Frequently Asked Questions for Fellowships

What is a fellowship?
A fellowship is funding that is paid directly by an external funder to a faculty member of Saint Mary’s College. Fellowship applications are typically made directly by the faculty member to the sponsoring organization.  

Am I eligible to apply for a fellowship?
Eligibility requirements vary from fellowship to fellowship.  For some, both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals may apply.  Others have limitations that may include U.S. citizenship, time in career (e.g. pre-tenure), or a specific disciplinary focus.  Check eligibility guidelines carefully.  If you need help determining eligibility requirements, please consult with the Office of Research for assistance.

How do I find fellowships?
The Office of Research Fellowships and Sabbatical Support page lists a number of fellowships that are specifically selected for Saint Mary's faculty.  There are more fellowships listed in the SPIN funding database.  Visit the database and do some basic text searches.  Note that if you are off-site, you’ll need to create an account through Saint Mary’s institutional subscription.

How do I determine what the fellowship sponsor is really interested in funding?
Beyond reading the guidelines carefully, review previous lists of funded projects.  Read posted sample applications.  Review program FAQs. See the lists of “what we fund” and “what we do not fund.” You may also write directly to previous awardees and ask that they share their applications with you.  When you can’t find your answer through any of these means, e-mail the program officer.

When is it worth it to spend my time applying for a fellowship versus not worth it?
If the fellowship or grant would support a project or direction that you are already deeply interested in pursuing but do not have the resources to pursue;
If that work would take you in a direction you want to go with your research trajectory;
If your project has a strong alignment with the funder’s guidelines, then:
It is worth it to spend your time on preparing the application.

Whom should I ask for letters of reference?  I heard I shouldn’t ask my graduate advisor. What is your advice on strategy?
You might ask colleagues who know your work from having presented with you at conferences, editors who've published your work, favorable reviewers from past experience. Department colleagues and chairs are also good. A senior colleague in the field whom you might be connected to in some other way could also work.

Do I submit my fellowship application through the Office of Research?  
No, you do not. Faculty apply directly to the awarding organization. We ask that faculty notify their dean and the director of the Office of Research so we may track applications as faculty accomplishments. Faculty are also asked to notify their department chairs.

How does the Office of Research assist faculty with fellowship applications?
The Office of Research notifies faculty of fellowship opportunities and provides advice on preparing applications.

Do you offer editing or proofreading services?
The Office of Research does not provide editing services. We advise faculty to identify readers from within their networks during the proposal planning phase. Be sure to give them a week to turn around comments on your draft.

What is your general advice on applying for a fellowship?
● The technical application process is often less straightforward than applicants anticipate.  Do not leave it to the last minute to figure out!  Set aside time to familiarize yourself with the technical process, including a practice submission. Apply early so you have time to mitigate unforeseen issues.
● Send your letter requests early, and give your letter-writers a date that is several days ahead of the final deadline.
● Invest time and effort in your project activities section—the how of your application. It can be more tedious to write than the why and what, so it gets short-changed. However, a strong action plan is essential to a competitive application.
● Identify proposal reviewers and line them up so they are ready to read a draft when you have it.
● Review previous awards lists thoroughly; they are the best indication of what the organization is most interested in supporting.

What is the process for taking leave if I am awarded a fellowship?
Fellowship recipients who plan to take leave for a full term should apply for a scholarly leave of absence. The guidelines are in the faculty handbook.* Fellowship recipients who plan to take less than a full term would take leave at the per-course rate, which is a percentage of salary. Both options would require the support of the faculty member’s department/chair, dean, and provost.  Faculty who have questions about faculty contracts should contact the director of faculty compensation in the provost’s office.
*See Scholarly Leave of Absence in Saint Mary's College of California (2019) Faculty Handbook: Vol. 2019.  Available at:

Who should I ask about organizing time away from the classroom, scholarly leave and benefits, and fellowship stipends?
Direct your questions to the Director of Faculty Compensation, Ann Kelly, at and your school dean. They can advise you in planning how your fellowship can be scheduled and options for compensation.

What questions should I ask about compensation, benefits, and course load during a fellowship?
Sit down with Ann Kelly, Director of Faculty Compensation, to plan how the fellowship will affect your particular situation.  She will help you to look at the period from July through June in the fellowship year.

Topics you might discuss include:
● How to schedule your load or plan a reduction in load during the fellowship period
● How to retain benefits during a fellowship period 
● How to plan for compensation
● How the fellowship could work during a sabbatical year

Does the Office of Research support applications by Saint Mary's students for external funding?
The Office of Research supports faculty and staff applications only.  Saint Mary’s resource for graduate students is the Graduate & Professional Student Development Fund. The resource for undergraduate students is the Student Research & Development Grants Fund.

How do I help a graduate student advisee to find funding for a thesis?
Here are recommendations to share with your graduate advisees:
● The best place to look for fellowship funding for a thesis is your professional association(s).
● The Office of Research Fellowships page, while designed for faculty applicants, may include some opportunities that would be appropriate for graduate students.

What if I want to apply for a grant?
For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions for Grants page.