The University of Iowa

Ford Fellowship Community

    Fellowships Community events for Fall 2020:

    • Upcoming: Ford Foundation Fellowships Overview Webinar with the Grad Success Office and Ford Foundation Program Officer Christine O'Brien (Thursday, August 27, 2020 from 2 - 3 PM Central; register in advance here)
    • On-going: individual advising and writing feedback appointments for graduate students and undergraduates


    Fall 2020 Overview

    The Ford Foundation provides two major fellowships for graduate students who are committed to college or university teaching careers and will use diversity as a resource to enrich students’ education.  The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship provides 3 years of stipend support ($27,000 per year) for Ph.D. or Sc.D. students who are relatively early in their programs (at least 3 years remaining in program by the funding start date).  The Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship provides a $28,000 stipend for your final dissertation completion year in an eligible Ph.D. or Sc.D. program.  University of Iowa graduate students applicants are also eligible for the 2020-2021 cycle of this Fellowship Incentive Program ($400 for applying if feedback from a faculty advisor and fellowships advisor is obtained before submitting to the Ford Foundation--full details on webpage).

    • Official Homepage: 
    • Deadlines:  The next deadlines are December 10, 2020 for the Dissertation Fellowship and December 17, 2020 for the Predoctoral Fellowship.  (Supplementary materials for both fellowships are due January 7, 2021.)
      • Funding begins 1 year after the application deadline; for example, you must submit your application for the Dissertation Fellowship at the start of your second-to-last year.


    Eligibility and Key Components
    Resources for Applicants (Including Writing Feedback)
    Resources for Letter Writers
    Community Contacts
    Media Coverage

    ELIGIBILITY AND Key Components

    Eligibility:  Official Ford Foundation fellowship information is fully described on the organization website.  Briefly, eligibility criteria include:

    • Both Predoctoral and Dissertation:
      • Must be pursuing a Ph.D. or Sc.D. degree in an eligible field of study (full list from the Ford Foundation.)
        • Eligible disciplines are quite broad, including most fields in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, Humanities, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences. 
        • Situationally eligible fields:
          • Education-related Ph.D. programs (research-based with a dissertation) can be eligible; please contact the Ford Fellowships program to confirm your specific graduate program's eligibility.  (Ed.D. students are not eligible.)
          • The following fields are eligible if you "can document that the program of study is research-based, requiring a dissertation, and [you plan] to follow a career in teaching and research in academia:"
            • "administration, audiology, business, consumer studies, curriculum development, human resource management, exercise physiology, filmmaking, fine arts, guidance, kinesiology, leadership, library and information science, management, nursing, occupational health, performing arts, personnel, physical education, physical therapy, public health, rehabilitation science, social welfare, social work, speech pathology, and teacher education."
        • Ineligible degree programs include: dual-degree programs (such as MD/PhD); terminal master's degrees; EdD., DFA., PsyD.; professional degrees (medicine, law, public health)
        • Please contact the Ford Foundation directly if you have questions about your field’s eligibility.
      • Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident; holder of political asylum; refugee; recipient of DACA status; or a Canadian-born Indigenous individual exercising rights from the Jay Treaty of 1794
      • Must be “committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level”
    • Predoctoral Fellowship:  For the Fall 2020 deadline, you must have at least 3 years of your program left to complete as of Fall 2021 (open to both currently enrolled Ph.D. students and applicants who plan to enroll in a Ph.D. program starting no later than Fall 2021.)
    • Dissertation Fellowship: For Fall 2020 applications, you must finish your dissertation during the 2021-2022 academic year (i.e., submit the application at the start of your second-to-last year). 

