This post focuses on application strategies for pre-doctoral students and graduate student applicants to apply for three years of funding from the Ford Foundation through The National Academies of Sciences.
What to Know About the Ford Foundation Fellowship
Since 1936 The Ford Foundation, created by members of the Ford family, has turned what started as a $25,000 endowment into an international philanthropic organization that has contributed to key moments in the history of social justice. In line with the founding mission, to invest in “scientific, educational, and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare,” the Foundation has contributed to organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Native American Rights Fund, the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Rights, and educational programs like Head Start.
Though most of the Foundation’s funds go to large organizations, the Foundation does award individual scholarships to those who pursue research-based PhD programs in a number of fields. By funding students at the pre-doctoral and dissertation stages of their degrees, The Ford Fellowship Program seeks to increase faculty diversity, as well as the educational benefits of diversity at American colleges and universities.
The Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowships for Achieving Excellence in College and University Teaching provides the following for three years during the early stages of a Ford Fellow’s research-based (dissertation required) PhD program:
- An annual stipend of $27,000 for three years of full-time graduate study
- Attendance at the Annual Conference of Ford Fellows
- Access to the Ford Fellow Regional Liaisons, a network of former Ford Fellows who have agreed to mentor and support current Fellows
Ford Foundation Fellowship Eligibility
Those seeking the Ford Fellowship must show commitment to diversity by demonstrating activities in one or more of several facets of the Foundation’s mission to build a more inclusive American university system. Through past work, research projects, and volunteer experiences, as well as the personal statement, Ford Fellow candidates must demonstrate a desire to contribute to the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by:
- Increasing the ethnic and racial diversity of university faculty
- Maximizing the educational benefits of diversity
- Increasing the number of professors who use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students
Important Ford Foundation Fellowship Deadlines
The Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Application includes two separate deadlines for required application materials.
By December 17, 2020 students must submit:
- An online form including personal information, educational background, a list of honors and awards, and employment
- A personal statement
- A statement of previous research and scholarly productivity
- A proposed plan of graduate study and research, and the applicant’s long-range career goals
- The names and contact information of 3-5 individuals who will upload a letter of recommendation on the applicant’s behalf by January 7, 2021
By January 7, 2021 candidates must upload the following supplemental materials:
- 3-5 letters of recommendations
- Official undergraduate transcripts
- Official graduate transcripts (if already enrolled)
- Verification of Doctoral Degree Status, signed by advisor (if already enrolled)
There is no need to wait until you are accepted to graduate school to apply for this award. Due to the similarity of some required statements for graduate school, like the proposed plan of graduate study, applicants should consider applying for the Ford Fellowship as they are working on graduate school application materials. In fact, because the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship is a three-year award that supports students who have not yet advanced to candidacy, applying for Ford before you’ve gotten into a program is the best possible time for you to be eligible. Many university PhD programs encourage students to advance to candidacy within 2-3 years of entering, so unless you apply before you enter, or during the fall of your first year, one year of progress through the program will likely make you ineligible for this award.
How to Answer the Ford Foundation Fellowship Application Essay Prompts
Here are the three Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship application essay prompts, with my suggestions in blue.
1. Personal Statement: Describe your background, experience, and commitment to the goals of the Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs by addressing all of the following that apply:
- A capacity to respond in pedagogically productive ways to the learning needs of students from diverse backgrounds.
- Sustained personal engagement with communities that are currently underrepresented in the academy, and the ability to bring this asset to learning, teaching, and scholarship at the university or college level.
- A strong likelihood of using the diversity of human experience as an educational resource in teaching and scholarship.
- Membership in one or more of the following groups, whose underrepresentation in the American professoriate has been severe and longstanding.
i. Alaska Natives (Aleut, Eskimo, or other Indigenous People of Alaska)
ii. Black/African Americans
iii. Mexican Americans/Chicanas/Chicanos
iv. Native American Indians
v. Native Pacific Islanders (Hawaiian/Polynesian/Micronesian)
vi. Puerto Ricans
In comparison to the statements that you have already written for graduate school, this one will likely be the most different. You may be able to use some content from diversity statements that were optional addendums to your graduate applications for this statement. But keep in mind: this personal statement is central to your application, so you must put thought into how you address the Ford Foundation goals above. Many assume that the essential component of the application is to belong to one of the communities listed at the end of the prompt. However, belonging to one of these communities is not an eligibility requirement for the Ford Fellowship selection process. It is merely one of several of what the Foundation calls “positive factors for selection.”
Ideally, your personal statement will speak to all four of the Ford Foundation goals, not just the goal of maximizing representation through your embodied identity. You can demonstrate your commitment to these goals by sharing past experiences and ongoing commitments as a community member who responds in productive ways to people from diverse backgrounds. In what instances have you encountered diversity and responded to it with flexibility, constructive dialogue, and meaningful engagement? Have you had any experiences with political advocacy? Or been part of student groups who canvass for equal access to housing, food security, and technology at your college campus? Has your undergraduate experience involved teaching, or sharing resources with your peers? How do you see yourself “using the diversity of human experience as an educational resource” in the future? What does “learning” feel like for you, and how do you wish to encourage learning in others?
There is a lot to get through in this personal statement, but these kinds of statements are actually my favorites. This is your chance to imagine yourself acting from your own desires – not just to compete with the best of the best on the academic job market, but also to imagine your future as a person who connects with other people on a university campus. There aren’t many moments where you will be asked to reflect on this part of your graduate school training, but taking the time to do so now, and throughout your degree, will power you through all of the ups and downs.
2. Statement of Previous Research and Scholarly Productivity
This will likely be identical to any application materials for graduate school where you summarize your past experiences with research and your scholarship productivity, such as participation in conferences, publications, presentations, and archival work. Note that this section only asks for the applicant to refer to past experiences, not to those that are anticipated as part of the future of one’s graduate degree.
3. Proposed plan of graduate study, research, and the applicant’s long-range career goals.
Part of this statement will be very similar to the research statement you submit in your applications to graduate school. In what field are you planning to study, and why? How are you equipped to contribute to the field through graduate study? What are the broader academic implications of the research that you wish to produce?
However, The Ford Foundation is particularly interested in how your individual research concerns and your long-range career goals will provide a set of diverse resources in both teaching and scholarship. Therefore, you absolutely do not want to copy and paste your statement of research for graduate school admission into this section of the Ford Fellowship Application. Many graduate school research statement prompts only ask you to discuss your research goals. Here, it is essential that you take this opportunity to frame the value of your research contributions as content that will shape your long-range goals as a teacher, member of the university institution, and one-day administrator.
Secondly, your Ford audience is not a committee of field experts. So you’ll want to cut down on technical jargon and make sure that a more general audience will understand your research and why it matters. More importantly, in this statement, you have a chance to show how the content of your research and the person that you will bring to the classroom in the form of your research questions and areas of expertise will contribute to the university system as a whole.
How do you see yourself and your research as contributions to American society and the university institution? How do you view your role as a professor as a role who will contribute to the Ford Foundation’s primary missions and goals?
Get Help with Your PhD Application From an Accepted Admissions Expert
When you write grant applications for organizations like the Ford Foundation, it is incredibly important to show how your research, future impact, and personal qualities align themselves with the Foundation’s mission. Learning how to share your goals with multiple audiences is the key to proving that your research is worth doing – work one-on-one with an Accepted advisor now to get started on your application and get funded! Graduate funding
Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines. ***Want Rebecca to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Choosing the Best PhD Program, a free guide
• PhD Applicants: What Are Your Goals?
• Different Dimensions of Diversity, a podcast episode