Fellowship for Students
Generally, fellows are at the stage of their graduate careers in which they are well launched into their thesis work, having solved the problems of the general feasibility of the chosen topic and the identification of research methods used to attack the problem. The thesis in question must be one that has some relevance to social policy issues. The characteristic candidates, therefore, apply for the fellowship when their adviser and thesis committee members have reviewed their thesis proposal and the candidate has demonstrated some progress in research. Students are generally nominated for the society in their next to last year in the graduate program, but occasionally, if their thesis or research project would be enhanced by a year of fellowship support, they may be nominated for support during their last year in the program.
Support and Responsibilities
The fellowship provides support for the fellow at a level comparable to a Princeton University teaching or research assistantship, and covers tuition expenses. A grant to support some research expenses is also given, as well as an allowance supporting the meals connected with the various meetings. In other words, the fellows are completely supported for the years that they are society members. We therefore expect that the fellows will not take on other commitments, and certainly will not do so without first discussing them with the fellowship program director. We also expect that the fellows will have made a considerable commitment to letting the other fellows' activities enrich their own work, and also to contributing to the enrichment of their thinking. This implies faithful attendance at society meetings and more, a willingness to make considered contributions to the various discussions that take place during the meetings. Seeking out other fellows to discuss their ideas on material from their discipline that would be relevant to other fellows' theses and helping them find the references to enable them to explore these possibilities would be the sort of gesture that we would hope that fellows would make toward each other. Scholarly collaborations have also emerged.
We expect fellows to attend and participate in the two series of meetings the society holds during the year. Given the time demands on people at Princeton, both are scheduled during mealtimes. Once a month there is a lunch at which one fellow presents his or her thesis work and the group of fellows discusses it. Once a month dinner is also held, at which one of the faculty fellows introduces a topic that he or she has been engaged with recently and a discussion follows.
Application Process and Timeline
The application process has two stages. To apply to the fellowship, a student must first be nominated by a faculty member. A letter from the Director of the Fellows of Woodrow Wilson Scholars is distributed to the Directors of Graduate Studies of the relevant campus departments in January or early February (for fellowships that begin in the fall of that calendar year), with information concerning the fellowship and a date by which the notice of the intention to nominate a fellow should be received from faculty members.
Once an intention to nominate is received in our office (423 Robertson Hall), and we see that we do not have an excess of nominations from a department, students are notified in writing that they have been nominated, and asked if they wish to apply. A form listing the information that students must provide to complete the application is included with the notification letter. Application materials and the faculty reference letters are due in March and are submitted to Sandy Paroly, 423 Robertson Hall (609-258-5023).
The Pre-Nomination Process
In the pre-nomination process, a faculty member emails us to say that he or she intends to nominate a student for the Fellowship. All that is needed is that we receive the name, department, and email address of the student, and perhaps a sentence or two about his or her thesis project. We obviously count on that faculty member for the major letter of support, but that comes later than this e-mail of notification of the intention to nominate a fellow.
Prior to deciding to nominate a student, we ask that the faculty member first look at the selection criteria for graduate fellows and decide that his or her nominee is well qualified. A discussion with the student is generally helpful. If a student is considering applying, he or she should begin with a candid discussion with his or her thesis advisor about whether this makes sense. We expect that the nominations of new fellows will come from thesis advisors.
Normally, all students nominated by a faculty member will be nominated for the Fellowship. One reason we might deviate from this plan would be because we have so many nominations from one department that it would be impossible to accept them all into the Society; thus, an initial screening would be required. It is likely that we would contact the department DGS or some other faculty member who would be acquainted with the work of the "tentatively nominated" students. The point is this: we ask the students for quite a lot of material with their application, and it seems unkind to burden the student and faculty member unless the student has a reasonable chance of selection. We also screen nominated students on some other criteria involving past support patterns and year in graduate programs to make sure that they are eligible for the Fellowship.
Generally, in a few days after we receive the name of the person nominated, we would message the student to confirm that he or she does want to apply and to ask for the materials we require for the application. We will also write the faculty nominator for the full letter of nomination and give a date by which we need to receive it.
Candidates are asked to submit several kinds of material in support of their application, and, if they wish, the name of another faculty member who knows them well that we could contact for a second reference. The fellowship selectors also sometimes consult the graduate director of the candidate's home department.
We begin our part of the selection process quite soon after the recommendation's due date, which is why we notify both students and faculty members of the need for the reference letter and application material as quickly as we can.
The criteria on which fellows are selected are determined by the expectations described in the section ‘Support and Responsibilities’ above. Fellows will be engaged in a reasonably mature intellectual exploration, be able to articulate its assumptions and discoveries to a general audience, and be open to learning about new problems and novel research methods. They will also be able to sense possible policy applications of their findings and the findings of others. Finally, they will be able to make the time and energy commitments that will enable them to contribute to the intellectual life of the group.
One note of caution. As you will understand, the selection criteria for the Fellowship program involve not only the credentials of the candidate, but other considerations such as the ways in which the candidate's thesis project and thesis research methods will contribute to providing an intellectually rich mix of approaches that will illuminate policy problems and solutions. It is also the case that the Fellowship will seek fellows who are distributed across the various departments that participate in the Fellowship program.