Graduate Student Paper and Travel Awards

awards-iconGraduate Awards submissions will open on September 1, 2022!

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.

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 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, 2023.
  • Your paper must be:
    • 10-15 pages (including notes and references), though we understand that it may be longer
    • 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. (NOTE: Graduate students whose essays address film studies should apply for the PostScript award.)

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

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.

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

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 participation in this professional conference by assisting in the conference expenses of graduate students and undergraduate students who have demonstrated their commitment to present their own scholarly research (many for the first time) at our conference.

For the 2023 Conference, SWPACA will offer a limited number of travel assistance awards; each award includes free registration and one hotel night at the Marriott Albuquerque where the conference takes place.

Travel Awards Application

Application Guidelines

  • Applicants must 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.
  • As part of the application, students will be required to provide contact information for a reference (professor, department chair, graduate studies coordinator, etc.) who can attest to that person’s status at their university or college and any additional department funding the applicant may be receiving for conference expenses.
  • Graduate students who have applied for a paper award are also eligible to apply for a travel fellowship, though they may only win one award.
  • Applications for these awards are due December 15, 2022.
  • As a condition of award acceptance, winners of the travel assistance awards must attend the conference’s Awards Ceremony where the Peter C. Rollins Book Award & Graduate Student Awards will be announced. Winners of the travel awards will be notified on or shortly after January 1, 2023.


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