Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release / Center & Institute Fellowship Program

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Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release funds makes it possible for the College of the Liberal Arts, in cooperation with its affiliated Centers and Institutes, to provide releases from teaching or related service to humanities students who are supported on assistantships and working on their dissertations. This program is meant to complement, not replace, existing programs such as the RGSO Dissertation Awards and Humanities Institute summer residencies.


  • To be eligible for a Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release (HIDR), students must be ABD and be supported on an assistantship for the period covered by the dissertation release. Fixed-term faculty are not eligible for dissertation releases. Unless the Associate Dean approves an exception under special circumstances, it is assumed that departments will continue to pay regular assistantship stipends and tuition grant in aids for students receiving awards during the fall and spring semesters.
  • Dissertation releases will be paid for with a $5000 grant to departments, to cover the cost of replacing the student in the classroom; or a $3000 award to students directly, in the case of a summer release.  To participate, departments must replace fully the teaching responsibilities or other departmental duties of students who receives a dissertation release so that students may work full time on the dissertation. In other words, the students cannot be given a partial release from teaching or other duties; they must be given a complete semester release. Departments that violate this understanding will be dropped from the program. Note: Only students whose home department is in the College of the Liberal Arts are eligible to receive a dissertation release (or $3,000) award under this program.
  • Students are expected to remain in residence at University Park during the period of the release unless they receive permission from their Graduate Director to travel for the sake of research or other legitimate academic purposes.
  • The Associate Dean's office serves as a clearinghouse for the determination of eligibility. Students will be deemed as eligible when their department’s graduate director certifies that the student has completed an acceptable dissertation proposal.
  • To facilitate planning for the academic year, graduate directors will be asked to estimate students' eligibility; but only students who in fact complete accepted proposals will receive the award. Graduate directors should have reason to anticipate that students will clear all hurdles when making estimates (so that planning can be effective in departments and in the Associate Dean's office). Only in extraordinary cases will students be given a release when the graduate director has not indicated their likely eligibility beforehand.
  • Cooperating Center and Institute directors will offer complementary support as they see fit. They will establish eligibility, guidelines, and decision-making procedures on their own, without approval of the Associate Dean. Complementary support from a Center or Institute does not supplant the Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release; the awards are conferred concurrently.
  • Centers and Institutes, as well as the RGSO Dissertation Support Program, may permit students to compete for awards that would give them a second service-free semester of support exclusively devoted to the dissertation.  However, in order to participate in the programs described here, departments themselves may not provide a second semester of released time for the dissertation. Second semester dissertation releases from the CLA Dissertation Support Program will be granted only after the Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release semester.
  • It is understood as a condition of receiving any form of dissertation support that students will present their work at the spring Graduate Research Exhibition, unless their dissertation research has already been presented at the Exhibition. Those affiliated with a Center or Institute may receive additional stipulations in its letter of offer.

The Program

Humanities Initiative Dissertation support semester release opportunities take the form of a Department Dissertation Release Award, which can be augmented by a Center/Institute Grant.

Center and Institute Grant

Center and Institute grants may be offered by the Africana Research Center, the Humanities Institute, the Center for Humanities and Information, the Rock Ethics Institute, the Center for American Literary Studies, the Center for Global Studies, and the Center for Language Acquisition. Centers will announce the details of their awards in separate communications; they may not always provide summer opportunities

Students who receive a Center or Institute grant will not only be excused from teaching or related duties (by means of the Department Dissertation Release Award); they will also receive an additional award in the form of a $1000 grant to support their research and related activities, be affiliated with the Center or Institute and have opportunities to participate in (and in some cases even plan) some of its activities, share common experiences with others affiliated with the Center or Institute, and share work in progress with faculty and other graduate students.  In some cases, recipients of Center and Institute Grants will be invited to use workspace in a Center or Institute.  In all cases students will profit from stimulating research environments and gain recognition for their affiliation with a Center or Institute.  Precise activities will be specified in acceptance letters from the respective Center and Institute directors.

How to Qualify and Apply

Graduate Directors

By May 21st, departments should send Alena Sunderland a list of students who are likely to be eligible for a Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release and an estimate of what semester the student will take the release.


Students who wish only a Department Dissertation Release Award need not apply for it.

Students who also wish to be considered for a Center and Institute Grant award should forward an application to the Associate Dean's Office care of Alena Sunderland, . Applications are available from the Directors of Graduate Studies. The Associate Dean will review the applications and send them to centers and institutes for consideration.  Applications should include a one-page description of the project (including an account of when the dissertation proposal is scheduled for approval), as well as the student's name and student number and contact information; a curriculum vitae (no more than three pages); and an additional one-page statement naming the Center or Institute they wish to be affiliated with, indicating the semester they wish to be so affiliated, and explaining why their projects are appropriate for that Center or Institute. All materials should be submitted via email.

Center and Institute Grant deadlines are set per individual Center or Institute. See the corresponding Center or Institute calls for applications for additional information and specific application deadlines.

Selections will be made by the Center and Institute directors. Those not selected for a Center or Institute grant, if otherwise eligible, will be granted a department dissertation award.

Notifications will be made by May 1.

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