History graduate students have several options for obtaining funding. At the pre-quals level (while you are doing coursework and preparing for qualifying exams), most graduate students are supported by some combination of grants and fellowships, on the one hand, and teaching assistantships, on the other. This support is, of course, always contingent on satisfactory progress toward degree.
It is during the ABD years (ABD: All But Dissertation — that is, after you have passed to candidacy and before you defend your dissertation) that external sources of support become especially important. This external funding has many benefits: more money, of course, but also more efficient execution of your research agenda; experience in presenting your work to a wider audience, and last but not least, impressive accomplishments to add to your curriculum vitae.
This site aspires to discuss all sorts of funding, both internal and external and both for pre-quals students and ABDs. If you encounter mistakes here or have information to add, please contact Judith Bennett.
I. Internal Sources of Funding
Funding On Admission. Most graduate fellowships are awarded by the College or the Graduate School at the time of admission. These fellowships usually cover 5 years of support, with stipends starting at $19,250 per annum. Tuition and health fees are covered as part of the package. Of the five fellowship years, some are “service” years during which a student works part-time as a Teaching Assistant, and others are “non-service” years devoted entirely to research and study.
Graduate School Funding. Most fellowships are awarded at time of admission, but the Graduate School also offers some assistance for continuing students.
College Funding. Most fellowships from the College are awarded at the time of admission, but the College does sometimes offer summer awards and final-year fellowships to students nearing completion of their degrees. When these opportunities come available, History faculty nominate students who are nearing completion of their degrees.
The Graduate and Professional Student Senate. The GPSS has awarded, on a funds-available basis, travel support up to a lifetime cap of $1500 per student, although most grants are smaller.
History Department Assistantships. Teaching Assistants (TAs) help full-time faculty in course instruction, usually by leading discussion sections which complement lectures, grading student work, helping the professor with class preparation, and advising undergraduate students on both course requirements and their classroom performance. TA stipends are currently (academic year 2010-11) $19,250 per year for a full-time appointment, and all also provide tuition remission for full-time study (up to 12 units per term) as well as health insurance and mandatory student health center fees. On rare occasions, editorial or research assistantships are also offered by the department.
Foulke Fellowships. Established by USC alumna Roberta Persinger Foulke (BA/MA History 1936), these fellowships provide assistance for graduate students who demonstrate the ability or desire to further the interests of women in the field of history or historical studies. Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis each year to graduate students in History who seek funding for scholarly research, travel, conferences fees, or other similar scholarly expenses. A call for Foulke proposals goes out each March from the DGS.
History Department Supplementary Support. Additional support is available for scholarly or professional purposes, funds permitting. Students can receive funding for travel to a conference at which they are delivering a paper or being interviewed for an academic position. They can also receive support for travel related to dissertation research. Students can receive annually up to $500 for domestic travel or $1000 for overseas travel. Other cases of additional funding may also arise, such as when a student receives a major fellowship that does not cover tuition or mandatory health insurance fees, or when a student receives a modest grant that will pay only part of the costs of a necessary research trip. Students requesting supplementary support should complete the department's Graduate Request for Exceptional Financial Aid form, which must include a paragraph in support of the request from the student's major faculty advisor, signed and dated. These requests may be submitted to the DGS Lisa Bitel by e-mail, with a copy to Joe Styles. In the absence of the faculty advisor, a student can make a request directly to the Director of Graduate Studies or, in her/his absence, to the Chair of the Department.
II. External Sources of Funding
Getting external funding is a basic part of the historian’s craft, so what you learn as a graduate student about applying for grants will serve you well throughout your career.
Your first task is identifying likely sources of funding. This requires research, just like a historical project. From a list of 200 or more possibilities you may find only 20 that are worth getting more information on and five or ten for which you should actually apply. Here are some tools to help your research:
1. Look at the AHA's online publication Grants, Fellowships, and Prizes of Interest to Historians. You have to be a member of the AHA to access this guide; if you are not, this a good reason to join.
