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Residential Dissertation Fellowships

06 Feb Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments

The Graduate Fellowships blog is back!

Fellowship deadlines come fast and furious in the fall and winter, and with growing demand for graduate fellowships services on campus, I’ve been more than a little distracted.  With spring semester now in full swing, it’s time to catch up.

Today’s post focuses on a special category of graduate fellowships – residential dissertation fellowships.  These awards offer advanced doctoral students the opportunity to complete their dissertations in residence at a college, university, or other institution.  This means the fellow spends the final academic year of their doctoral program as a visiting scholar at another institution, during which time they are paid a stipend (typically in the $30k range) and enjoy faculty privileges (such as office/lab space, library access, and parking.)  In some cases assistance with housing is also provided.  The goal is to provide the fellow with optimal conditions for dissertation completion – namely, financial support, time space, and an environment conducive to research and writing.  In return, fellows are expected to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution, for example by teaching a specialized course (usually in their area of expertise), giving a public lecture, or interacting with students, faculty, and colleagues.

Many residential dissertation fellowships specifically seek to recruit candidates from “under-represented” backgrounds.  In fact, one of the main reasons that institutions sponsor residential dissertation fellowship programs is because these program help diversify the community of faculty and scholars on campus.  Prestigious small liberal arts colleges, in particular, have made use of dissertation (and in some cases post-MFA and post-doctoral) fellowships to bring diverse identities and perspectives to their campuses.  Such colleges are often located in bucolic settings, which can be charming (and, from the fellow’s point of view, great for writing!) but where faculty and students have less access to the diversity of cultures and experiences found in major urban centers.  Residential dissertation fellowships also allow small colleges to host scholars in highly specialized field of study – fields that may not be in high enough demand at a small college to justify a long-term hire.  Residential fellowships are thus a “win-win” scenario:  The emerging scholar benefits from crucial support at the dissertation writing stage of their career, and an opportunity to gain experience in the professoriate; meanwhile the institution benefits by diversifying its faculty, enriching its course offerings, and bringing new perspectives to campus.  These programs have been so successful at small colleges that now many larger institutions have begun offer similar programs.

If you’re interested residential dissertation fellowships, here are a few things you should know:

  • As stated above, most residential dissertation fellowships seek to recruit members of “under-represented” groups – but there are exceptions, and it should also be noted that the definition of “under-represented” varies widely.  Prospective applicants are encouraged to carefully review eligibility requirements and (whenever possible) the profiles of past recipients.  Some fellowship programs target very specific groups – such as Dartmouth College’s Chavez / Eastman / Marshall Dissertation Fellowships, which invite, respectively, Latino/a, Native American, and African American candidates.  Others, such as the Five Colleges Fellowship Program (serving Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges) are open to “scholars from under-represented groups and / or scholars with unique interests and histories.”  Even awards that confine themselves to “under-represented racial, ethnic, and cultural groups” may have varying definitions of what this means, so prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to review published information on eligibility and preferences before proceeding.  Many residential dissertation programs also regard the following groups as at least potentially “under-represented”: persons with disabilities, individuals from economically disadvantaged or recent immigrant backgrounds, those who are the first in their family to pursue higher education, LGBTQ individuals, women in heavily male dominated fields (and occasionally the reverse, men in female dominated fields), or scholars with non-traditional educational pathways.
  • Residential dissertation fellowships are best suited to individuals who are working toward academic careers.  These awards focus on offering the fellow the opportunity to focus on research and writing while (in most cases) gaining experience teaching at the college level.  They are ideal “resume builders” for doctoral candidates who will be seeking faculty appointments upon completion of the Ph.D. degree.  Doctoral candidates seeking careers outside academia, or who are not interested in teaching and being part of a campus community are usually not a good match for these positions.
  • The final point is sort of obvious, but needs to be emphasized:  These are residential fellowships.  They can provide an idyllic setting in which to complete your dissertation and launch your academic career, but they absolutely require that you be willing and able to relocate to the host institution during your final year of graduate school.   Host institutions will usually offer some assistance with relocation, though the level of support can vary widely.  For this reason, if you are interested in residential awards it is helpful to think far in advance about how you will make it work if you are offered an award.

To download a list of residential dissertation fellowship opportunities, click here.


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