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

    • BOTH Predoctoral & Dissertation Fellowships: Personal Statement (2 pages, double-spaced)
      • Required topics include your:
        • “capacity to respond in pedagogically productive ways to the learning needs of students from diverse backgrounds”
        • “sustained personal engagement with communities that are underrepresented in the academy and ability to bring this asset to learning, teaching, and scholarship at the college or university level”
        • “likelihood of using the diversity of human experience as an educational resource in teaching and scholarship”
        • If applicable, your membership in a racial or ethnic group historically underrepresented among USA professors (Alaska Native, Black, Mexican American, Native American, Native Pacific Islander, Puerto Rican)
      • Optional but relevant topics can include topics such as:
        • Community service activities (e.g., tutoring, mentoring, public service, campus involvement, community involvement)
        • Additional context about your unique perspective (e.g., membership in another underrepresented group, first generation college student, first generation advanced degree student)
        • Other goals, employment, or activities demonstrating commitment to inclusive teaching and diversity
    • BOTH Predoctoral & Dissertation Fellowships: Statement of Previous Research and Scholarly Productivity (3 pages, double-spaced) with list of publications and presentations (included in page limit, can be single-spaced)
      • Predoctoral: (A) Describe any previous research (or activities that have prepared you to begin research), including context on the setting (course, internship, summer program, etc.), methods, and actual/expected results.  (B) List publications and presentations for the last 5 years.
      • Dissertation: (A) Describe (i) undergraduate research; (ii) your research to date in your graduate program (including dissertation progress); and (iii) the goals, methods, results, and impacts of your graduate research. (B) List publications and presentations for the last 5 years.
    • BOTH Predoctoral & Dissertation Fellowships: Contact information for at least 3 professors for recommendation letters (due January 7, 2021)
    • ONLY Predoctoral Fellowship: Proposed Plan of Graduate Study and Research & Long-Range Career Goals (2 pages, double-spaced)
      • Describe: (A) your area of study and the research issue of interest, (B) why your institution is well-suited to the field and type of study, (C) why your courses will be relevant to the overall plan of study/research, (D) research methods and theoretical framework, (E) how the research will be useful and how it relates to society as a whole, (F) explanation of your long-term career goals.
    • ONLY Dissertation Fellowship: Proposed Plan for Completion of Dissertation and timeline describing the applicant's long-range career goals (3 pages, double-spaced)
      • Describe: (A) your overall dissertation framework, (B) what research remains to be completed for the dissertation—including methods and data sources, (C) timeline for dissertation writing, (D) discussion of possible barriers to dissertation completion, (E) expected date of dissertation defense, (F) description of how your dissertation work will contribute to your career plans and your overall field of study.
    • ONLY Dissertation Fellowship: Abstract of Dissertation (1 page, double-spaced)
    • ONLY Dissertation Fellowship: Annotated Bibliography (no page limit, maximum of 2-4 sentences each for a maximum of 10 key sources—include both primary and secondary)

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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 you are applying for a Ford Foundation fellowship and none of the available online options work with your schedule, please contact us—we will do our best to find additional scheduling options.
    • Additional campus fellowship advisors are listed here.

    Incentive Programs:  Preparing a competitive application for a Ford Foundation Fellowship 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 this 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 the Ford Foundation can be eligible for a $400 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.

    Reference Letters: The best letters are from people who, collectively, will provide strong context on your activities relevant to the Ford review criteria: your research; your teaching; your service/engagement; and ways that a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion influences your scholarly and teaching activities.  Some resources to help you work with your recommenders are:

    • A fillable worksheet tailored for the Ford fellowships to organize key information that you can share with your advisor to help them write a more effective letter of recommendation. It 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 (while some content is specific to biomedical research, most advice is generalizable across all disciplines)


    • 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.

    Related and Unofficial Resources


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    Resources for Letter Writers

    Review Criteria and Reviewer Perspectives

    • Reviewers for the Ford Foundation fellowships evaluate applicants on their research, teaching, and outreach (relevant factors for Predoctoral and Dissertation fellowships.) To the degree that you have direct knowledge, ideally provide context about any or all of the following evaluation criteria:
      • academic achievements (past and future potential), ability to respond to the learning needs of diverse students, sustained engagement with communities underrepresented in academia (and ability to bring this engagement into their teaching/scholarship), likelihood of using the diversity of human experience as a resource in teaching/scholarship
    • The most helpful recommendation letters will include specific examples and details to establish and illustrate the student’s activities.
      • 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 publication opportunities”) to clearly state the reasons that the student is promising. 
      • Asserting that “this project is very original” is less persuasive than establishing the prior approach and then giving concise explanations of what is new about the approaches, subject matter, perspectives, etc. the applicant uses.

    Reference Letter Resources

    • Writing a Letter of Recommendation”, an extremely useful collection of advice from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (most advice is generalizable across broad 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.”

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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 you are applying for a Ford fellowship and none of the available online options work with your schedule, please contact us—we will do our best to find additional scheduling options.
    • Additional campus fellowship advisors are listed here.

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

    • Mo Payne (Graduate Student, Chemistry) – Honorable Mention (Predoctoral Fellowship, Dissertation Fellowship)
      • Student Q&A - email, meetings             
      • Feedback - General (overall impressions only, no written/typed comments)      
      • Feedback - Extensive (more extensive, may include written/typed comments)
      • Contact:

    For specific eligibility and submission questions, please contact the Ford Foundation through the official Ford Foundation fellowships homepage.

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    Media Coverage

    Read about previous University of Iowa graduate student winners and honorable mentions for Ford Foundation fellowships:

    • Juliana Quarterman, Pharmaceutics (Dissertation Honorable Mention, 2019) - overview
    • Kaitlyn Lindgren-Hansen, Religious Studies (Predoctoral Honorable Mention, 2019)
    • Elaina Aceves, Mathematics (Predoctoral Fellow, 2018) - news release
    • Maurice (Mo) Payne, Chemistry (Predoctoral Honorable Mention, 2016; Dissertation Honorable Mention, 2018) – overview 1 and 2
    • Ana Berrizbeitia, Mathematics (Predoctoral Honorable Mention, 2015)
    • Cristina Munoz, Geography (Predoctoral Honorable Mention, 2014) - overview
    • Heather Marie Robinson, Psychology (Predoctoral Honorable Mention, 2014)
    • Tony Orlando Pomales, Anthropology (Predoctoral Fellow, 2010; Dissertation Honorable Mention, 2014) - update

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    What do they mean by my “capacity to respond in pedagogically productive ways to the learning needs of students from diverse backgrounds”?

