Patricia Witherspoon Research Award


Patricia Witherspoon Research Award

Are you interested in conducting original research in the areas of public service, government, community service, civic life, citizenship, or politics?   

About Award

The University of Texas at Austin graduate students are invited to apply for The Patricia Witherspoon Research Award to offset costs associated with conducting original research in the areas of public service, government, community service, civic life, citizenship, or politics.  Previous research topics have included faith-based organizations, family policy, immigration, and educational interventions. Past award winners have used the funding to pay for focus groups, survey instruments, and other aspects of their research. The recipient will be expected to write a summary of their research for publication for the Institute and, if requested, make a short presentation before the Institute’s Advisory Council. 


Original research must be conducted in public service, government, civic life, citizenship, or politics. Preference will be given to students working on master's theses or doctoral dissertations. All research must be overseen by a faculty member. 

To apply, please submit the following in the application portal:

  • Contact information

  • Resume

  • Major field of study and current overall GPA

  • Two-page research prospectus including research question, brief summary of the literature, methodology, expected results, and anticipated start and end dates


Stipend Award




Application opens: March 25, 2024

Deadline to apply: May 6, 2024

Selections notifications will be sent out by May 31, 2024.


Applications now closed

Past Awardees

2022 Winner

Benjamin White is a fourth-year graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University in 2018. With an emphasis on political psychology, his research explores how gender shapes interactions with American politics. His work has examined the gendered aspects of campaign finance, political participation, voter support, and political communication. His dissertation explores how gender acts as a heuristic when people engage with various political issues on social media, and argues that gender stereotypes can (dis)advantage certain people or messages on social media, diminishing or amplifying certain voices. He also does research on online violence against women in politics.

2021 Winner

Kristina Miller is a 4th Year PhD student in Rhetoric/Political Communication in Moody College of Communication.

"I have always seen them (young activists) as true community leaders who drive meaningful policy change in America. Comparing how news articles and journalists frame activist involvement in politics and how activists themselves rationalize their actions and tell their stories can help paint a picture of what engaged citizenship looks like in the current political climate and, why action beyond just voting, is important. I look forward to continuing this work and the doors this award opens up for my research!" -Kristina Miller, UT 2022

2020 Winners

Jordon Brown is a Ph.D. candidate in Moody College of Communication's School of Journalism and Media. His research mainly involves the study of digital political communication, focusing on how politicians can reach and engage with more voters, particularly young voters. Currently, he is desperately trying to finish his dissertation about how Senate candidates in 2018 used email and Twitter to engage with supporters.

Kassie Phebillo is a Communication Studies Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Texas Austin, where she studies the intersection of political communication and higher education. Her dissertation research asks two questions: What do political discussions look like in college classrooms and are professors disclosing their political beliefs in college classrooms?

Past Winners