Dissertation Fellowship

The Dissertation Fellowship (DF) programs offers $25,000 grants to support the final year of Ph.D. or Th.D. dissertation writing. Preference given to students engaged in research pertaining to North American Christianity, especially projects related to Institute mission priorities. This program is also open to outstanding students who may not intend to teach in theological education, but whose dissertation projects have the potential to strengthen the religious life of North American Christians and their institutions.

Now accepting 2023 Applications

Application Deadline: February 1, 2023

Fellowship Amount: $25,000

Dissertation Fellowship Timeline: Fall 2023 – Spring 2024

The Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship (DF) program offers $25,000 grants to support the final year of dissertation writing for Ph.D. or Th.D. students whose research focuses on Christian faith and life, the practice of ministry, religious trends and movements, Christian and other faith-based institutions, and religion and social issues. Dissertation projects may emerge from diverse fields such as history, systematic and practical theology, social sciences, ethics, biblical studies, etc., or may be interdisciplinary in nature. Of particular interest to the Louisville Institute are projects with the potential to generate new knowledge that enriches the life of the church in North America. Students applying in 2023 should expect to complete their dissertations during the 2024 calendar year. 

Dissertation Fellows also participate in Winter Seminar, a three-day gathering in Louisville, KY, in which award recipients from four different Louisville Institute programs gather to share their projects and engage in valuable collaboration together. Winter Seminar typically takes place the third week of January during the award year, and all expenses are paid by the Louisville Institute.

Previous DF Fellowships

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Who is eligible for an LI Dissertation Fellowship?

Eligible applicants:  

    • are candidates for a Ph.D. or Th.D. degree at an accredited graduate school in the United States or Canada, and are U.S. or Canadian citizens or international students with appropriate student visas to study in North America
    • are on track to fulfill all pre-dissertation requirements, including approval of the dissertation proposal, by February 1 of the year they apply (i.e., 2023)
    • expect to complete and defend the dissertation during the next calendar year (i.e., 2024)

LI Doctoral Fellows are welcome to apply for the Dissertation Fellowship program. However, if you have previously received and declined an LI Dissertation Fellowship, you are not eligible to apply again. If you have previously received another Louisville Institute grant, you are eligible and encouraged to apply, but all program and financial reports for any earlier grants must be submitted by July 1. Please note other provisions at the bottom of this page.

Because the Louisville Institute is housed at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, members of the seminary’s Board, staff, or student body or their immediate family members (parents, spouse, or children) are not eligible for LI grants or fellowships. Applicants may not submit applications to more than one Louisville Institute grant or fellowship program within the same grant year (June 1 – May 31). 

If you have questions about eligibility or other stipulations of the fellowship, please email fellowships@louisville-institute.org. 


How do I apply?

