Home » 20th-Century US Foundations: Fellowship Opportunity & Course

20th-Century US Foundations: Fellowship Opportunity & Course

Check back here later this year for details about an offering in spring 2024.

The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the CUNY Graduate Center is offering up to eight $1,250 fellowships for participants in a spring 2023 history course developed in collaboration with the Rockefeller Archive Center on twentieth-century American foundations.

The course is designed to teach students interested in public history and applied history to do historically-based program reviews for institutional decision making, with a focus on grantmaking foundations. It is also for students who are interested in learning about foundations and the wide variety of causes and initiatives that they fund.

One of the country’s major historical archives on philanthropy, the Rockefeller Archive Center [RAC] in Pocantico Hills, NY houses the historical records of the Rockefeller, Ford, Russell Sage, Henry Luce, William and Flora Hewlett, