Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Since 2018, University of Iowa (UI) International Programs, the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), and the UI Graduate College have sponsored a two-week seminar for arts, humanities, and social sciences graduate students to improve their grant writing skills when applying for competitive grants.

When compared to their peers in the hard sciences, arts, humanities, and social sciences students have fewer grants available to them. PhD students in the natural and mathematical sciences who are pursuing the Fulbright or grants for humanistic research are also invited to apply.

Students selected for the seminar receive a stipend of $250 upon completion; many previous attendees have gone on to win Fulbright, Mellon, UI Stanley Awards for International Research, and other highly prestigious awards. 

The seminar, which takes place in May immediately following finals week, is taught by UI faculty with strong track records of winning grants. Seminar participants are introduced to a variety of grants through presentations by Associate Director of International Fellowships Karen Wachsmuth, Assistant Dean of the Graduate College Jennifer Teitle, and other UI grant writing specialists. 

“This seminar is invaluable as it prepares students for their future professional pursuits which will most certainly require strong grant writing skills,” said Wachsmuth. “A successful grant application demands a different type of writing than an academic paper or thesis. This year’s faculty leaders, Art History Professor Brenda Longfellow and Professor Brady G’sell from the UI Departments of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, will share their outstanding expertise in this area.” 

“We’ve seen some results in this seminar that are nothing short of stunning. Based on feedback from previous students, it’s an intense experience but high-yield and rewarding.” 

The concept of the seminar originated with former History Professor Jennifer Sessions, who benefited from a similar summer program. Professor Sessions and Professor Erica Prussing from the UI Department of Anthropology jointly developed the curriculum. 

Ebenezer Adeyemi standing on boat
Ebenezer Adeyemi conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Makoko, a large government marginalized informal settlement in Lagos State, Nigeria

Ebenezer Adeyemi, PhD student and teaching assistant in the UI Department of Anthropology, completed the seminar in 2022. He was subsequently awarded a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant by the Wenner-Gren Foundation to explore how residents of Makoko, a large, government-marginalized shack community in Nigeria, develop infrastructure, including makeshift clinics, to manage malaria. 

“Receiving this grant allowed me to travel to Nigeria to conduct my dissertation fieldwork,” said Adeyemi. “It significantly enhanced my goal of completing a PhD in anthropology and becoming a successful African anthropologist.” 

Adeyemi worked closely with his faculty advisor, and others, including Freda Lynn, former seminar instructor and associate professor of sociology and criminology, who gave him multiple rounds of feedback.

“The seminar is mostly structured as an intensive writing workshop,” said Lynn. “We also discuss the business and art of grant writing, and the seminar helps connect students with key grant writing resources on campus.” 

Caleb Klipowicz, a doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology who completed the seminar in 2019, received funding from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities to study how people from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who face significant health and social problems, are building community organizations across the United States. 

“We learned how to frame and think about grant writing as a genre different from our normal training in graduate school,” said Klipowicz. “We compared and discussed other previously accepted grants. And, perhaps most importantly, we were able to work in small groups to give feedback on each other’s working drafts.” 

Both Adeyemi and Klipowicz acknowledged the valuable support provided to them by UI faculty and staff, from those that taught the seminar, to their advisors, committee members, and UI International Programs, Graduate Student Success Center, and Iowa Social Science Research Center staff. 

“My top advice would be to start early,” offered Klipowicz. “I’d also suggest sharing drafts with other people as often as possible." 

“We’ve seen some results in this seminar that are nothing short of stunning,” said Lynn. “Based on feedback from previous students, it’s an intense experience but high-yield and rewarding.” 

CLAS typically sends out a call for applications in the spring. This year, the deadline to apply is Friday, April 7.

Graduate students who go on to work with a UI staff member on draft review while applying for a Fulbright or other national award are also eligible to receive a $400 UI Graduate College Fellowship Incentive Program stipend to cover associated fees. 


For more information, please visit the Grant and Fellowship Writing Seminar website.


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.