  1. Read all the application materials and eligibility requirements on this page thoroughly, and refer to them as you complete your application.
  2. Create an account. Click the “Apply” button to create an account and get started.
  3. Prepare your materials. You will be asked to provide:
      1. General applicant information
      2. Title of your proposed dissertation, and your academic discipline/field
      3. Project core question: What is the main question you hope to explore? In a few sentences, describe the heart of your dissertation — in the form of a question you want to explore — and why the project is important to your community, your field, and/or North American Christianity. (Limit 500 characters/about 100 words)
      4. Dissertation summary/abstract: Briefly describe your dissertation, its claims, and its significance. (Limit 2000 characters, about 200 words.)
      5. Project snapshot: In one sentence, offer an intriguing, quotable “snapshot” of your project (for use on our website and in publicity materials).
      6. Doctoral progress: Provide the dates you completed your coursework, comprehensive or qualifying exams, and approval of your dissertation proposal or thesis topic, as well as your anticipated defense date.
      7. Additional support: List and other grants or fellowships you’ve received or for which you intend to apply for your final year. (This information is simply for our reference as we work with other funding institutions and partners.)
      8. Vocational plans: Briefly describe what do you hope to do after you complete your dissertation, and how you envision your dissertation and vocational trajectory contributing to the vitality of North American Christianity and religious life. (Limit 2000 characters/about 200 words)
      9. Dissertation prospectus: Compose a dissertation prospectus of no more than 1500 words (5–7 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font) in which you articulate the thesis of your dissertation, summarize its argument and your findings thus far, and discuss its contribution to the vitality of North American religion. Craft a prospectus specifically for this application, and describe and reflect on your dissertation research and progress to date, your methods, what you are discovering, and why the topic matters. The strongest applications demonstrate clarity of vision even in the midst of an emerging project, and offer perspective on the project in relationship to both current scholarship and lived reality. Put your name on each page, number the pages, and upload the document as a PDF.
      10. Selective bibliography: Compile a carefully selected bibliography (2–3 pages, double-spaced) that identifies the primary resources you plan to study, review, or consult in relation to your project. A research bibliography often consists of relevant publications, but may also include media, organizations, institutions, conference materials, interviews, etc., depending on the nature of your project. Use a citation style appropriate to your field of study. Put your name on each page, number the pages, and upload the document as a PDF. 
      11. Graduate and professional school transcripts: One official copy of each of your graduate and professional school transcripts must be sent by the institutions or dossier service directly to the Louisville Institute at fellowships@louisville-institute.org via transcript service (preferred) or hard copy (Louisville Institute Fellowships, 1044 Alta Vista Road, Louisville, KY 40205). Transcripts are due with the application, so make sure to request them in advance so they are received in time.
      12. Curriculum vitae or résumé: Provide a CV or résumé of no more than four pages — put your name on each page, number the pages, and upload the document as a PDF — that includes:
        • Institutions of higher education you’ve attended and degrees earned, including dates, starting with the most recent
        • Major academic honors you’ve received
        • Teaching experience and/or other relevant employment, starting with the most recent
        • Titles and citations of your publications, starting with the most recent
        • Other relevant experience (guild membership, ordination, volunteer service, etc.)
      13. Two letters of recommendation: You will be asked to provide contact information (name, email address, and phone number) for your recommenders, who will be sent a link by email through which they can upload letters. As soon as you submit the contact information, the person you’ve named will automatically receive an email with a link to submit a letter online. Applicants should contact their recommenders in advance to discuss the fellowship and provide copies of their application materials. We will notify you via email as we receive the letters. Letters of recommendation are due by March 8, one week after the application deadline.
          • Dissertation advisor letter of recommendation: Your first letter of recommendation should come from your dissertation advisor who will be asked to assess your doctoral work overall, your dissertation significance and progress to date, and your vocational promise for teaching and research. 
          • Second letter of recommendation: Your second letter of recommendation should come from an academic mentor or colleague (preferably an experienced or senior scholar) who can speak to your scholarly promise and assess the quality of your doctoral work and research. In addition, this recommender will be asked to comment on your personal qualities and commitments, including engagement with faith communities, if applicable.

All elements of the application, including transcripts, must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. EST on February 1, 2023, except for recommendation letters, which are due by February 8, 2023. For items a) through h) above, you will be prompted to fill in blanks online. For items i), j), and l), please upload documents in *.pdf format. If you have questions or encounter problems with the application, email fellowships@louisville-institute.org. 


Can I edit my application?

Yes, you can edit all portions of your application until 11:59 p.m. EST February 1, 2023. Unfortunately, changes cannot be made after the application deadline.


How do I know my application is complete?

In the week after the application deadline, LI staff will process the applications to prepare for the selection committee. If your application is incomplete, we will follow up with you. Once your application is complete, we will email you confirmation.


What is the selection process?

Every year the Louisville Institute appoints a selection committee to review proposals and award Dissertation Fellowships. Committee membership and deliberations are confidential. All applicants will be notified as soon as possible following the selection process, which usually takes place about 8 weeks after the application due date. Awards will be announced publicly on or before April 15, 2023. Fellowships are usually dispersed in two equal payments: in September of the award year, and January the following year.

We are often asked how many applications we receive for our fellowships. For each of the last several years of the Dissertation Fellowship, we have received about 95–97 eligible applications, and have awarded about 15 fellowships.


What else do I need to know?

The intent of the LI Dissertation Fellowship is to help free students from other commitments in order to finish their dissertations. For this reason, Dissertation Fellows are required to limit their outside employment to no more than 20 hours a week unless they ask for and receive prior approval from the Louisville Institute (such conversations take place when awards are granted).  

Please note that as a Louisville Institute grantee or fellow you may not simultaneously hold two grants that total more than $45,000 from Lilly Endowment-funded organizations, nor can you accept a Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship and another comparable dissertation completion grant at the same time. This does not preclude you from applying for grants from other institutions; if you are awarded a Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship and grants from other sources we will discuss alternatives with you, including the possibility of being an Honorary Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellow. Additionally, the Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship is intended to supplement — not to replace — financial support you would otherwise receive from your doctoral institution during the period of the Louisville Institute grant. If your doctoral institution chooses to lessen or discontinue your financial support because you receive a Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship, let them know that the Louisville Institute will withdraw the fellowship award.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions — email us at fellowships@louisville-institute.org.