Cynthia Verba

Cynthia Verba, Director of Fellowships

1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center 350
telephone: 617-495-1814

The Fellowships Office, provides a range of services to assist graduate students in their search for fellowship funding and advice on professional development. Individual counseling is the centerpiece of fellowship and professional development services. For an appointment, phone 617-495-1814. Note: this service is available only to students and alumni/ae of Harvard's GSAS.

Fellowship advice includes

  • Feedback on drafts of fellowship proposals
  • Strategies for clearly articulating the significance of the fellowship project
  • Strategies for reaching a broader audience
  • Identifying appropriate fellowship opportunities
  • Getting effective letters of recommendation and faculty advice

Professional development advice deals with the following

  • Defining goals at the various stages of the doctoral program
  • Finishing the dissertation in a timely fashion
  • Delivering papers at professional meetings, and submitting articles to journals or book manuscripts to publishers


Advice in written form

Scholarly Pursuits: A Guide to Professional Development During the Graduate Years by Fellowships Director, Cynthia Verba. It is also available in paper to GSAS students and alumni/ae free of charge in the GSAS Dean's Office. It includes:

  • samples of winning fellowship proposals, including examples of pre-dissertation and dissertation proposals
  • samples of fellowship biographical essays
  • a discussion of the student/faculty advising relationship
  • a discussion of setting goals at the various stages of the doctoral program and proceeding through the program in a timely fashion
  • samples of curriculum vitae, résumés, and cover letters
  • a discussion of the minority experience in the doctoral program
  • a discussion of combining personal life and professional life
  • a chapter on publishing work


What You Can Do to Prepare for a Counseling Session on Your Fellowship Proposal

  • Prepare a draft of your proposal as early as possible. You should consult the written advice on proposal-writing and examine samples of winning fellowship proposals in the GSAS publication Scholarly Pursuits.
  • Throughout the process, consult faculty advisors and possibly seek advice from specialists in the field outside of Harvard.
  • Attend grantsmanship workshops offered in the Professional Development Series. For dates, topics, and other information on fellowships, watch the Fellowships column in the GSAS Bulletin.

A graduate student who recently used the services of the Fellowships Office reported that they nicely complemented the specialized advice she was getting from her dissertation advisor. She found that it was helpful to get feedback from someone outside of the field, since selection committee members may come from a range of fields. The student also felt much freer to make multiple appointments to get feedback from the Fellowships Office, since this is precisely the kind of service that the Office provides.


GSAS Fellowship Publications

Scholarly Pursuits: A Guide to Professional Development During the Graduate Years by Cynthia Verba, offers advice on all aspects of professional development in preparation for an academic career and for enhancing PhD career opportunities more generally. It also includes samples of winning fellowship proposals, as well as CVs and cover letters for job applications.

The Graduate Guide to Grants, an interactive database  with a comprehensive list of fellowships and grants for graduate students. In addition to providing updated information on an ongoing basis, the database assists in identifying fellowship opportunities with some of the following search criteria: citizenship requirements, stage of graduate study, research abroad, fellowship deadlines organized by month, and many others.

The Harvard Guide to Postdoctoral Fellowships, interactive database that provides comprehensive search tools for postdoctoral fellowships.

Harvard Fellowships provides descriptions and applications for some of the major GSAS fellowship competitions.


Professional Development Seminars

The Fellowships Office offers a series of seminars, featuring guest speakers and covering some of the topics covered in individual counseling: how to write a polished fellowship proposal; how to get published, with an editor from the Harvard University Press as one of the speakers; tips for surviving the dissertation-how to choose a dissertation topic, strategies for the research stage, strategies for keeping momentum going in the writing stage and finishing in a timely fashion. View all currently scheduled professional development events.


Fellowship Workshops Offered On-Site for Individual Departments

GSAS students or department administrators have arranged for the Director of Fellowships to come to individual departments to offer informational fellowships seminars. This allows the discussion to be more focused on the fellowship questions and needs of particular disciplines. To arrange a meeting, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 617-495-1814.


Timing of Fellowship Applications

Most fellowships must be applied for approximately one year before support is needed. Many fellowship deadlines occur during the fall of the previous year. For example, Fulbright applications have an October deadline. (Fellowship tenure roughly coincides with the academic calendar.)

This means that it is essential to plan ahead, both in terms of identifying fellowship opportunities and in thinking about the application process. To overcome the difficulty of writing a proposal so far in advance, it is important to keep in mind that a proposal is a projection of what you expect to accomplish in the future, offering sufficient reason for why your plans are promising, rather than a statement with definitive conclusions. Many students find that the summer is a good time to prepare for the application process since life slows down a bit, and since deadlines, as noted, often occur in early fall.


Fellowship Highlights: A Reminder to First-Year Graduate Students

There are several fellowships available to students who are at or near the beginning of graduate study. They normally require US citizenship or permanent residence status, and many of these have a deadline in early Fall. Application forms in most cases are online and can be downloaded.  Examples are the Javits, the NSF, the Hertz, and the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowships (Predoctoral).  For details and a more complete list of early fellowships, see Fellowships for 1st and 2nd Year of Graduate Study.

If you have applied for any of the above fellowships in the past and have failed to win one, fellowship counseling can give you a better chance of winning on the second try-several students have done so.


Fulbrights and Other Traveling Fellowships

The Fellowships Office also administers the major Fulbright competitions; GSAS students must apply for Fulbrights through this Office. To be eligible you must be a US citizen (or in the case of Fulbright-Hays, a permanent resident). All eligible students who need to do research abroad should be sure to apply for a Fulbright; Harvard GSAS students have a good winning record for these highly prestigious fellowships, and they are no harder to win than internal Harvard traveling fellowships (which you may apply for as well). Be aware that deadlines occur in early October.

For full information on the GSAS application process please see Fulbrights. The major internal traveling fellowships are the Kennedy, Knox, and Sheldon; the Lurcy supports research/study in France.  For full descriptions, see Harvard Fellowships.
Traveling scholars will also want to be sure to make use of two special Harvard resources:

  • Harvard research centers devoted to area studies: Collectively, the centers play host to scholars from all over the globe. They normally offer seminars and related activities open to members of the community. Students often find they have the opportunity to meet scholars from the very countries that are their research destinations. This, in turn, can help to strengthen the fellowship application.
  • Harvard language departments are invaluable for the languages required for research abroad. They also provide language evaluations required by Fulbright and other traveling fellowships (even for those who have not enrolled in language study at Harvard).


Applying for Harvard Fellowships Where Department Nominations are Required

Many GSAS fellowship competitions require department nomination. It is important for students to realize that THEY must begin the process by applying to the department for their own nomination. Be sure to find out the department application deadline for any competition where department nomination is required and start that process. Don't wait for someone else to anticipate your interest or need.


Fellowship Winners, 2015-2016

Download a list of winners of GSAS-administered fellowship competitions.