The University of Iowa

AAUW Fellowship Community

Fellowships Community events for Fall 2020:


Fall 2020 Overviewaauw logo

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers multiple fellowships to scholars who identify as women, including the American Dissertation Fellowship ($20,000 stipend for U.S. citizen and permanent resident doctoral student women in their final program year) and the International Fellowship ($18,000 stipend for Master’s/professional degree students; $20,000 stipend for doctoral students; $30,000 stipend for postdocs; applicants must be  citizens of a country other than the United States who plan to return to their home countries to pursue a professional career).  University of Iowa graduate students applicants are also eligible for the Fellowship Incentive Program ($400 for applying if feedback from both a faculty advisor and fellowships advisor is obtained before submitting to AAUW--full details on webpage).




Key Components
Resources for Applicants
Resources for Letter Writers
Community Contacts
Media Coverage

Key Components

Eligibility:  Official AAUW fellowship eligibility is described by AAUW for each fellowship (linked below); read their descriptions carefully for full information.  Briefly, eligibility criteria include:

  • American Dissertation Fellowship:  Scholars who identify as women in any field of study completing a doctoral degree/dissertation by the end of the funded fellowship period (apply at the start of your second-to-last year, funding during last year, graduate within a few months of the funding period’s completion); you must be done with all coursework, have passed all preliminary/comprehensive exams, and have your dissertation research proposal approved by your committee by the application deadline.  Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents by the application deadline.
  • International Fellowship:  Scholars who identify as women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents who intend to return to their home countries to pursue a professional career, are proficient in English, and plan full-time academic study during the fellowship year.  Applicants can be pursuing a Master’s degree, professional degree (such as an MD), doctoral degree (such as a PhD or EdD), or postdoctoral/post-MFA research; note that the stipend amount varies by degree program.


Application components are described more extensively at the AAUW pages for each fellowship (linked below).  Briefly, the components include:

  • American Dissertation Fellowship:  (A) 3 recommendation letters, including one from your dissertation advisor; (B) a CV or Resume; (C) a budget; (D) responses to several narrative questions; (E) graduate transcripts, including any coursework transferred in; (F) a form from the chair of your department (or a similar official) verifying you have an approved dissertation research proposal, have completed all courses, and completed qualifying examinations.  If your project will be done at an institution other than U. Iowa, also include (G) a letter from the host institution confirming that you can work there.
    • The narrative questions generally have a 300 word limit except for the project description (700 words).  In Fall 2015, example prompt topics included: career plans and professional goals, abstract, project description, autobiography, commitment to women and girls, budget narrative, and other background information.
  • International Fellowship: (A) 3 recommendation letters from professors or professional colleagues, at least some of whom (ideally) will be from your home country and can also comment on the country’s need for the skills you will acquire through your degree; (B) a CV or Resume; (C) a budget; (D) responses to several narrative questions; (E) official transcripts; (F) supporting documentation of prior degree(s) and current enrollment; (G) official TOEFL test scores or waiver request.
    • The narrative questions generally have a 300 word limit.  In Fall 2015, example prompt topics included (but are not necessarily limited to): career plans, relevance to field/need in your home country, why you chose the current institution, background about your family and importance of education, commitment to women and girls, plans to pay for any additional expenses.

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Resources for Applicants

Feedback Appointments: The UI Graduate Success Office ( can give feedback on written drafts of your application materials.  We strongly recommend booking appointments well in advance, as Fall semester is the busiest season for fellowships.  If none of the available online options work with your schedule, please contact us—we will do our best to find additional scheduling options.  Additional field-specific fellowships advisors on campus are listed here.


Reference Letters: The best letters are from people who can best comment on your activities and qualities that are most relevant to the fellowship’s evaluation criteria—for AAUW fellowships, your references collectively should be able to address your scholarly qualities, context about your project’s significance and feasibility, and your impact through teaching/mentoring/outreach.

  • Fillable worksheets tailored for the AAUW American Dissertation and International fellowships to organize key information that you can share with your advisor to help them write a more effective letter of recommendation can be accessed here (HawkID log-in; use hawkid[@], not firstname-lastname[@]
  • Letters of Recommendation” by The IU GradGrants Center, Indiana University (introductory guide to picking and working with letter writers)
  •  “Writing a Letter of Recommendation,” an extremely useful resource for students and faculty by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (advice is generalizable across fields)


Example Materials

  • UI donated example essays – log in to Sharepoint using your HawkID (hawkid[@], not first-last[@] and password. Please note these resources are donated for individual educational use by University of Iowa students only.


