On September 13, 2001 Teresa M. Delcorso, from CHaSeR (Center for Humanities and Social Science Research) at Rutgers University, gave a Grants Workshop. Here are the minutes from that workshop.


Presented by Teresa M. Delcorso
CHaSeR (Center for Humanities and Social Science Research)
Rutgers University

These minutes, which were prepared by Alison Poe, follow the outline of the PowerPoint presentation, reproduced on one of the attached handouts.


CHaSeR, the Center for Humanities and Social Science Research, is part of the graduate school at Rutgers. The office helps graduate students to identify sources of external grants and to apply for those grants successfully.

CHaSeR contact information:
Phone: 932-2705;
Address: 25 Bishop Place, Room 301.

CHaSeR Web Site:
Provides links to the following:

  • Funding Assistant.

  • Database. Contains a very extensive list of funding sources, including small and obscure funders that are not included on commercial sites. The database is searchable; for our department, the keywords "art history" should bring up the relevant records. See attached handout for results of that search as of 9/2001. Dr. Puglisi will still keep mailings from funders in a folder in the department office, but the department will no longer distribute its annual list of potential funding sources, because all of the information should be available from CHaSeR. The department will add a link to the CHaSeR web site on its home page.

  • Services. Brief description of services offered by CHaSeR.

  • Workshop Schedule. Topics, dates, and times of workshops offered by CHaSeR. Notices of workshops posted about six weeks in advance.

  • RU Links.


  1. Know what you need and when it's needed. Always look 12-18 months ahead. All steps of this process take a lot of time. The earlier in your graduate career you consider your long-term plans, the more preparatory steps you will be able to take.

  2. Have a well-defined, well-researched topic. The preliminary research may very well need to include a short initial visit to the study site.

  3. Have a well-developed research plan. Realistically evaluate how much work you will need to do and how much time that work will take. Grant proposals will require a projected timetable, possibly even as explicit as "During the grant period, I plan to accomplish…." Have your advisor and other professors review your research plan. Don't overestimate how much research you can complete in a given period.

  4. Have valid preliminary information.

  5. Be prepared to look at all options. Include options outside of strictly art history grants: the SSRC, for example. In these applications, however, remember that you will be addressing an audience of non-specialists.


  • CHaSeR website:
    Again, a very extensive database of all types of potential funders.

  • Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP):
    Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Rutgers University.
    Among other things, oversees research on human subjects. All such research must first be submitted to and approved by the ORSP, including - important for modernists! - interviews with living artists and observation of performance artists. Failing to seek approval for research on human subjects can have serious consequences. The ORSP also deals with cases, rare for art historians, in which the university receives a grant on a student's behalf.

  • ORSP GrantNet:
    The ORSP website has a list of current grant opportunities as well, and although the majority may overlap with CHaSeR's list, it is always a good idea to check every resource.


  • When do you need the funding?

  • How long will you need the funding?

  • What do you need to fund?

Remember that things always take longer than expected, and try to consider all of the tasks that will consume your time. For travel grants, these tasks may include gaining access to research facilities, getting in touch with important contacts, and finding the books/journals/photographs/archive materials you need. For grants that fund the writing or finishing of the dissertation, take teaching obligations into account. Even if you think you'll finish your dissertation during the grant period, strongly consider applying for another year of funding, just in case. It's certainly better than realizing that you won't finish in time and have no funding for the next year!


Increasing numbers of funders are offering online applications. Some can be completed and submitted online; others have to be downloaded. A good number of funding sources still require typed applications, however. Both the departmental office and the CHaSeR office have typewriters that may be used to fill out grant applications.

  • CASVA:
    The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Washington, D.C. Probably the most competitive set of art history grants in the United States. Applicants must be nominated by the department. CASVA offers 10 categories of fellowships, some of which involve a year of travel only, while others involve one or two years of travel and one year of residency at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The latter are chiefly intended for graduate students with museum experience who plan to pursue curatorial careers. CASVA has also very recently instituted a new program of summer travel fellowships for Americanists. CASVA grants are highly desirable, not least because they afford the opportunity to forge important, lasting contacts in the field. The department has had successful candidates in the recent past. For more information on the individual grants and on the (grueling!) application process, consult the CASVA poster.

  • Kress Fellowships:
    Kress offers two types of fellowships, both extremely competitive.

