How To Apply For Visiting Fellowships in the USA

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Serving as a visiting fellow can help to enhance your CV and show a greater international reputation in your quest to enhance your career opportunities. The prospect of working abroad can be exciting. A popular destination for many academics seeking visiting appointments is the USA – an understandable phenomenon, based on the large number of universities and the vast array of subjects taught and studied at all academic levels. Yet before applying for a visiting fellowship, one will be confronted with a vast and bewildering array of options.

Fellowships with limited stipend

Some fellowships are non-stipendiary or have a limited stipend. For these opportunities, hard calculations will need to be made as to whether you can afford to subsidise your fellowship for the allotted time. Indeed, some universities may even levy a charge for the position of a visiting fellowship. External funding is available, although recent austerity measures have meant that a reduction in available capital has made access to money more difficult. Moreover, for those already in employment in a UK university, a major question that would need to be addressed before applying is whether your employer would be willing to grant sabbatical leave. If so, will they continue to pay your salary for the duration of your fellowship?

Externally-funded fellowships

For externally-funded fellowships, in most cases, securing a university as a host institution remains the responsibility of the applicant. In this instance, once a place is secured, scholars would be required to include a letter of invitation from the host institution in their application materials.

  • The Fulbright Commission

The Fulbright Commission is one such organisation that provides funding for visiting fellowships across all disciplines at US universities. However, competition is stiff. The competition is open to academics across 55 countries, with 800 places awarded annually. Those considering an application using this route would need to apply to the UK-based Fulbright office (or the office of your particular citizenship), and check the eligibility criteria carefully on the Fulbright Commission’s website.

  • The Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF)

The Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF), again provided by the Fulbright Commission, provides funding for US universities to invite visiting scholars (who are already in the US) from their host institution to give a series of lectures on their topic of expertise. The statistics and mission statement from the Fulbright Commission state that the priority areas for such funding at present include “Minority Serving Institutions, Community Colleges, Small Liberal Arts Colleges, Women’s Colleges and Art Colleges, and geographically underrepresented institutions.”[1]

Institution-funded fellowships

  • The Andrew W Mellon Fellowship

For fellowships attached to particular institutions, the Andrew W Mellon Fellowship, provided by a foundation of the same name, is attached to Stanford University. This is possibly one of the most prestigious postdoctoral prizes available for humanities scholars. These are offered initially for a two-year term, with a possibility of renewal for a third year. Preference is normally given to those who obtained their PhD within the last three years. Successful applicants will be required to teach two courses per year, but the focus of the fellowship would be to concentrate on research and to build a strong publications profile.

Don’t forget…

  • Use online resources

While these can be useful, there are also other areas where fellowships can be found. A search on major internet search engines using the keywords relating to the fellowship you are applying for can often link you directly to universities that are seeking visiting scholars or postdoctoral fellows. Furthermore, mailing lists connected to certain research areas can often be used as a forum for circulating job advertisements as well as providing a forum for discussion. It would be worth bearing in mind the idea of joining some of the major learned societies in your field – they will most likely host conferences and have their own mailing list. This can be a good place to learn of upcoming opportunities.

  • Remember to be practical

Aside from the academic issues surrounding such applications, there are also the practical issues to consider. Where you will live, and what paperwork is required to meet the residency and immigration requirements are just two of many aspects that you will need to consider before you get ‘on the ground’. For Fulbright award holders, practical advice, including finding housing and providing help with settling into your new surroundings is provided by the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (CIES).

  • Covering your medical expenses

Another aspect that will need consideration is medical coverage for you and any accompanying spouse and/or dependents. Normal travel insurance will not be valid for the duration of a fellowship, and enquiries would need to be made with health care providers that permit coverage for academic visitors. Limited health care is available through organisations such as Seven Corners,

For fellowships that do not provide this level of support (and thus require you to do all the administrative paperwork yourself), a detailed reading of the guidance on the United States Homeland Security website would be required to ensure that all paperwork is prepared correctly. Universities that have agreed to host applicants would issue a formal invitation letter to satisfy the immigration application requirements, but there may be several other documents required, depending on your circumstances.

The process of applying for a visiting fellowship can be long and complicated. However, preparing well in advance, thoroughly researching the options and being open to several possibilities will broaden your horizons and open up a wealth of opportunities. Good luck! 

[1] (accessed 6 September, 2016)

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