Incentive Programs:  Preparing a competitive application for AAUW requires a great deal of thought, time, and effort that helps you further develop your research ideas and writing skills.  In recognition of this investment and the benefits, UI graduate student applicants for the AAUW American Dissertation Fellowship or International Fellowship can be eligible for several different incentive programs:


  • Fellowship Incentive Program (FIP): Graduate students who get feedback on a developed draft of their application from both a fellowships advisor (see list on FIP website) and their dissertation advisor before submitting the final version to AAUW can be eligible for a $500 award independent of the funding decision outcome. 
    • If you plan to work with a comparable fellowships advisor not listed on the FIP homepage, please have them e-mail in advance to ensure coordination with the Fellowship Incentive Program. 
  • College of Engineering Graduate Incentive Fellowship (GIF): Engineering graduate students can receive $100 for a national fellowship submission with proof of submission.
  • Supplement for External Fellowship (SEF) Program: Graduate students (A) in a basic science, Biomedical Sciences, Genetics, or Neuroscience Ph.D. program with (B) a faculty mentor in the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) who (C) win an individual national fellowship (such as either of the Ford Foundation fellowships) can receive an additional $2000 per year that the fellowship award payment is active.


Outreach Resources:  AAUW requires applicants to be active in work that benefits the well-being of women and/or girls in the world in some way.  This may be through your research and/or involvement in community organizations.  Applicants with a long-standing track record of involvement will be most competitive; if you are considering applying for an AAUW fellowship in the future, here is a non-exhaustive list of campus and area organizations that may align with your outreach interests.


Web Resources:


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Resources for Letter Writers

Review Criteria and Reviewer Perspectives

  • Reviewers for AAUW fellowships are evaluating applicants on multiple criteria, including (but not limited to): the student’s scholarly qualities; context about the project’s significance and feasibility; and the student’s impact through teaching, mentoring, and/or outreach.  
  • If you are a research mentor, you are in an especially powerful position to be able to provide expert context about the quality of project design, originality of the project, scholarly significance of the project to the discipline, the feasibility of the project, and the applicant’s qualifications to do the project (AAUW).  The most helpful recommendation letters will include specific examples and details to establish that context.
    • Asserting that “this project is very original” is less persuasive than giving concise explanations about what specific new approaches, new subject matter, new perspectives, etc. the applicant takes.
    • Saying an applicant is “the most promising student I’ve seen at this point in a degree program” would be an even more powerful statement with quantitative scope (“[…] in # years of mentoring # doctoral students”) and/or qualitative context (“[…]in terms of initiative to seek further training opportunities and the ability to critically analyze primary research papers”) to clearly state the reasons the student is promising. 

Reference Letter Resources

  • Writing a Letter of Recommendation”, an extremely useful collection of advice from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (advice is generalizable across fields). 
    • Particularly note pp. 10-11 and 15-19 for examples of how many small word choice differences (often unconsciously done when describing female vs. male applicants) can add up to a substantially stronger or weaker impression of an applicant.
  • A Nature article by Dutt et al. (2016) found that letter writers from the Americas tend to write longer letters than writers from other geographic regions (Table 3).  Be aware of the potential impact of cultural differences in how lengthy or superlative a letter is expected to be—especially if most reviewers will be used to letter norms in the Americas.
    • Also see Table 2 and “Methods” section for a summary of letter qualities that surveyed senior faculty interpreted as “excellent,” “good,” or “doubtful.”

Official AAUW Resources

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Community Contacts

Fellowships Advisors:

  • The UI Graduate Success Office ( can give feedback on written drafts of your application materials.  We strongly recommend booking appointments well in advance, as Fall semester is the busiest season for fellowships.  If none of the available online options work with your schedule, please contact us—we will do our best to find additional scheduling options.
  • The FIP homepage lists additional fellowships advisors for students in: Chemistry, Social Sciences, Nursing, Neurology, IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering, and the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM)

Faculty, staff, and students willing to work with graduate student AAUW applicants:

  • Michele Aichele (Graduate Student, Music) – AAUW fellow
    • Student Q&A – email
    • Feedback - General (overall impressions only, no written/typed comments)      
    • Feedback - Extensive (more extensive, may include written/typed comments)
      • Contact: micheleaichele[@]; michele-aichele[@]
  • Cathleen Moore (Faculty, Psychology) - mentor
    • Student Q&A - email, phone
      • Contact: cathleen-moore[@]
      •, 319-335-3427

For specific eligibility and submission questions, please also contact AAUW through their official homepage.

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Media Coverage

Read about current and previous University of Iowa graduate student winners of AAUW American Dissertation Fellowships and International Fellowships (view additional UI winners, including postdoctoral fellows and career development grant winners here):

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How extensive does my work to improve the lives of women and/or girls have to be?

  • Ideally, you should already be interested in (and active in) activities that improve women’s lives and have a long-term commitment to these goals because you want to do so, not because you “have” to only for the fellowship.  That said, the ways in which you can work toward improving women’s lives can take many different forms; for example, two previous UI graduate student winners of AAUW fellowships show that the impact can be through your dissertation research (historical analysis of a French female composer) or through volunteering and outreach activities (co-founding the local chapter of Graduate Women in Science). Browsing the AAUW Fellowships and Grants Directory can help show the range of ways in which previous fellows have shown their commitment to women’s issues.   Commitment to the advancement of women is included in the evaluation criteria, but the specific actions you take because of that commitment can be flexible as long as you make a strong case for their positive impact and your own involvement. 

