Professional Development Grants

Professional Development Grants (PDGs) are available to help students meet the costs of attending skills/knowledge building and networking events, and projects undertaken outside of Emerson, that will enhance their professional development. This includes, but is not limited to, conferences, symposia, film festivals, industry gatherings, online seminars, art, design or publishing projects, and literary or software subscriptions. 

The GSA recognizes that different programs have different professional development needs and opportunities, and encourages all eligible GSA members* to apply for PDGs.

*All on-campus graduate students, and those Low-Residency and Online students who have elected to pay the Optional Graduate Student Association Fee.

About GSA Student Funding

What Professional Development Grants Support

The Graduate Student Association created Professional Development Grants to reimburse a portion of a graduate student's fees in attending conferences or events that help further the student's professional background and allow opportunities for the student to network with other professionals in their field. 
The costs typically covered under these grants include, but are not limited to:

  • Event Registration Fees
  • Flights
  • Bus, Train, Other Ground Transport
  • Lodging

Food is not considered a legitimate expense.

The Graduate Student Association recognizes that professional development and networking need not be limited to in-person events. Professional Development Grants may also be used to help cover a part of the costs related to activities that strengthen a student’s professional background, such as:

  • Projects outside of Emerson College that will develop professional skills, or contribute to portfolio, related to the student’s program. Example: Art or design projects, showreel, self-publishing of sample, etc. 
  • Online workshop or certification that furthers skills related to the student’s program. Example: Software user certification exam, design bootcamp, etc. 
  • Subscription to literary or trade publications, or software programs, related to program of study, not available through Emerson College
    (For a full list of software available for free to Emerson students, click here, or go to > Students > IT Communications > Classroom AV Guide (OneEmerson) > Software for Personal Devices)
  • Costs related to distribution of projects undertaken outside of Emerson College’s academic requirements, related to program of study. Example: Literary submissions, film festival submissions, marketing/promotion, etc. 

Professional Development Grants are provided to graduate students on a reimbursement basis. Graduate students cannot receive funds prior to attending their professional conference or event.

Graduate students may receive only one Professional Development Grant and one Mini-Grant (see below) during the lifetime of their program.

Eligibility for Professional Development Grants

Graduate Students are eligible for a Professional Development Grant if they meet the following criteria:

  • Must be an on-campus student or an online student who has opted in to pay the Optional Graduate Student Association Fee, giving them access to campus and to PDGs and Mini-Grants
  • Must be currently registered in the semester they will use their Professional Development Grant
  • Must be in good standing, both academic and conduct
  • Must not have received a Professional Development Grant in the past

Grants are awarded depending on the funds available with the GSA at the time of applying.

Restrictions on What Can Be Awarded

The following items cannot receive Professional Development Grant funding. This list is not exclusive, and final approval rests with the Graduate Student Association Executive Board.

  • Reimbursement toward taking a course through Emerson College or any any credit-bearing class at another institution
  • The purchase of any hardware, software, or equipment such as video cameras
  • Retroactive reimbursement: reimbursement for events attended prior to applying for a professional development grant
  • Business or first-class travel

If you have questions on Professional Development Grant restrictions, please contact the Graduate Student Association at gsainfo [at] (GSAInfo[at]emerson[dot]edu).

How to Apply for a Professional Development Grant

Apply for a Professional Development Grant

Before applying for a Professional Development Grant, applicants should know the details of the event and approximate costs to attend the event. Applications must be received at least three weeks prior to attending the event.

After applying, send an e-mail to gsainfo [at] (GSAInfo[at]emerson[dot]edu) to let the Graduate Student Association know that you have applied for a Professional Development Grant. They will send you a confirmation e-mail to let you know that your application has been received.

Decisions on applications can take 3 to 5 weeks, as the Graduate Student Association Executive Council members are fellow graduate students and working professionals. Graduate students will be notified if their application was approved or denied by the Graduate Student Association. No funds can be released without the approval of the Graduate Student Association, and their decisions on Professional Development Grant applications are final.

Reimbursement Procedure and Deadline

In order to claim your reimbursement, please follow the instructions below:

  1. Download the PDG Reimbursement Request Form
  2. Fill-in the form.
  3. Email the PDG Reimbursement Request Form, the receipts, your boarding pass (if air travel is involved) and the PDG Award Letter to GSAInfo [at] (GSAInfo[at]emerson[dot]edu).

Note: You will be reimbursed for the total of the receipts, up to the amount awarded stated on the PDG Award Letter. Receipts for food will not be reimbursed. Students receive reimbursement after attending the conference via direct deposit.

Graduate students must keep all copies of their receipts until they receive their reimbursement check. If a receipt is illegible or otherwise unacceptable, the Office of Graduate Studies will ask the graduate student to send another version of the receipt.

Graduate student reimbursements should be processed and mailed out within 2 to 3 weeks after the Office of Graduate Studies receives a completed Payment Request Form, receipts, and award letter.


Graduate students must submit their reimbursement paperwork and receipts to the Office of Graduate Studies no later than 30 days after the conference/event is over. Emerson College will not reimburse expenditures if they are not submitted within IRS guidelines. For the purposes of the policy, reimbursement requests must be submitted within 30 days of the date the expenses were incurred or the trip was completed. If reimbursement paperwork is not filed within this timeframe, the Professional Development Grant will be cancelled.


Please contact the Graduate Student Association at gsainfo [at] (GSAInfo[at]emerson[dot]edu) with questions.


The Graduate Student Association (GSA) decided in the Spring 2013 semester to establish a new award, the Mini-Grant. The purpose of the Mini-Grant is to provide graduate students assistance in professional development.

The Mini-Grant allows graduate students to apply for a maximum of $100 over their course of their time at Emerson. Mini-Grants are useful in attending local professional development events or in covering the cost of event/conference fees under $100. Students who are seeking more than $100 should apply for a Professional Development Grant (PDG). If a student is awarded a Mini-Grant and has not received a Professional Development Grant, they will be eligible to apply for a Professional Development Grant in the future. Likewise, students who have received a Professional Development Grant in the past can apply for a Mini-Grant.

Students can apply for Mini-Grants by using the application form found on the Professional Development Grant site. The Graduate Student Association holds the right to approve or deny the request for Mini-Grant funds.

Mini-Grant Restrictions

Mini-Grants generally follow the same guidelines and restrictions as Professional Development Grants. Students should carefully read the Professional Development Grant Guidelines before applying for a Mini-Grant. The Mini-Grant has several restrictions that are unique to Professional Development Grants:

  • Professional Development Grants that have already been awarded will not be retroactively turned into a Mini-Grant.
  • Students cannot combine Professional Development Grants and Mini-Grants for the same event.

Please note that the Graduate Student Association and the Office of Graduate Studies hold the right to cancel or alter the Mini-Grant at any time. If the Mini-Grant is cancelled, no further funding can come from the award.

Applying for a Mini-Grant

Students looking to apply for a Mini-Grant should complete the PDG Application. There is an option to say you are applying for a Mini-Grant in the application.

E-mail gsainfo [at] (GSAInfo[at]emerson[dot]edu) with any questions.