The Gretchen Laatsch Grant & Scholarship awards up to $1,000 to encourage the involvement of graduate students in scholarly research and writing for the field of college unions and student activities.

2024 Recipient: Ali Doehring, University of Akron

Ali Doehring’s research topic, “Communicative Role of Student Affairs Professionals with College Student Mental Health Disclosures,” seeks to examine the influence and importance of student a airs professionals in student learning, retention, and other student success factors. By investigating best practices that destigmatize help-seeking behaviors, a clearer picture of how student affairs professionals contribute to student sense of belonging will be presented.

ACUI is not current accepting applications for this award. Please check back in 2024 for details on the next nomination period.

Submission materials must include the following:

  1. Name, institution, and contact information for all contributors.
  2. A separate letter of recommendation from a professional or faculty member that supports the selection of the student applicant, verifying that at least one individual involved with the activity is a student in pursuit of a graduate degree.
  3. One compiled packet—that is no more than 2,000 words (not including references), and that contains no identifying information to ensure an anonymous review—which addresses:
    • A description of the activity to be supported or recognized by the award, including relevant literature and/or research design if appropriate.
    • Justification as to how the project supports the published ACUI research agenda and makes a significant contribution to the profession.
    • Detailed budget showing how the awarded funds will be utilized.
    • Anticipated project timeline.
  4. An acknowledgement by the applicant that, if selected, all funds must be utilized within 18 months.

The nomination period for this award is no longer open. Check back in 2024 for details on the next nomination period.

The review process includes, but is not limited to, an assessment of the criteria listed below. The submission must:

  • Be the original work of the investigators and not have been reported elsewhere.
  • Demonstrate a quality of writing and ability to clearly articulate intended outcomes of the proposed activity.
  • Have significance and relevance to college unions, student activities, and/or the ACUI Research Agenda.
  • Be feasible to complete according to the details and scope of the proposed budget and timeline.
  • Result in at least one research-focused article, educational session, or other ACUI resource within 18 months of receiving the award.

Special consideration will be given to students either currently in or intending to enter the profession. Students may apply annually but only receive funding once. They may submit more than one project for grant consideration; however, a complete application packet must be submitted for each.

Degree-seeking graduate students enrolled at an ACUI member institution who are not full-time employees at the institution are eligible for this award.

One or more awards will be given to recognize and support activities such as:

  • Conducting a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation research study in the field of college unions and student activities.
  • Fulfilling practicum credit requirements in a graduate program by completing research, data analysis, and/or writing project(s) in collaboration with ACUI.
  • Advancing the ACUI Research Agenda through a collaborative research project between graduate student(s), practitioner(s), and/or faculty member(s).
  • Submitting publication-ready articles written by graduate student(s) that contribute to the knowledge base of college unions and student activities.

Submissions will receive electronic notification confirming receipt of materials. A confidential panel of judges will conduct an anonymous review of the materials to make the selection based on the criteria identified for this specific award. It is the goal that at least one recipient will be chosen per year, but multiple awards may be given depending on quality of submissions at each deadline and funds available. The panel has the option to distribute funds up to the full amount, partial funds, or to choose not to distribute the award at all. The decision of the judges will be final. One physical award will be given to each recipient project, which will be recognized during the awards ceremony at the annual conference and in subsequent publications.

Note: This scholarship was expanded in 2017 to also provide grant funding to support graduate student involvement in research

  • 2023: Kerry Spicer, Daeman University 
  • 2020: Renae Montooth, North Carolina State University
  • 2019: Elizabeth Desimone, Alaina Giovanni, and Dayna Weintraub, Rutgers University – The College Union as a Source of Employment for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • 2018: Kaleb Briscoe, University of Nebraska–Lincoln – Student Affairs Professionals’ Experiences
  • 2017: Alexis Parrill, University of Connecticut – Student Union Policy Councils
  • 2016: Jessica Ashton, Indiana University–Bloomington
  • 2014: Victoria Culver, Indiana University–Bloomington
  • 2013: Alicia Fitzgerald, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • 2012: Angel Flowers, Ohio University
  • 2011: Christina Reddick, Florida International University
  • 2010: Krista Harrell-Blair, Old Dominion University
  • 2008: Kathy McIntosh, Pepperdine University
  • 2007: Erin K. Miller, University of Vermont
  • 2006: Lindsey Thurgood, University of Utah
  • 2003: Jennifer Stewart, Webster University
  • 2002: Amy Liss, Fitchburg State College
  • 2001: Dana Lee Haines, Baylor University
  • 2009: Joe Gutowski, Case Western Reserve University
  • 2008: Michael Bowen, Wayne State University
  • 2007: Mark Bourassa, Bluffton University
  • 2006 Pam Davis, Wright State University
  • 2005 Bill Shepard, Wright State University
  • 2004 Betsy Sundholm, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  • 2003 Vicki Fete, University of Akron
  • 2002 Colleen Barker-Williamson, Case Western Reserve University
  • 2001: Dana Lee Haines, Baylor University
  • 2000: Rich Novotny, Lakeland Community College
  • 1999: Bob Rodda, College of Wooster
  • 1998: Rick Danals, Ohio University/University of Akron/Wright State University
  • 1997: Helen Welford, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  • 1996: Gale Swanka, Bowling Green State University
  • 1995: John Ellinger, The Ohio State University
  • 1994: Spencer Marston, University of Akron
  • 1993: Colleen Hennessy, Michigan State University
  • 1992: Frank Cianciola, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  • 1991: Kathy Morris, Wright State University
  • 1990: Phil Hirsch Youngstown, State University
  • 1989: Gretchen Laatsch, University of Akron

About Gretchen Laatsch

Gretchen Laatsch’s professional career begin as a graduate assistant with the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University. After receiving her master’s at IU, she worked at the University of Georgia, then the University of South Carolina as the program advisor and then as program director. Throughout her time in programming, Laatsch had graduate student staff and truly loved working with entry-level folks. The last 19 years of her career were spent at the University of Akron as associate director in the Gardner Student Center, with an emphasis on operational policies, regulations, conferences, and special events. Never far from working with students, she advised a number of student organizations and assumed programming responsibilities during her final five years. 

After serving as multiple terms as a regional representative, Laatsch became the ACUI vice president for regional affairs and was then elected to serve as ACUI president in 1994–95. She retired in 1998, when she also received the Butts-Whiting Award, the Association’s highest award.