AAUW Dissertation Fellowship Presenter: Stephanie Harzewski Application Suggestions: Foreground the originality of your project: What is it doing that is new? What can it tell us about power relations in the present? What is the relevance of your project to the larger cultural and theoretical conversation of women and gender? WSTD markets itself as interdisciplinary enterprise. Why would your project interest people outside of your discipline? Outside of the academy? If your project can impact the present condition or future of girls and young women under 21, stress this aspect, it is a chief goal of AAUW. Mention well-known authors with whom your project is in dialogue. Avoid secondary arguments or citing scholars not particularly well known. There should be no footnotes or block quotes. Keep parenthetical references to minimum. In general, it is a good idea to have someone outside of your specialization but in the same program to read the application to identify and draw out the macro-level ideas. A compelling project description will not so much display expertise—you have the letters of reference to do that—but make people think about how it’s important to their own research and paradigms within which they situate their work. In terms of the writing itself, vary sentence length. Short transition sentences can be sexy. If your sentences tend to be relentlessly compound-complex, use a Mdash at the end followed by a short sentence or phrase to vary the energy level. Don’t begin paragraphs with semicolons as you want the topic sentences to have a clear thrust. Play up any activist background or mentoring activities. Mention if you have taught WSTD courses, courses with a social justice focus, or have crossed-listed any of your courses with WSTD. If you have obtained the Graduate Certificate in WSTD at Penn, definitely mention it. Invest real time in the title of your project. When grant organizations release their list of recipients, it’s with three pieces of information: your name, affiliation, and project title. I worked part-time seasonally in the grants department of the American Philosophical Society, and I can’t tell you how many people misspell or don’t capitalize properly their title on the cover sheet of the application. The title is what probably most initially interests other readers. If you have ever been invited to give media interviews, even if the interview has nothing to do with your proposed project, mention it as it shows you have a platform outside of your dissertation committee and department. If you have no media platform, it’s not a bad idea to try to publish an op-ed or research lit piece in The Chronicle or other major or semi-major periodical. This will be worth tons more than presenting at a Penn graduate conference or WIP group, which at this level, might be helpful, but won’t impress a committee much; you might even leave it off you CV. In the arts and social sciences at least, part of how someone is deemed an expert in the subject is by the number of times they’ve been interviewed.
While you want to seriously follow the application instructions, it is fine if you submit up to five letters of recommendation especially if you have contacts internationally. Keep a copy of the application as you will need the figures you wrote down related to funding and cost of living for the mid-year and end-year reports.
Dirty-little secret: You don’t really have to finish the PhD the year your fellowship is for; they won’t take the money back. The AAUW fellowship is a good platform for which to receive other grants, so accept it!