Graduate Student Paper Awards

awards-iconGraduate Awards submissions are now being accepted!

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 registration reimbursement for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories. For other funding opportunities, see our Travel Awards for Students & Contingent Faculty.

Paper Award Application Guidelines

  • Papers must be accepted to the conference in order to be eligible for an award.
  • Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate-level degree program at the time of the conference for which the paper is submitted.
  • Those applying for awards must register and pay to attend the conference and must present their papers at the conference in order to receive awards, if chosen.
  • Unless otherwise stated, previous award winners are eligible and are encouraged to submit new works for award consideration.
  • Graduate students may apply for only ONE paper award per year. Those who apply for more than one award may be disqualified. Graduate students can apply for both a paper award and a travel award, but will only be awarded one.
  • 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 Television, Music, and Visual Media award.
  • Graduate students presenting in the Creative Writing area should apply for the Creative Writing Award, rather than the Languages and Literature award.
  • All who apply for our graduate paper awards must attend the conference’s Awards Ceremony where the Peter C. Rollins Book Award, Graduate Student Paper Awards, and Travel Awards will be announced. Winners will not be pre-notified, and will need to present at the ceremony in order to receive their monetary award. At the conclusion of the conference, the Awards Coordinator will verify with the panel chair that the winner of the award has presented.
  • Unless otherwise stated, each award winner will receive $500.


  • Paper submissions will be due on January 1, 2024.
  • Your paper must be:
    • 10-15 pages (including notes and references)
    • A standard citation style (MLA, Chicago, or APA)
    • Uploaded as PDF
  • You will be asked to provide:
    • Name of the conference’s subject area to which this paper was accepted
    • 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)

Creative Writing

This award is given in honor of Jerry Bradley, a long-time SWPACA member and former 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.

Graduate Paper Awards Application

Television, Music, and Visual Media

This award recognizes an exceptional essay presented in one of the areas belonging to the Television, Music, and Visual Media family of areas. The essay may engage any aspect of popular and/or American culture as expressed through TV, music, and/or visual media.

Graduate Paper Awards Application

Historic and Contemporary Cultures

This award honors the late Susan Rollins and 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 Paper Awards Application

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.

Graduate Paper Awards Application

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.

Graduate Paper Awards Application

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. 

Graduate Paper Awards Application

Graduate Student Award in Film Studies

This award recognizes an exceptional essay presented in one of the film or film-adjacent areas such as Adaptation, Alfred Hitchcock, Animation Studies, Film & History, Film Studies, and Horror. The essay may engage any aspect of popular and/or American culture as expressed film.

Graduate Paper Awards Application

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.

Graduate Paper Awards Application


Kathleen Lacey
Area Chair, Professional Development, & Awards Coordinator, SWPACA