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Competitive Edge

The Graduate Division offers Competitive Edge as a summer transition program for selected incoming graduate students. This six week program is designed to give selected graduate students an opportunity to begin research prior to the start of their graduate program and to acclimate to the campus environment. Competitive Edge is motivated by the campus's commitment to be fully inclusive and supportive of all students, and by the belief that a diverse graduate student body enhances the quality of the educational experience for all students.

2019 Fellows


Nominees must

  • Be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or AB 540-qualified applicants
  • Be new incoming graduate students.
  • Demonstrate high academic aptitude and achievement.
  • Be interested in beginning research in the summer prior to the start of the academic program in fall quarter.
  • Be available to participate in summer research prior to the start of the fall quarter. Typically the program begins at the end of June and ends in the first week of August.
  • To be considered, applicants must provide responses to at least three of the seven short answer questions found under Additional Educational Experiences in the online application for admission

Application Instructions

To be considered for the Competitive Edge fellowship program, applicants must provide responses to at least three of the seven short answer questions found under the Additional Educational Experiences section of the online application for admission. Responses should be brief (between 3-5 sentences per area) highlighting how the applicant overcame barriers, and/or demonstrates a commitment to diversity. The seven questions are:

  • Leadership(e.g. coordination of volunteer activities, board member in student organization, residential life, student government etc.) etc.)
  • Overcoming Adversity(e.g. overcoming educational, social, cultural, economic, barriers, or barriers related to accessibility, etc.)
  • Community Involvement (e.g. volunteer service, organizing, activism, teaching, mentoring, counseling, community art production etc.)
  • Social Justice Experience(e.g. addressing systemic inequality through education, organizing, activism, mentorship, counseling, outreach/access, survival and development work, event planning/coordination, community building and development, etc.)
  • Personal or Professional Ethics(e.g. experience with an ethical code, conduct seminars, IRB training, etc.)
  • Research(e.g. undergraduate research, involvement in McNair or similar programs, independent or group study with a professor or researcher, research outside of academia, full-time research after college, etc.)
  • Other(e.g. any other kind of experience or information that you feel will help add to creating a diverse spectrum of ideas, perspectives, and experiences

If the applicant did not respond to the questions in the online application, a separate document with the applicant’s responses may be submitted directly to their academic department or program


Departments will nominate admitted graduate students for the Competitive Edge fellowship whose responses to the short answer questions demonstrate:

  • that they have overcome social, educational or economic barriers and/or
  • a commitment to diversity or increasing educational access for underrepresented students merit (based on academic preparation and potential)

In addition, selected candidates must be available to participate in the eight week research experience prior to the start of fall quarter.

All qualified applicants will be considered without regard to age, ancestry, citizenship, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status.


The Competitive Edge fellowship award consists of:

  • A six week transition program the summer before the start of fall quarter.
  • $4000.00 stipend during the program. The stipend is paid by the Graduate Division and the department to which the student is admitted.
  • Weekly readiness workshops.
  • A priority housing offer to live in graduate student housing while a registered graduate student through normative time to degree plus one year. Normative Time to Degree is the typical amount of time it takes to complete the graduate program in each discipline.

Program Content

In addition to the research experience, participants are required to attend workshops to acclimate them to the campus environment. Workshop facilitators are members of the UC San Diego community and serve as faculty, staff or continuing graduate students in various academic fields. In addition to the workshops, participants are expected to attend an orientation at the beginning and a luncheon at the conclusion of the program. Sample workshop topics include:

  • Ethics in Research
  • Public Speaking for Graduate Students
  • Transitioning into Graduate School
  • Career Paths for Graduate Students
  • Funding and Fellowships

Summer Faculty Mentorship

Each Competitive Edge student is expected to work with a summer faculty mentor from their respective departments. The faculty mentor will provide guidance on a research project, new or existing. The project does not have to be completed during the 6-week program, which allows the scope of the project to span the entirety of the summer quarter, through the Fall quarter, or beyond.

At minimum, meetings between Competitive Edge Fellows and their respective mentors should occur every other week. Ultimately, this depends on the nature of the project, the amount of oversight each student requires, and the level of mentorship the faculty member is able to provide.

In addition to research, the faculty mentor can provide an introduction and guidance to the department, as well as any tips on how to make the most of the summer, first quarter, and first year of their graduate experience.

2019 Fellows

 Kelechi Agwuncha

Kelechi Agwuncha                                                            MFA Student, Visual Arts

 Sara Almalla

Sara Almalla                                                                      PhD Student, Ethnic Studies

 Anthony Anderson

Anthony Anderson                                                            PhD Student, Political Science

 Mia Borzello

Mia Borzello                                                                      PhD Student, Cognitive Science

 Marvic Carrillo Terrazas

Marvic Carrillo Terrazas                                                    PhD Student, Biomedical Sciences

 Matthew Carter

Matthew Carter                                                                  PhD Student, Linguistics

 Ashley Cronk

Ashley Cronk                                                                      PhD Student, Materials Science

 Nathaniel James

Nathaniel James                                                                PhD Student, Anthropology

 Reed Kendall

Reed Kendall                                                                      PhD Student, Education

 Shai Nielson

Shai Nielson                                                                      PhD Student, Linguistics

 Joseph Riley

Joseph Riley                                                                      MFA Student, Art History

 Chiaki Santiago

Chiaki Santiago                                                                  PhD Student, Neuroscience

Melonie Vaughn

Melonie Vaughn                                                                PhD Student, Neuroscience

 Hannah White

Hannah White                                                                    PhD Student, Education

2018 Fellows

 David Cadena

David Ochoa Cadena                                                   PhD Student, Bioengineering

 Thien Hoang Doan

Thien Hoang Doan                                                      MFA Student, Visual Arts

 Jose Armando Fernandez Guerrero

Jose Armando Fernandez Guerrero                           PhD Student, Linguistics

 Jennifer Ellen Fromm

Jennifer Ellen Fromm                                                  PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering

 Incamu Ray Huaute

Incamu Ray Huaute                                                     PhD Student, Linguistics

 Sanaa Sameena Khan

Sanaa Sameena Khan                                                 PhD Student, Education

 Julian Gonzalo Kosacki

Julian Gonzalo Kosacki                                               PhD Student, Bioengineering

 Rochelle Alexia McFee

Rochelle Alexia McFee                                                PhD Student, Ethnic Studies

 Taylor Sherisse McKie

Taylor Sherisse McKie                                                 PhD Student, Oceanography

 Monica Newton Molgaard

Monica Newton Molgaard                                           PhD Student, Education

 Lauren Ann-Ru Oey

Lauren Ann-Ru Oey                                                      PhD Student, Psychology

 Angel Payan

Angel Payan                                                                  PhD Student, Chemistry

 Meghan J Rossi

Meghan J Rossi                                                            PhD Student, Neuroscience

 Carlos Anthony Vasquez

Carlos Anthony Vasquez                                            PhD Student, Chemistry

Please direct questions to:

Edgar Beas