged to submit new works for award consideration.
  • Those applying for awards must register and pay to attend the conference and must present their papers in person at the conference in order to receive awards, if chosen.
  • All who apply for our awards should plan to attend the conference’s Graduate Student Awards Ceremony (typically held Friday evening), where the awards will be presented.  Winners will not be pre-notified, and all applicants are expected to be present at the ceremony. Awardees not attending the presentation will forfeit their award.
  • Unless otherwise stated, each award winner will receive $500.


  • By December 1, 2015, submit your paper via the online form below.
  • Your paper must be:
    • 12 to 25 pages
    • A standard citation style (MLA, Chicago, or APA)
    • Uploaded as a Microsoft Word document or PDF
  • You will be asked to provide:
    • 200 to 500 word abstract
    • Name of the conference’s subject area to which this paper was accepted for 2016
    • Your graduate program (department and level)
    • Your college/university
    • Your contact information, including email address and phone number 

Graduate Student Paper Awards 

(Jump to travel awards/fellowships)

Charles Redd Center Award for Western Studies

The Charles Redd Center Award for Western Studies is presented to the graduate student with the best paper dealing with a Western studies issue from a variety of academic disciplines including history, geography, sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, literature, art, folklore, and popular culture. Particularly welcome are papers centering themselves on the Intermountain West (defined as the states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico).  With appreciation from the SWPACA, this award is sponsored by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, which gives a plaque in addition to the prize money. Visit the Center online at

Apply Now!

Creative Writing

This award is given in honor of Jerry Bradley, a long-time SWPACA member and area chair. The award is presented to a graduate student who writes the best creative writing work for a SWPACA conference.  Students should submit either one short story or two poems that they will read at the conference.

Apply Now!

Film, Television, Music, and Visual Media

This award recognizess an exceptional essay presented in one of the areas belonging to the Film, Television, Music, and Visual Media family of areas. The essay may engage any aspect of popular and/or American culture as expressed through film, TV, music, and/or visual media. Graduate students whose essays address film studies may wish to consider applying for the Post Script award instead.

Apply Now!

Historic and Contemporary Cultures

This award recognizes an outstanding essay presented in one of the areas belonging to the Historic and Contemporary Cultures family of areas. As the most diverse grouping of areas at the SWPACA, papers eligible for this award may address a wide range of topics from American Studies, to Steampunk, to Food and Culture, to Stardom and Fandom—and many others. Graduate students whose essays address Western studies may wish to consider applying for the Charles Redd Center Award instead.

Apply Now!

Identities and Cultures

This award honors Diana Cox, a past president of the SWPACA. The award recognizes an excellent essay presented in one of the areas belonging to the Identities and Cultures family of areas, which offers presenters forums to explore a range of identities, including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and (dis)ability.

Apply Now!

Language and Literature

This award honors Kenneth Davis and Phyllis Bridges, both of whom contributed greatly to the SWPACA through their leadership and encouragement of graduate student participation. The award recognizes an exceptional paper presented in one of the areas comprising the Language and Literature category. Papers may range from auto/biography, to specific genres of writing, to graphic novels, to rhetorical analysis—with many other options. Graduate students presenting in the Creative Writing area should apply for the Creative Writing award rather than the Language and Literature award.

Apply Now!

Popular Culture Pedagogy

This award honors the organization’s late Executive Director, Phil Heldrich, a writer/professor with a passion for teaching. The Pedagogy award is given to an outstanding graduate student paper that addresses the teaching of popular culture in a classroom setting. The essay can address an issue in the application of a new, engaging, popular culture teaching strategy in a specific area of popular or American culture. Papers can address the application of popular culture at any levels—primary, secondary, or college classrooms—and any discipline. 

Apply Now!

Post Script Graduate Student Award in Film Studies

Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities, an international film journal based at Texas A&M University–Commerce and co-sponsored by Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with the SWPACA, awards an annual prize for the best graduate paper on film studies.  The recipient of this award is invited to submit to the General Editor of Post Script (within ninety days of the end of the conference) a version of the essay suitable for consideration for publication in a future issue of the journal.  In the event of a tie, there will be a maximum of two awards in any given year, provided funding is available. Previous Post Script award winners are ineligible for the award in future years.

Apply Now!

Science Fiction and Fantasy

This award honors Richard Tuerk, founder of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Area at the SWPACA, an area which has grown into one of the association’s most robust. The award recognizes an excellent graduate student essay related to any aspect of science fiction and/or fantasy.

Apply Now!

Travel Awards/Fellowships

Heldrich-Dvorak Travel Fellowships

Travel fellowships are given in honor of our late Executive Director, Phil Heldrich, and previous Treasurer, Ken Dvorak, whose tireless efforts to the SWPACA made it a conference dedicated to the professional development and support of graduate students. The fellowship supports student participation in this professional conference by supplementing the travel expenses of graduate students who have demonstrated their commitment to present their own scholarly research (many for the first time) at our conference.

The SWPACA is proud to offer five (5) graduate student travel awards in the amount of $500 each and three (3) undergraduate travel awards in the amount of $250 each.

Application Guidelines

  • Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate degree granting program at an institution of higher education at the time of the conference.
  • Applicants must have a proposal accepted for presentation at the SWPACA conference, and will be asked
  • As part of the application, students will be required to upload a letter, on college/university letterhead, from a professor knowledgeable of the student’s work, attesting to the student’s status in a degree program and indicating the amount of funding (or lack thereof) the student will receive from her/his institution to present at the SWPACA conference.
  • Graduate students who have applied for a paper award are also eligible to apply for a travel fellowship.
  • Applications for travel fellowships are due December 1, 2015. Recipients will be notified by December 15, 2015.

All notified recipients must attend the Peter C. Rollins Book Award and Graduate Student Award Ceremony, Friday, February 12, 2016, to receive their awards.

Apply Now!