UCLA Competitive Edge: Summer Transition Program to the Doctorate

2023 Competitive Edge Participants Group picture

Program description

The Competitive Edge program is an intensive, six-week, full-time bridge program for newly admitted, entering doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds. Each Competitive Edge Fellow will work on a summer research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Additionally, Competitive Edge Fellows participate in social and professional development activities to enhance their success in UCLA doctoral programs.

The Competitive Edge program offers research opportunities to its fellows by allowing them to explore and advance their specific areas of interest through faculty-mentored projects. The program focuses not only on research but also on promoting social and professional development activities that enable fellows to establish a network and access resources that can help them succeed in their doctoral program, irrespective of their area of study. Some of the examples of topics covered under professional development and social activities include overcoming imposter syndrome, writing successful grant and fellowship applications, financing graduate education, journal club, and ice cream mixers.

In assessing the impact of the Competitive Edge Program, a 2023 Competitive Edge Fellow shared “ I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Competitive Edge 2023 cohort! To me, this bridge program was an extremely valuable and life-changing experience. I learned about so many resources and programs for grad students at UCLA, and I made close friends with my cohort members. The staff was also truly supportive, helpful, and friendly! This program was also truly inspiring as I got to meet underrepresented faculty and students, which made me feel I belong and I deserve to be at a PhD program at UCLA!”

The 2024 Competitive Edge program will be held in-person at the UCLA campus.

Competitive Edge Fellows benefits & funding

  • Advanced introduction to UCLA faculty and research
  • Early mentorship from UCLA faculty and peers
  • Advanced introduction to UCLA campus and resources
  • Acquisition of critical skills through workshops and lectures, including grant writing skills through a draft grant research statement
  • Community building with other incoming, first-year doctoral students and networking opportunities with Competitive Edge Alumni
  • Summer stipend of $6,000

Program expectations for Competitive Edge Fellows

All Competitive Edge Fellows are expected to participate in all Competitive Edge activities and programs including the Competitive Edge Welcome & Program Orientation and Program Closing. Any absences will result in a reduction of the Fellow’s Competitive Edge summer stipend. Additionally, Competitive Edge Fellows are expected to adhere to the following:

  • Meet with their assigned faculty mentor (virtually, in-person, via telephone) to agree upon both (1) the proposed summer research project and (2) accompanying draft research statement/overview for either the National Science Foundation (NSF) or Graduate Summer Research Mentorship (GSRM);
  • Attend at least one UCLA Graduate Writing Center (GWC) consultation appointment for feedback on your draft grant research statement/ overview;
  • Provide proof of California health insurance before the program start date;
  • Schedule and attend weekly meetings with your faculty mentor to discuss your summer research project and draft grant research statement/ overview;
  • Access online, virtual resources that provide information about life as a Graduate Student in UCLA and Los Angeles;
  • Provide feedback on overall satisfaction of Competitive Edge during the program, after the conclusion of your first quarter in your PhD program, and after one year in your PhD program;
  • Remain aware of and communicate all academic and/or financial holds that may impede your ability to receive your summer stipend to the Competitive Edge Program Coordinators;
  • Review all emails from Competitive Edge Administrators and respond in a timely manner, when requested; and 
  • Any other expectations as determined by the Competitive Edge Advisory Board and Administrators.

Program expectations for Competitive Edge Faculty Mentors

All Competitive Edge Faculty Mentors are expected to be in-residence for the duration of the Competitive Edge program. Faculty mentors who are not in-residence for the entirety of the Competitive Edge Program are expected to engage with their Fellow remotely through virtual or phone meetings. Faculty who do not meet with their Fellow weekly may be released from their mentorship responsibilities and have their Fellow assigned to another in-residence, UCLA faculty member within the department. As a Competitive Edge mentor, faculty commit to the following:

  • Submit Faculty Nomination Letter during nomination period;
  • Meet with your Competitive Edge Fellows at least once per week, in person or remotely, throughout the Competitive Edge Program to discuss progression on their Fellow’s research progress as well as their draft grant research statement;
  • Establish a high knowledge level of the Competitive Edge Program and its component parts;
  • Attend both the Competitive Edge Welcome Breakfast and Closing Ceremony if program on-campus;
  • Submit proposed summer research and mentorship plan specific to your Competitive Edge Fellow during the nomination process;
  • Review the program components and expectations for both Competitive Edge Fellows and Faculty Mentors; and
  • Agree that required, department trainings, orientation or other events will not conflict with any Competitive Edge programs or events.

Competitive Edge fellowship eligibility

  • Has a background that is underrepresented (in the individual’s academic field or graduate education overall) AND/OR shows potential contribution to diversity which may include the nominee’s research, work, volunteer, or lived experiences in relation to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Accepted admission to a UCLA PhD program for academic year 2024 – 2025
  • U.S. citizen, national, permanent residents, or undocumented students who qualify for nonresident supplemental tuition exemptions under AB 540

How to Get Nominated

Nominations will take place through your home academic department. Please contact your Student Affairs Officer (SAO) if you are interested in being nominated. All participants must have a faculty mentor during the summer prior to their enrollment to be considered for nomination.

For further information, contact

Erika Salazar (she/her/ella)
Manager, Diversity & Outreach Initiatives

Last updated: April 2024