    • Pedagogy is the practice of teaching, so being “pedagogically productive” is essentially being an effective teacher.  Knowing whether your teaching is effective can be a much larger topic than simply grading weekly quizzes.  
    • Responding to “the learning needs of students from diverse backgrounds” means that you both (A) are aware of the ways in which various aspects of students’ backgrounds can impact their academic preparation, familiarity with unwritten rules of higher education, willingness to speak freely in class discussions, feelings of inclusion or exclusion, or other topics that affect the learning process and (B) use teaching strategies informed by this awareness.
    • Although this terminology may feel intimidating if this is your first time hearing it, the UI Center for Teaching’s resource collections about Inclusive Teaching and Diversity provides a good overview of terms for concepts and strategies you may already be using as a TA or instructor.  Although having prior experience teaching with responsive methods is best, demonstrating your preparation for teaching is also part of your “capacity to respond.”

      What’s the “annotated bibliography” required for the Dissertation Fellowship?

    • Annotated bibliographies (most common in Humanities—far less so in STEM fields) are essentially expanded reference sections with an additional 2-4 sentences of descriptive text for each citation summarizing the most key points of that source as it relates to your project.  Because the descriptions are a way to give more background context about your project, aim to include a range of references—introductory information, the need for the project, methods, key prior studies, feasibility.  However, each description should be primarily a summary of the source’s content—don’t treat it as a spill-over of your own project’s methods section.

    Do citations have to be included in the essay page limits?

    Does the list of presentations and publications have to be included in the 3 page limit for the Statement of Previous Research and Scholarly Productivity?

    • Yes.

    Can I apply if I’m not a member of one of the groups Ford lists as underrepresented (Alaska Native, Black, Mexican American, Native American, Native Pacific Islander, Puerto Rican)?

    • Yes.  From the Ford Fellowships FAQ:
      • “Membership in one or more of the groups listed in the selection criteria as those whose underrepresentation in the American professoriate has been severe and longstanding is just one of the several factors that will be considered as positive factors in choosing successful candidates. This factor is not a program eligibility requirement.”

    How do I even begin to write about so many topics in so short a page limit?!

    • Every word counts—“as well as” is comparable to “and,” “for the purpose of” can be a simple “to,” and so on. 
    • Think “concise” (a balance of brief yet specific)—writing only to be “brief” tends to omit details, while writing only to be “specific” risks getting too lengthy.
    • Don’t write in the same style as you would for a scholarly journal article or your thesis committee; avoid highly field-specific terminology (“jargon”) and focus on presenting the core ideas as clearly and concisely as possible.
    • STEM applicants: Do include a summary of your methods, but do not make the proposal entirely methodology.
    • Humanities applicants: You do need to include some context about your methods (what sources you’re using, if you need to visit particular archives, your conceptual framework).
    • Check for any sentences that are extremely general and could be equally applicable to almost any other applicant (e.g., “I’m strongly committed to university teaching”), and either omit them or make them more specific to your individual experiences/goals. 
    • Depending on your preferred writing style, some approaches to consider are:
      • Starting with 1 very specific sentence for each key required topic, then add in other key content as necessary to support the point
      • Start with an outline, convert each item to a complete sentence, and elaborate as needed/able
      • Write everything you want to include; first condense the phrasing, and then consider whether content needs to be cut
    • Try to minimize duplicate content across the essays; although the content can often overlap (e.g., long-term goals/research/teaching) and all aspects of you should feel like a coherent whole, try to present different aspects in different essays (e.g., essays with career goals still need to mention teaching, but the descriptions of how you personally teach might fit better in the Personal Statement).
    • Be strategic in what is most critical to highlight—have a balance of past, present, and future (not only a summary of your work up until this point).

    How much will my reviewers know about my research topic?

    • Both the Predoctoral and Dissertation fellowship pages specify that: “Not all reviewers will have specific technical expertise; therefore, applications should be written to provide informative detail without jargon and highly technical content.”  Therefore, your application should withstand an expert’s scrutiny yet still be understandable to a non-specialist reader.   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 an academic 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 Ford Foundation 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 a Ford Foundation 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 Ford Foundation?

    • No, though we encourage applicants to seek feedback from multiple readers within and outside their field of study.  The Graduate College can give writing feedback on your application (content, clarity, style, accessibility to a non-specialist reader); getting feedback from both a faculty advisor and a campus fellowships advisor is required if you wish to be later eligible for the graduate Fellowship Incentive Program (FIP).  However, this feedback is not required to submit an application to the Ford Foundation.

    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?

    • Yes, you are eligible for a $400 application incentive award if you get feedback from both your faculty advisor and a campus fellowships advisor before submitting the final materials to the Ford Foundation.   Read more about FIP here.

    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 writing style clarity; 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 Ford Foundation essays are only 2 to 3 pages double-spaced 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 also 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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