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.

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.
2020 Recipient
Renae Montooth, North Carolina State University, plans to conduct research that investigates how architecture influences, supports, and shapes student success on a college campus. The research is concerned with informal learning spaces and how students associate with spatial characteristics that may shape self-beliefs related to supportive learning environments. Using a multiphase mixed-methods case study approach, the researcher plans to investigate how the design of informal learning spaces shape informal learning-related behaviors, sense of belonging, diversity attitudes, perceived well-being, self-efficacy for self-regulation, and academic outcomes across student groups.
Renae Mantooth
Past Recipients

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

  • 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
  • 1999: Drew Stelljes, James Madison University


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.


    Submission materials must include the following:

    • Name, institution, and contact information for all contributors.
    • 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.
    • One compiled packet—that is no more than 2,000 words (not including references), and that contains no identifying information to ensure a blind 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.
    • An acknowledgement by the applicant that, if selected, all funds must be utilized within 18 months.

    All materials submitted become the property of ACUI and will not be returned to the applicant.

    The application deadline is December 11.

    Apply Now

    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.

    Chester Berry


    Submissions will receive electronic notification confirming receipt of materials. A confidential panel of judges will conduct a blind 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.