Visiting Distinguished Faculty Program

Deadlines: October 1 for fall competition (which can be used within a year) and March 1 for spring competition (which can be used within a year).  We will also consider applications received between these periods, pending availability of funds.


The Myrle E. and Verle D. Nietzel Visiting Distinguished Faculty Endowment was established in 2004 by UK’s former Provost Michael T. Nietzel, Ph.D. in honor of his parents. Dr. Nietzel began his career as a faculty member in the UK Department of Psychology in 1973 and served as the Dean of the Graduate School between from 1997 to 2001. He was appointed UK’s first provost on Nov. 1, 2002, after having served as acting provost since July 2001. As he left UK in March 2005 to serve as the President of University of Southwest Missouri State University, Dr. Nietzel said, “The University of Kentucky has defined my adult and professional life, and in the course of doing so, has afforded me more opportunities and rewards than I ever would have dreamed possible.” Dr. Nietzel himself created this award for the benefit of our finest graduate students. The VDF allows programs to bring in a distinguished scholar to participate in the doctoral examination of their best students. The Graduate School is honored to use this legacy to the Nietzels to support the recipients of the Visiting Distinguished Faculty Award.


Past Award Recipients

The goals of the Visiting Distinguished Faculty (VDF) program are to enrich the dissertation experience for selected doctoral candidates whose dissertations are judged to be especially meritorious, and to publicize for academic leaders at other institutions the high quality of scholarship achieved by our doctoral students. This program also serves to enhance the overall intellectual and research environment at the University of Kentucky through colloquia offered by some of the nation’s most outstanding scholars.  Two awards are available on a competitive basis per academic year, one in the fall and one in the spring/summer. scholars.

The program provides funding to bring a nationally recognized academic leader to campus to serve as the Graduate School’s Outside Examiner for a student’s dissertation defense. As the Outside Examiner, the distinguished visitor will serve as the Dean’s representative at the final examination and will be expected to promote especially high standards in the examination of candidates.

The visiting scholar will also give a colloquium on his or her research. Priority should be given to identifying scholars whose work has the potential for benefiting as broad a campus audience as possible. In addition, in order to maximize the impact of this program, the dissertation defense should be well publicized and scheduled at a location that can accommodate larger than usual attendance.

The VDF program will provide up to $2,000 for the honorarium and travel costs. The student's college or department is expected to cover any remaining travel expenses.

Departments and programs are invited to nominate dissertations that are considered to have unusually high merit. Nominations should be made by the student’s major professor and endorsed by the Director of Graduate Studies. The online nomination application form is found below:

Nomination applications must be submitted by October 1 for the fall competition and by March 1 for the spring competition. The award will be announced by October 15 and March 15 respectively. The student must sit for the defense within one calendar year of the award date.

The award selection committee will base decisions on the following criteria:

  1. Overall merit of the dissertation as defined by the student's major professor
  2. Student's academic and professional achievements
  3. Proposed visiting faculty's credentials, reputation, and interdisciplinary appeal
  4. Support, financial and otherwise, from the college or department

In the event that merit, achievement, credentials, and financial support (the above criteria) are deemed equal across nominations, priority will be given to students in departments that have not previously or have not recently (within the past three years) received a VDF award.

Click here to complete the online nomination form and upload a PDF file of the required documents.

You will be asked to upload the following in a single PDF:

  1. Student's CV

  2. Proposed visiting scholar's CV

  3. Letter from major professor (committee advisor) describing the dissertation, arguing the work's exceptional merit, and providing the rationale for inviting the proposed visiting scholar

  4. Brief letter of endorsement from the DGS indicating departmental support

  5. Proposed budget, showing amounts designated for honorarium and travel, as well as any departmental contribution

For more information, contact:

Dr. Morris Grubbs 
The Graduate School 
103 Gillis Building 
University of Kentucky 
Lexington, KY 40506-0033 
(859) 257-9725
Fax: (859) 323-1928