Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

The College Fund’s doctoral dissertation fellowships support tribal college and university (TCU) faculty in the final stage of their doctoral program with a one-year award to complete their dissertation and requirements for graduation. The aim of the program is to increase the number of TCU faculty members with a doctorate, thus supporting faculty members’ own educational goals, strengthening TCU academic programs, and cultivating TCU and community leaders.

The College Fund offers two doctoral dissertation fellowships:

  • The College Fund Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is funded by the College Fund and supports faculty pursuing a doctorate in any field.
  • The STEM Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship was created with funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The fellowship supports faculty pursuing a doctorate in the sciences, technology, engineering, or math.

Each fellowship provides up to $20,000 in funding over one year. Funding is typically used for tuition and fees, research-related expenses, dissertation writing support, and other costs related to completing the requirements for your degree.

There is single application for both fellowships. That is, applicants who qualify for both fellowships need to complete only one application and will be considered for both. Fellowships are highly competitive.


Applicants must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be a current faculty member teaching at an accredited TCU that is a “regular” member of AIHEC. For fellowships, the definition of faculty member includes full-time faculty, as well as adjunct instructors (including TCU staff and administrators) who teach at least one course regularly. Priority is given to full-time faculty members and long-time adjunct instructors who regularly teach more than one course.
  • Be actively enrolled in an accredited doctoral degree program.
  • Have completed doctoral coursework, have been advanced to doctoral candidacy, and will be considered “All But Dissertation” (ABD) by the start of the one-year fellowship period.
  • Have a detailed plan to complete all requirements for graduation within one year of being awarded the fellowship.
  • Have approval from their TCU administrators to take sufficient leave time to complete their doctoral degree within one year of being awarded the fellowship. A full sabbatical is not required; however, applicants must negotiate flex time or release from their usual teaching and administrative duties prior to beginning the fellowship program.

Requirements for Accepted Awards

Individuals who are awarded funds will be required to do the following:

  • Agree to continue teaching as a faculty member at a TCU for at least two years after completion of their doctoral degree.
  • Complete their dissertation and be conferred their degree within one year of starting the fellowship.
  • Authorize regular progress reports and communication between their advisor (or other contact person in their doctoral program) and the College Fund’s Faculty Development Program Officer.
  • Designate a senior faculty member, such as a dissertation chair or committee member, to provide academic support throughout the fellowship year.
  • Agree to allow the College Fund access to their enrollment and degree attainment information through the National Student Clearinghouse database.
  • Maintain regular contact with the College Fund’s Faculty Development Program Officer for the one year during and two years after completion of the doctoral degree.

Application Checklist

Applicants must submit the following documents and information to receive full consideration during the committee review process. Please read the instructions for each document in the application portal before applying.

  • Application form, which includes applicant information and a signed commitment to teach at a TCU for two years after graduation
  • Personal statement
  • CV (including a description of faculty responsibilities)
  • Certification of advancement to doctoral candidacy
  • Graduate transcripts
  • Completed dissertation proposal and certification of approval
  • Detailed timeline outlining your plan to complete all requirements for graduation within one year of being awarded the fellowship
  • First letter of recommendation from the TCU president indicating support for release time or flex time to complete your degree within one year
  • Second letter of recommendation from TCU academic dean or your departmental chair discussing how your doctoral work and degree will impact the institution and its academic programs
  • Third letter from your dissertation advisor or mentor that speaks to the importance of your research and your ability to complete a doctorate within one year of the start of the fellowship
  • An optional fourth letter from a senior academic mentor discussing the value of your research and potential contributions to tribal communities

Selection Process

Fellowship applications are evaluated and ranked by a committee of scholars from a variety of academic disciplines. The reviewers evaluate applications using the following criteria:

  • Academic record and competence demonstrated in the application
  • Capability of applicant to complete degree within the one-year time frame
  • Potential of applicant’s doctoral achievement and research to strengthen teaching, curriculum, program development, research, and leadership at the TCU
  • Demonstrated commitment of applicant to American Indian/Alaska Native higher education and scholarship at tribal colleges
  • Level of engagement with the TCU (e.g., length of time teaching, number of courses taught, future plans)
  • Demonstrated respectful engagement with communities served by the TCU

Application Deadline

The spring 2024 application window is now open for fellowships that will begin in the summer or fall of 2024. If you qualify for both doctoral dissertation fellowships, only one application is required and you will be considered for both. We are accepting applications through 4:00 pm PT on Friday, March 29, 2024 . All application materials must be uploaded by that time, including your recommendation letters. 

If you qualify for a STEM fellowship, you may be able to apply early and receive an early review. Please contact Heidi Normandin for more information. 

Click on the link below to be taken to our application portal. After creating an account (or logging in to your existing account), you will find further information about each required document and instructions for the people writing your recommendation letters. 

If you have any questions or technical difficulties, contact Heidi Normandin, Faculty Development Program Officer, at