Principles and Goals

The Department strives to meet six goals with respect to fellowship money:

  1. Secure a basic package of support for all graduate students, adequate to cover their expenses in Ann Arbor for normal time to degree;
  2. Maximize the total amount of fellowship money that our graduate students enjoy;
  3. Attract new graduate students who are arriving with outside fellowships money;
  4. Administer endowed competitive (merit) fellowships consistently with donor specifications;
  5. Equalize the amount of money each of our graduate students enjoy, to the extent compatible with the first five goals.

Concerning Goal 1, the Department does not seek attrition but expects to support all students making progress to degree. Support through a GSI appointment is conditional on acceptable teaching. Summer teaching is available to candidates on a competitive basis that takes into account excellent teaching during the regular term and the Department's interest in spreading summer teaching opportunities widely. Many post-candidacy fellowships also carry summer support.

Concerning Goal 5, the Department strives, to the extent consistent with the first five goals, to equalize fellowship money that each student enjoys. To this end, the Department:

  • Guarantees all students a six year package of support, plus 3 years of summer stipend and a $1,000 travel grant
  • Provides a full year of non-teaching fellowship support for pre-candidates who do not enter the program with an outside fellowship or a Merit fellowship
  • Strives to provide all candidates at least two terms of candidacy fellowship support (depending on year of entry, this may be guaranteed in the letter offering admission)
  • "Tops off" competitive outside fellowships, such as the Newcombe Fellowship, so that they are at least equal to a Rackham one-term Fellowship.

However, competitive fellowships sometimes create inequalities that cannot be avoided without leveling down, foregoing outside funding, losing applicants from underrepresented groups to competing institutions, or violating the terms of an endowed fellowship. Competitive fellowships are of the following types:

  • Competitive multiyear fellowships that students bring with them when admitted to the University of Michigan (outside fellowships such as the Ford, Javits, Mellon, SSRC and the Canadian SSHRCC ). To be able to compete for these students, the Department must offer them an aid package commensurate with what other institutions are offering. Thus, students with these fellowships, as well as the Rackham Merit fellowship, may enjoy more years of combined outside and guaranteed support, and/or a more advantageous package of support (less teaching) than we can afford to offer to all of our students.

  • Competitive fellowships awarded by the Department. The Department has two competitive fellowships:

The Weinberg Summer Fellowship is awarded to one or more students in the second year for overall academic excellence. Since all our students in the first through third years are entitled to a summer stipend upon submission of an acceptable plan of summer study, the Weinberg Summer Fellowship does not introduce a monetary inequality, although it does introduce an inequality in recognition, among pre-candidates. All second year students who submit approved requests for departmentally funded summer stipends are automatically considered for the named honor.

The Wirt and Mary Cornwell Prize is a fellowship awarded to a graduate student who shall have demonstrated outstanding "intellectual curiosity" and exceptional "promise of original study and creative work" in their field of study, according to the terms of the bequest that endowed this prize. This is the only departmentally-administered competitive fellowship that can introduce inequality in non-teaching fellowship support among pre-candidates. Traditionally, the Cornwell Prize, which covers tuition and a stipend for one term, has been awarded to a third-year student. However, the terms of the bequest do not require this, and at times the Department may have reasons to award the prize to students in other years. All graduate students who have not previously won this prize are automatically considered for it.

  • Competitive fellowships awarded by other units that require a Departmental nomination (principally, Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, Mary Malcomson Raphael Fellowship, Michigan Society of Fellows Junior Fellowships). The Department will consider all eligible students  for these awards, and nominate those whom the faculty judges to best meet the standards specified in the fellowship. Most of these fellowships are for the final year of dissertation writing. The standards of merit for dissertation fellowships, whether or not they require Departmental nomination, typically include strength of the dissertation project (importance, originality, quality of execution to date or expected), ability of the candidate to carry it off successfully, expectation of completion by the end of the fellowship term, strength of the student's academic record, timeliness of progress to degree, and content of dissertation project (some fellowships require engagement with particular subjects).

  • Competitive fellowships awarded by other units of U-M, or by outside institutions, that do not require a Departmental nomination, but do require letters of recommendation from a student's advisors (such as the Humanities Institute Fellowship, the Newcombe Fellowship and the IRWG Community of Scholars Fellowship).