Student Financial Support

At the time of final student admission, the department will send a financial offer letter outlining the method of funding (a combination of TA appointments, GSR appointments or fellowship) and period of time it will cover.

Financial support for Master’s students on departmental funds (e.g., Teaching Assistantships, Fellowships) beyond four quarters is contingent upon progress and performance. For any student enrolled in the Geography M.A. or PhD program, a GPA of less than 3.3 or a grade of C+ or less in geography may cause departmental financial support to be withdrawn.

Establishing California Residency

Information about establishing California residency can be found at the Office of the Registrar’s website under the “Fees & Residency” heading.

Funding Types

Need-Based Financial Aid

Graduate students may apply for need-based loans and work-study awards through the Financial Aid Office. Students must file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) each year by the March 2nd deadline and provide the Financial Aid Office with supplemental information as it requests it. Only U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens may apply for funds administered by Financial Aid. If you are an international student go to the financial aid website to see if you are eligible.

Teaching Assistantships (TA) Appointments

Teaching Assistantship (TA) appointments for the following academic year are made in March-April (only those who receive TA support will be notified). Most TA appointments are 50% (equivalent to fulltime employment as a student). Current salary rates can be found on the Academic Personnel website and are subject to change.

Employment as a 25%-time or more TA includes partial fee remission (tuition, fees and Student Health Insurance). It does not cover non-resident tuition. Read your award letter carefully and contact our Staff Graduate Program Advisor if you have any questions.

Teaching Assistantships entail duties related to course laboratory sections and discussion sections in Physical Geography, Techniques, and Human Geography. The department believes that teaching experience is a valuable part of graduate education and strives to allow each student some TA service. TA appointments may be renewed after careful review of actual teaching performance. At least one quarter as a TA or equivalent experience, is required of all Ph.D. students.

Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) Appointments

Generally, GSR appointments are given to students after one year in residence, but occasionally may be provided on initial enrollment. GSRs are arranged on an individual basis between the student and a faculty member who is a Principal Investigator on a grant, and generally cannot be “applied” for like one would a Teaching Assistantship or Fellowship.

The department expects that students about to embark on thesis/dissertation research will work with their faculty advisor on research proposals in order to secure this form of support if it is not already available. Current salary rates can be found on the Academic Personnel website and are subject to change.

GSRs whose appointments total at least 25% but less than 35% and meet all other criteria are eligible for Partial Fee Remission and Student Health Insurance credit. GSRs who are appointed at least 35% and meet all other criteria qualify for a Full Fee Remission and Student Health Insurance credit.


Fellowships provide funds to support the living and educational expenses of graduate study. If you apply for this merit-based assistance, your application will be judged on the basis of the quality of your previous academic work, on the evidence of your ability to do research and other creative accomplishments, and on your promise of becoming a productive scholar. Except in unusual circumstances, applications for fellowships are considered only once a year; awards are made for the academic year, beginning with the fall quarter. Fellowships can come in the form of a 4-6-year guarantee of support (Regents Special Fellowship, Chancellor’s Fellowships, Eugene-Cota Robles Fellowship, Doctoral Scholars Fellowship), a 1-year fellowship (Graduate Opportunity Fellowship), or the payment of fees and nonresident tuition (Block Grant). If your fellowship includes the payment of fees and/or nonresident tuition, payments will be credited directly to your BARC account prior to payment deadlines. Read the award letter carefully and contact the department if you have questions.

Departmental Awards

The following awards are made by the Department of Geography Awards and Nominations Committee and the Graduate Committee. Apart from ongoing Dangermond Travel Awards, which are made quarterly, awards are normally presented at the last Spring Quarter colloquium each academic year.

Jack & Laura Dangermond Fellowship

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Fellowship Fund is named for the generosity of Jack and Laura Dangermond. It was established to support a promising graduate and undergraduate geography student in geographic information science (GIS) in the Department of Geography.

Jack and Laura Dangermond are the co-founders and President and Executive Vice President respectively of Environmental Systems Research Institute. ESRI is a major industrial supplier of software in the field of GIS. Jack Dangermond currently serves on the board of directors of the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science at UC Santa Barbara.

Jack & Laura Dangermond Travel Fund

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Travel Fund was established to support annual travel expense awards for graduate and undergraduate students to present their material at conferences and workshops. Jack and Laura Dangermond are the co-founders and President and Executive Vice President respectively of Environmental Systems Research Institute. ESRI is a major industrial supplier of software in the field of GIS. Calls for applications for Dangermond Travel Scholarships are usually made in August (Aug. 11–21) for the late Summer/Fall Quarters, November (Nov. 17–27) for the Winter Quarter, and March (Mar. 16–26) for the Spring and early Summer Quarters. Download the application form. Please submit all applications by email to ( by the appropriate deadline.

David S. Simonett Memorial Award

This fund was established to honor the memory of David S. Simonett, Professor of Geography at UCSB from 1975 until his death on December 22, 1990. This award is disseminated each academic year to an outstanding graduate student for their service to the department, the discipline, academic progress, and academic accomplishment.

David was a world-renowned authority in the field of remote sensing and a founding director of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA). The UC Board of Regents renamed UCSB’s division of the NCGIA in honor of Professor Simonett. David was chairman of the Department of Geography from 1975 to 1982 and the Dean of Students at UCSB until 1989. David Simonett provided the vision and energy to build what has become one of the nation’s finest Geography Departments here at UCSB.

Jack Estes Memorial Award

The fund was created to honor the memory of Professor Jack Estes. Each academic year this award is given to the best graduate student working with remote sensing. Jack was a Geography faculty member for over thirty years and the Director of the Geography Remote Sensing Unit. His primary research interests involved the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems technology for analysis of earth resources. Among the agencies he conducted studies for were NASA on land-use change, crop identification and advanced soil moisture conditions; the U.S. Forest Service on fire fuels monitoring and modeling; and the Environmental Protection Agency on hazard and pollution detection and modeling and resources management. This fund was established to support students who are continuing and advancing his field of research.

Geography Excellence in Research

This award is conferred each year to one graduate student for their excellence in research. Award criteria includes outstanding presentations at national meetings, authoring or co-authoring important publications, significant research results, and/or outstanding performance in lab or field experiments.

Geography Excellence in Teaching

This award is conferred each year to one or more graduate student for their excellence in teaching. Award criteria includes outstanding course evaluations as TAs and/or Associates, outstanding written comments from students, outstanding evaluations of TA work by the course instructor, outstanding design of course or lab syllabi, or outstanding design of lab or section activities.