NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the deadline?
The deadline is Thursday, October 5, 2023 at 5pm Eastern Time. The application is now open and you may access the application portal here.

The two letters of recommendation, as well as a graduate transcript, must be received by the National Academy of Education (NAEd) no later than 5 pm Eastern Time on Thursday, October 5, 2023. Please account for time zone differences. The NAEd encourages applicants to request letters from recommenders and request transcripts as early as possible, since late materials will not be accepted.

When is the notification of awards?
All applicants will be notified of their status by May 2024.

What if there are difficulties in obtaining letters of recommendation?
Letters of recommendation will be collected via the online application. Applicants will input the names and e-mail addresses of their dissertation director/chair and another faculty member into the application system. Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their proposal with letter writers in advance of inputting their names and e-mail addresses in the application system. These individuals will receive an automated e-mail with instructions on submitting the letter of recommendation. The applicant is strongly advised to follow-up with their faculty to ensure the portal instructions were received and the letters are submitted properly.

Is there an example of a successful application from previous years?
The NAEd is unable to make previous applications publicly available. However, applicants are highly encouraged to read The Art of Writing Proposals, an article published by the Social Science Research Council about crafting a competitive research proposal.

The NAEd also stresses that fellowship applications are reviewed by a multidisciplinary selection committee. Applications should be written for a generalist audience, and applicants are strongly encouraged to have colleagues from other departments and fields read their applications to provide general feedback and ensure that the application is easily understood by readers from different disciplinary backgrounds.

Can applicants get feedback on a turned down application?
Regretfully, no. Due to the quantity of applications received, it is the NAEd policy not to give feedback on dissertation applications.

Can applicants apply even if they are not in a department or school of education?
Yes. Applicants can be a doctoral candidate in any field, as long as their dissertation topic centrally relates to education and shows promise of contributing to the understanding of the history, theory, or practice of education.

I was looking at the list of previous fellows, and I don’t see my institution represented. Does that mean I am not eligible to apply?
The NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship is open to candidates for doctoral degrees at all graduate institutions within the U.S. Candidates from institutions not listed are welcome and encouraged to apply!

What if an applicant is unsure if/how their dissertation topic relates to education?
The NAEd and Spencer Foundation have a long history of supporting projects related to education. Applicants should look at the listing of grants awarded during past years to assess the range of topics supported. Lists of previous grantees are available on the NAEd website. Because topics are a reflection of what grantees chose to study, past grants are not an indication of the only substantive topics of interest. It is the applicant’s responsibility to state clearly and explicitly the connection between the proposed research and the improvement of education. If an applicant can make a case that their research is relevant to education they should certainly consider applying. Applicants who have a hard time making that case will probably have difficulty writing a competitive application. In addition, all applications should demonstrate that education research will continue to be a high priority for the researcher subsequent to doctoral completion.

How broadly does the NAEd/Spencer Foundation define education?
The NAEd and Spencer’s definition of education is quite broad and encompasses education in its many forms: formal and non-formal, U.S. and non-U.S., early childhood through adult, school settings and non-school settings, and so forth.

Are non-U.S. citizens eligible to apply?
Non-U.S. citizens are eligible to apply as long as they are a candidate for a doctoral degree at a graduate school in the United States. International universities with charters in the United States do not meet eligibility qualifications.

Are applicants allowed to apply if a previous application was turned down?
Yes. Applicants may reapply for the dissertation fellowship award if they are (and will still be) in the dissertation writing phase of their work during the term of the fellowship. All applicants must submit a new application each year.

What are the specifications for finishing candidacy requirements in accordance with the NAEd timeline?
Applicants must have completed all pre-dissertation requirements by June 1, 2024. Pre-dissertation requirements include:

  • Course requirements
  • Qualifying paper and/or comprehensive exams
  • Official approval of the dissertation proposal
  • Any other program-specific obligations

The NAEd and Spencer Foundation’s intent is that the fellowship funds the final stage of doctoral work – the writing of the dissertation. It is expected that fellows will complete their doctoral studies by the end of the fellowship period or soon thereafter.

How long is the tenure of the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship?
The tenure of the fellowship is not less than one academic year (nine months) and not more than two calendar years (24 months). In applying for the fellowship, applicants are asked to create a work plan that outlines the anticipated amount of time needed to finish the dissertation. The fellowship cannot start any earlier than June 1, 2024 and must be completed by May 31, 2026.

Can fellows work during the fellowship year?
The NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship is designed to provide fellows with support for the writing phase of the dissertation and to alleviate the need for significant other employment. However, the NAEd recognizes that individuals have unique needs and circumstances, and fellows may have “reasonable” outside employment during the fellowship year. The NAEd suggests no more than 10 hours/week but will work with fellows if more is required. If an applicant intends to work as a fellow, they must seek approval from the Academy. Additionally, the selection committee must have ample evidence to demonstrate that a candidate will be able to finish the dissertation within the timeframe specified.

Can fellows accept other awards?
Applying for other funding will not, in any way, hinder a candidate’s eligibility for a NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. However, applicants must notify the NAEd if they are offered another fellowship and discuss the nature and terms of the award. As a ground rule, if an applicant is offered another fellowship in addition to the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, they may only accept one of the awards if they are both supporting the same aspect of the research project (i.e., the writing phase). Please contact the NAEd with any questions about this policy.

Are there rules for how funding is spent?
The only stipulation is that the fellowship be used to support a student while writing his or her dissertation. Exactly how that money is spent is up to each fellow’s own discretion and individual need. Expenditures that the fellowship might cover include living expenses, medical/dental insurance, research equipment and/or expenses, books, workshops or conferences, and university tuition or fees.

In what style or format should documents be submitted?
Because the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship is a multidisciplinary program, the NAEd accepts all major formatting and writing styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). The decision is up to the applicant, but it is important to remain consistent in all submissions. Additionally, the project description must be submitted in 11 point, double-spaced Times New Roman font.

Who can help with technical difficulties with the online application?
There are two quick solutions that might help with website difficulties: first, try using a different browser, such as Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer; second, try logging on to a computer outside of the computer’s current network. Sometimes, firewalls on a school network, for example, can prevent an applicant from fully utilizing the application website. If the problem persists, please contact the NAEd with a description of the problem or error.

Can a candidate make changes to an application after the deadline or ask a NAEd staff member to make a change?
Unless otherwise announced, the application deadline listed is final. No edits, alterations, and/or additions will be made to any applications past this deadline. Additionally, an applicant should not contact the NAEd staff with queries concerning edits to their application once the deadline has passed.

An unforeseen event has happened. Can the NAEd extend the application deadline?
Unless otherwise announced, the application deadline listed is final for both applicants and references. The NAEd understands that there are events in one’s life which may hinder the application process- a death in the family or of one of the reference writers, physical or mental illness, technical difficulties, etc. For these unforeseen and sometimes unfortunate events, please work ahead of time to complete the application. No extensions will be given.

However, on the occasion the final deadline must be extended for all applicants, such as a natural disaster affecting a large regional area, a mass e-mail will be sent to all applicants and their referees, informing them of these changes. Please ensure all e-mail addresses are accurately submitted.

Is the NAEd a university or college?
The NAEd is not a university or college.

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