An advisor sits across from an applicant whose brought a new draft to discuss.

A word about who we serve

We hope that every Hawkeye will apply for a scholarship, fellowship, or grant while they are at the University of Iowa. 

We invite any current undergraduate or eligible alum to make use of the challenge and support we offer, including our individual advising , scholar development workshops, informational sessions, and peer review experiences. 

While some of the national awards we manage for the university require qualifying factors that may not sync up with your profile or interests, there is a wide range of opportunities that offer both funding and fellowship to individuals who are up for the challenge of understanding and articulating who they are and what they want to contribute to the world. 

If you find an opportunity you want to pursue, we've got the perspective, experience, and tools to help you do so.

Conduct your search

The Office of Scholar Development 

assists current undergraduates and recent alumni connected to the University of Iowa in their pursuit of national fellowships and grant opportunities.

As a fellowships advisor and student advocate, our director works closely with:

prospective applicants, academic units, and campus organizations as they consider how specific experiential and funding opportunities may support their intellectual, professional, and creative goals,

current candidates and institutional nominees as they build cohesive applications, craft original essays, communicate with recommenders, and prepare for interviews, and

faculty, staff, and community mentors as they develop letters of recommendation informed by the funder’s mission, selectors’ expectations, and national standards.

In her role as an institutional nominator, our director's goal is to…

develop and maintain responsive, ethical processes for the recruitment, selection, and support of applicants and nominees,

help students and committee members engage with big questions and high expectations in ways that acknowledge and engage with the influence of individual experience and systemic bias in merit-based evaluation, and

create a working environment where responsibility is shared and the time, energy, and expertise of each collaborator – student, advisor, and mentor - is respected.

As an educator and member of the University of Iowa community, our director is committed to…

building transformative educational experiences for anyone who wants to strengthen an application or shake off an old belief about who deserves funding or support.

finding ways to shorten the distance students, staff, and faculty must travel to learn of or access these experiences and other scholar development resources on campus, and

telling stories that honor the complexity and connection we see play out in the competitions our office supports.

A white woman with curly red hair and navy blue glasses

Pronouns: she/they


Phone: (319) 335-1874 

Office: 205 Calvin Hall



Linked In: uiowascholardev

Instagram: uiowascholardev

Kelly Thornburg, MSW

As the director of the Office of Scholar Development, Kelly offers both challenge and support to undergraduates and recent alumni pursuing scholarship, fellowship, or grant opportunities here at Iowa and in national competitions. Her record of service is rooted in the engagement of underrepresented populations in key social and political processes through education and advocacy and includes connections to the National Rural Development Partnership, Teach For America, Planned Parenthood, the Veteran's Administration, and Iowa NEW Leadership.

When she’s not reviewing personal statements or helping students identify their super powers, she spends as much time as possible growing flowers, consuming stories of all kinds, and learning how to make the things she wishes there was a lot more of in the world.

Education & Training

Cornell College, Bachelor of Special Studies in Politics and Women's Studies, 1999

University of Iowa, Master of Social Work in Individual Practice, 2008

Service & Awards

National Association of Fellowships Advisors 

Lead Organizer, Speed Share Resource Exchanges (2019 - 2025)

Board Member (2019-2023)

Communications Director, Executive Board (2020-21)

Co-chair, Technology, Publications, Communications (2016-2023)

University of Iowa

Co-chair, Committee on Neurodivergence, Academic Support & Retention (2023 - present)

Lead, Presidential Scholarship Selection (2015 - 2018)

Lola Lopes Award for Undergraduate Advocacy (2017)