How strict is AAUW about the International Fellowship’s requirement to plan to return to one’s home country for a professional career?  Do they take extenuating circumstances about political stability, economic opportunities, etc. into account?

  • The evaluation criteria do include your plans to return to your home country to pursue a professional career, and these plans are part of the eligibility criteria for this fellowship.  Please contact AAUW for further questions or clarification.
  • The Fall 2020 guidelines for this fellowship’s recommendation letters also state that: “When possible, recommenders should be professors or professional colleagues in the applicant’s home country who can speak about the applicant’s qualifications and about the country’s need for the specialized skill or knowledge she plans to acquire with her proposed study or research.”


How much will my reviewers know about my research topic?

  • Your application should withstand an expert’s scrutiny yet still be understandable to a non-specialist reader from your subfield.  Because “applications are reviewed by distinguished scholars and should be prepared accordingly” (AAUW), there is a chance that you may be reviewed by a world expert in the topic.  However, the AAUW fellowships are open to graduate student women in almost any research discipline; therefore, you should write to be understood by an intelligent, educated reviewer who may not have any background in your subject area at all (e.g., if you are in Art History, be understandable to someone in Electrical Engineering).   Because each essay is very short, you will not have room to go into the same level of specialist detail that you would if writing for a journal or your thesis committee.

What is routing, and do I have to do routing for this application?

  • Routing with the Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) requires the final versions of your materials to be submitted to DSP on their website 5 business days before the deadline on the funding organization’s website (see the DSP website for more information).  Routing is mandatory for awards that require a faculty member or the university itself to submit the application on your behalf (examples: NSF DDRIG, NIH F31/F30/R36). 
  • Because you submit the AAUW fellowship application yourself, independently, as an individual, you do not have to complete routing to submit the application.  You, the applicant, are solely responsible for submitting your materials to the funding agency by the deadline.
    • If you win an AAUW fellowship, you will need to contact DSP as soon as possible to set up an award management account in the UI system.

Do I need to submit my fellowship application materials to the Graduate College before they are submitted to the funding agency?

  • No.  The Graduate College can give writing feedback on your application (content, clarity, style, accessibility to a non-specialist reader) that we strongly encourage you to utilize; getting feedback from a fellowships specialist is also part of the FIP eligibility requirements.  However, this feedback is not required to submit an application to AAUW.

Does the Graduate College submit my application materials for me?

  • No.  You, the applicant, are solely responsible for submitting your materials to the funding agency by the deadline. 

Is this opportunity Fellowship Incentive Program (FIP)-eligible?

  • (i) Doctoral students applying for the American Dissertation Fellowship, (ii) doctoral students applying for the International Fellowship, and (iii) Master’s/professional degree students applying for the International Fellowship are eligible for a $400 application incentive award.  You must both work with your faculty advisor and get feedback from a fellowships advisor before submitting the final materials to AAUW.   Read more about FIP here.
  • (i) Postdoctoral scholars, (ii) applicants applying as graduate students for postdoc funding, and (iii) applicants for other AAUW grants or fellowships are not currently eligible for FIP.

Who are the fellowships advisors I have to meet with to be FIP-eligible?

  • The FIP homepage lists many options for fellowships advisors for students in: Chemistry, Social Sciences, Nursing, Neurology, IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering, and the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM); the Grad Success Office can work with graduate students in any discipline.  If you are working with another fellowships advisor in your department who fills a similar role, please have them contact us at in advance to ensure coordination with the Fellowship Incentive Program. 
  • DSP reviews grant applications only for completion and formatting, not content or clarity of writing style; therefore, DSP routing is not a substitute for feedback from a fellowships advisor.

I’m a previous winner, reviewer, or mentor who would like to be a Community Contact.  How can I have my name added to the list?

  • Filling out this Qualtrics form will let you send us your contact information and the ways in which you would like to be involved. If you have additional questions, please contact Thank you for your willingness to share your expertise!

How much time does it take to write an application for this fellowship?

  • Longer than you may think!  Even though the AAUW narratives are only 300 to 700 words each, shorter applications are often the most challenging because every word is valuable in such limited space.  Writing for a reviewer who isn’t a specialist in your topic (and who will be reading about you and your project for the first time) is a distinct challenge compared to writing for an all-specialist audience (such as a journal, your advisor, and other people in your research group). 
  • The specific amount of time varies, but you should allow ample time for:
    • Brainstorming on your own and with others
    • Contacting prospective reference writers to see if they’re willing to write a strong, positive letter for you
    • Drafting an outline
    • Writing the first draft
    • Revising the draft to where you are comfortable having others read it
    • Getting feedback from specialist readers (e.g., your advisor, other people in your research group) and non-specialist readers (e.g., fellowships advisors, other trusted friends/family/mentors)
    • Making revisions, final editing
    • Sending final or near-final versions of your materials to your reference writers
    • Submitting to the funding agency (NOT at the last minute)

How can I find other fellowship opportunities?

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