    1. 10 grants each year to fund short-term travel for "specific, well-defined purposes" by graduate students who are already fairly far along in their dissertation research. Dr. Puglisi will check whether this travel must take place abroad or whether it can be within the U.S. The awards range from $1,000 to $5,000. As for the CASVA, candidates must be nominated by the department. The deadline for application to the department this year is October 2. The department has also had several successful applicants for Kress travel grants.

    2. 4 two-year fellowships each year to fund travel abroad in association with art history institutes in eight overseas cities.

  • Luce/ACLS:
    10 grants each year for a year of funding ($20,000) for Americanists only. These grants do not require departmental nomination. The deadline for applications for next year is November 15. The department has a current Luce grant holder. Consult the list of current grant winners and their dissertation topics to get a sense of the type of topics that are successful.

  • Getty Center Residential Grants:
    The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA selects a theme every year and solicits applications based on that theme. Dr. Puglisi believes that the themes for the upcoming years are "Biography" and "Marketplace," but she'll confirm. The grant winners spend a year in residence at the Getty. The candidate does not need to be nominated by the department. The application for next year is due November 1.

Consult Dr. Puglisi for more details on any of these grants. Please also inform Dr. Puglisi of all of your grant applications, even those that are rejected. The department will then have a better sense of the grants for which applicants need more assistance and preparation.


  • Fulbright:
    The Fulbright awards two types of grants.

    1. IIE grants:
      These grants provide funding for an academic year abroad in any foreign country with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations. Anyone with a B.A. or higher is eligible, but graduate students typically use IIE grants for dissertation research. Applicants must be U.S. citizens. Since applications are considered by country, the level of competitiveness varies; grants for western European countries, for example, are extremely competitive. The grant booklet contains statistics of the number of applicants and number of grants awarded each year. The application must be completed very early in the school year, usually mid-September, because it undergoes several stages of review. First, the candidate submits the application to the graduate school. David Pickens, the Assistant Dean of Special Projects at Rutgers, organizes a committee of Rutgers faculty members to review each application and interview each candidate. The graduate school then sends the application, along with the ranking given by the university committee, to the regional IIE office, which reviews the applications again. The IIE office in turn forwards the best applications to the host country, which makes the final decisions.

    2. The Hayes Grant:
      These grants, funded through the United States Department of Education, are intended for ABD graduate students who specialize in modern language and area studies and who need to travel to countries in the western hemisphere outside the U.S. and western Europe. The candidate must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Hayes grants are slightly less competitive. As for the IIE grant, the graduate school applies on the student's behalf.

    • Students who are even considering applying for a Fulbright in the future should focus now on improving their proficiency in the language of the host country. Fulbright applications require a language evaluation, usually completed by a faculty member in the relevant language department. Excellent speaking and reading skills are a prerequisite for the IIE and especially for the Hayes.

    • The Fulbright emphasizes the value of mutual cultural exchange and considers its grantees important cultural representatives of the United States. Do not propose an inflammatory topic or insult the host country in your proposal!

    • The department insists that you schedule a mock interview with departmental faculty members before going in front of the university committee for your Fulbright interview.

    • The department has an exceptionally good record of successful Fulbright applications. For example, graduate students from this department have received Fulbrights to Italy, a very competitive country, each year for the last six years.

  • AAUW:
    The American Association of University Women offers 51 finishing grants for women who are citizens of the United States and are in the final stages of writing their dissertation on any subject. Applicants should demonstrate the ability to finish during the tenure of the grant. The AAUW also awards one fellowship for international students who plan to return to their native country after completing their degree. Applicants for this fellowship do not need to be in the finishing stages of dissertation writing.

  • SSRC:
    The Social Sciences Research Council has two types of programs. Citizenship is not required for these grants.

    1. The Program in the Arts:
      The SSRC gives $16,000 for travel or any other purpose to students working in the arts whose research relates to social science, most often in modern eras. The program is very new and not well publicized and thus somewhat less competitive. The deadline falls sometime in March.

    2. International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship:
      This grant is open to all social science students as well as students working on closely related topics in other fields. There is intense competition for this grant (only 2-3% of applicants receive funding), and the application process is arduous. At least some of the SSRC committee members are seeking to increase the number of grantees working in fields other than social science, which may make art history applications more attractive.

    • For both SSRC grants, the review committee consists largely of social scientists, who are very concerned with the methodology of proposed projects. Applicants should write for a non-specialized audience and clearly outline their methodology as well as the bearing of the topic on the field of social science.