2. Talk with your advisor. She or he will know a lot about grants and strategies for getting them.
3. The Graduate School also offers a variety of resources to help you locate grants, a list of some national grants, and another list of grants for under-represented students. In general, you should take a few minutes to visit the Graduate School’s many resources listed in the Financial Aid section of their website.
4. Also, here’s a website devoted to grants for historians.
5. The four strategies above should do the trick, but here’s a list of some of the more common grants that fund graduate research in History:
- USC is an institutional member of the Council for European Studies Academic Consortium. The Council offers a number of fellowships including Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowships to fund two months’ travel to Europe to conduct the exploratory phase of a projected dissertation project in the social sciences or humanities, andMellon-CES Dissertation Completion Fellowships in European Studies to facilitate the timely completion of the doctoral degree by late-stage graduate students focuses on topics in European Studies.
- The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships are designed to support the final year of dissertation work on subjects related to religious and ethical values in all areas of human endeavor. Eligible proposals have religious or ethical values as a central concern, and come from fields within the humanities and social sciences. Further information, see www.woodrow.org/newcombe.
- The American Council of Teachers of Russian runs exchanges between the USA and the countries of the former Soviet block.
- The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) provides grants for doctoral research in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
- The Fulbright Program supports graduate study abroad.
- SSRC: The Social Science Research Council offers pre-dissertation and dissertation fellowships.
- DAAD: The German Academic Exchange Service offers a range of grants and fellowships that support German historians. The German Historical Institute offers an excellent on-line funding guide for German historians.
- The Rockefeller Foundation supports research in the arts and humanities.
- The Ford Foundation provides a variety of fellowships.
- The ACLS (The American Council of Learned Societies) offers several grants and fellowships for graduate research.
- The Chateaubriand Fellowship funds research in France.
- The McNeil Center for Early American Studies in Philadelphia supports doctoral research on North America and the Caribbean before 1850.
- The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA offers doctoral fellowships for U.S. projects before 1876.
- The Huntington Library offers doctoral fellowships for projects relating to its collections.
- The Getty Library offers dissertation fellowships.
- The Newberry Library in Chicago offers doctoral fellowships for projects that draw on its collections.
- The American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia offers some short-term residential grants as well as the Phillips Research Grant for Native American history.
III. Writing a Winning Application
You'll find good advice about proposal-writing at the Proposal Writing Short Course of the Foundation Center, the Social Science Research Council, and the University of Virginia's Teaching Resource Center. Here's some further advice directly from USC faculty to you:
- Prepare a solid dissertation prospectus. Make a strong, concise argument for your project, highlighting how it will make a significant contribution to the field. Describe the big questions you are grappling with and show how you are going to answer those questions through research and analysis.
- Be prepared to re-write, or tailor, your prospectus for each grant application.
- Be creative. Look at every possible funding opportunity, no matter how remote its connection is to your project. Think about ways in which you can make a case for your work under the grant guidelines, redesigning your prospectus to underline a specific connection.
- Be as specific as possible with regard to the materials you need to use for your research. Many funding sources are tied to a particular archive, and you will need to make a strong case that the materials in that archive are vital to your study.
- Know how to make your project interesting to scholars who are not necessarily in your field. Show them why yours is an important topic.
- Allow plenty of lead-time. If you want funding you must be thinking well in advance. Many grants have application deadlines in September, October, November or December for money awarded in the following fall.
- Give your advisor(s) and the Department Chair plenty of time (a month is just about right—and courteous, too) to write letters of recommendation.
- Follow the application procedures precisely with regards to materials requested, copies to be provided and the deadline for receipt.
- Know the odds. Any given organization may receive 500 applications for each ten grants available. The fact that you don't get a particular grant doesn't mean that your work isn't deserving of funding.
- If your proposal is rejected, find out whether you can get copies of the committee’s evaluations, or some other explanation of why you were denied funding. Understanding the weaknesses of your proposal will help you strengthen it for future applications.
- Find out what the rules are for re-applying. Many review committees vary by year and next year's committee may view your work in a different light.
- Be ready to provide a timetable for the completion of your dissertation.
- Proofread your proposal. Sloppiness almost invariably guarantees rejection.