  • Ford Foundation Fellowships for Minority Students:
    Applicants must be members of a minority, as defined in the Ford Foundation information booklet, and citizens of the United States. The foundation seeks to produce strong minority scholars and weights both the personal narrative and the research proposal very heavily.


  • Start early

  • Do preliminary research

  • Do overseas research: Get time in the country and familiarity with the collection, archive, library, etc.

These topics have already been covered in "Before you begin to look for funding and writing the proposal."


Contact Program Officer:

  • The role of the Program Officer:

    • An information resource when you apply directly to the funder. Types of questions to ask: How many awards are being offered? About how many applicants do they anticipate? About how many art historians do they expect to fund? What is the composition of the review committee? Call well before the deadline, when the PO will be much less busy. Do not contact the Program Officer of CASVA, Kress, or any other funder that requires departmental nomination for a grant.

    • The PO will answer questions on the application process.

Key elements of the proposal:

  • Personal Statement (aka "Autobiographical statement")

    • What to include, what tone to use, key points: The statement should address only your intellectual development. What led you to art history? What were defining experiences? You might look back at your grad school application for what you wrote on these points. Most importantly, though, explain your development since entering grad school. Note special training (e.g. in languages, as a curatorial assistant, etc.). Explain how you took advantage of other grants. Expand upon lines on your CV which do not fully reflect your experiences. Include a couple of sentences about your future plans and how the grant will help you achieve your goals (of becoming, e.g., a professor or curator).

      • Make yourself memorable to the reviewer, who will be perusing hundreds of these personal statements. Allow your personality to shine through. Include a relevant anecdote, perhaps. Emphasize your passion for your field.

  • Proposal Narrative:
    Don't just send your dissertation proposal! Tailor it to the grant, develop it further, and add any progress you've made in the interim.

    • Introduction / Abstract:
      Don't underestimate the importance of the abstract! On the basis of that brief statement, sometimes as few as 25 words, the Program Officer may decide who will review your application. Sometimes, that reviewer will decide whether or not to read the whole proposal based on that abstract! For SSRC and other grants not specifically designed for art historians, specify that your topic is art-historical.

      • Do your abstract last, after you've written and reread your proposal. Make sure that it closely reflects that proposal. It's crucial to maintain consistency across all parts of the application.

    • Theoretical Rationale:
      What will be the theoretical framework of the project?

    • Literature Review:
      What literature is shaping/informing the project? Demonstrate your mastery of both traditional and cutting-edge scholarship on your topic and your familiarity with current debates. Remember to be diplomatic when criticizing the work of others: they may be on your review committee!

    • Methodology:
      Important, especially to certain funders, such as the SSRC.

    • Program plan:
      What is your plan of action/schedule? (See above, "Before you begin to look for funding and writing the proposal: Have a well-developed research plan.")

    • Dissemination:
      How will you maximize the impact of the project? How do you plan to share the results or to give people access to them? For art historians, dissemination might take the form of speaking at conferences, submitting articles for publication, or teaching classes on the subject.

    • Future funding:
      If the project will not be completed in the funding period, how do you plan to fund its continuation?

    • Conclusion:
      Don't leave the proposal hanging. Close with a conclusion.

  • Bibliography:

    • Follow a standard format. Ask the Program Officer what format the funder expects.

    • Carefully select the works cited.

    • Reviewers may be chosen from your bibliography. Again, be diplomatic in your proposal narrative and annotated bibliography about the work of other scholars, and be sure to represent that work accurately.

    • Include the cutting-edge literature. Demonstrate to any experts on the review committee that you are familiar with the most recent and innovative studies.

      • Some grant applications require an annotated bibliography. Before you draw up yours, look at examples by respected scholars in your field. Dr. Puglisi has photocopies of sample annotated bibliographies. The annotations allow you to expand upon issues raised in your literature review.

  • Budget:

    1. Be accurate and realistic about the items/services you will need and the costs associated with them. First, determine all of your needs, considering everything that will be necessary to get your work done:

      • Travel

      • Xeroxing

      • Postage

      • Personnel

      • Computers

      • Equipment

      • Photographs and camera equipment (please add this bullet point to the presentation outline, as it often pertains to art historians)

    2. Second, ask the Program Officer whether all of these categories are covered by the grant. Certain grants have strange exceptions. If you need to travel for your research, for example, confirm that the grant does cover airfare and travel expenses.

    3. Third, draw up your budget. To repeat: Be accurate and realistic. Do not inflate your numbers hoping to get more money; do not understate your need hoping that you will be a more attractive candidate. Budgets that are unreasonably high or low reflect poorly on the candidate.

  • Budget narrative:

    • Funders often want a budget narrative to accompany the budget spreadsheet to justify and explain your funding requests.

    • Your budget should be thorough, including everything and explaining it well. Be realistic about how much things will cost. Do not cut corners thinking this will get you the grant.

  • Letters of recommendation:

    • Plan early who your referees will be.
      Start cultivating relationships with potential referees as early in your graduate career as possible. Only ask for recommendations from scholars who know your work well. A letter of recommendation from a scholar outside of Rutgers is an asset, but only if he or she can speak knowledgeably about your career to date and about your proposal. Do not ask a scholar who is only slightly familiar with you and your project to recommend you simply because he or she is renowned in your field. Your referees should be able to write at least a page on your behalf.

    • Share with them early your plan to apply for funding, your proposal, and the deadlines.
      Ask your advisor and referees for honest, objective feedback: Do you endorse my application and proposal fully, or do you have reservations? Do you think I should wait until next year to apply? What will you say in my support? Don't avoid these questions, even if you're afraid to hear a negative response. Better to have your advisor gently steer you away from a misguided proposal than to be rejected by the funder after months of work and anticipation! Constructive criticism will help you strengthen your application for next time.


  • Items considered:

    • Merit of proposal.

    • Probability of success. Can this student, with this background and these qualifications, accomplish his or her goals?

    • Objectives and approach. Are they realistic and valid?

    • Impact of anticipated results. What and how great is the significance of this contribution to the field?

    • Human and physical resources. Can the student truly gain access to all the necessary contacts and resources?

    • Projected economic feasibility. Is the budget realistic? Is this project a good investment for the funder?

  • Why proposals get rejected:

    • Problem:

      • Not clearly defined

      • Too ambitious in scope

      • Not appropriate to sponsor interests

    • Approach

      • Insufficient detail

      • Approach will not answer research question or solve problem.

    • Investigator/Applicant

      • Insufficient experience.
        You may need to demonstrate that you have won other grants and have used them to gain the necessary experience. Consider applying for less competitive or internal Rutgers grants before you apply for the big ones. For example, the Center for Critical Analysis of Modern Culture and the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers both sponsor good programs.

      • Unfamiliar with similar activities elsewhere.
        Make sure the funder has not been presented with similar topics in the past. Lists of funded topics are often available in the funder's literature or on its website. If a somewhat similar topic has been funded, differentiate your proposal as much as possible and emphasize the innovative aspects of your approach.

    • Other:

      • Unrealistic program plan

      • Unrealistic budget

      • Sloppy presentation


  • Don't take it personally; don't react emotionally. This process is enormously subjective. Sometimes, you just get a nasty reviewer. Everyone, even the most distinguished scholars, has been rejected many times. Success lies in persistence. Keep on trying!

  • Don't miss the opportunity to build future relations with the funder. Follow up with the Program Officer even if you receive a rejection.


Many, although not all, funding sources permit and even encourage you to apply more than once. CASVA, for example, just changed its policies to allow students to reapply, as long as the application shows advancement and improvement.

  • Talk with the funder for feedback. Don't hesitate to call the Program Officer to find out ways to enhance your application. What should I change? Where did my weaknesses lie? Request a copy of the reviewers' comments, if available.

  • If you receive them, look at the reviewer comments carefully. What were my reviewers' responses? Were the reviewers asked to answer a set list of questions? Make sure that the reviewers' assessments of your proposal accurately reflect your work and your aims. If they do not, you may not be articulating your project clearly enough.

  • Get feedback from your committee.

  • Don't be afraid to reapply. Submitting a revised proposal after being rejected is not a bad thing. Some programs even expect students to apply multiple times and very rarely award grants to first-time applicants.


  • You need to eat.

  • Your CV will be greatly enhanced. Good jobs usually go to grant winners. (Career Services also offers workshops on polishing your CV. Check the website for upcoming workshops.)

  • You'll gain valuable experience. If you pursue a long-term career in this field, you will be applying for grants throughout your professional life.

  • This may be the only way to get your work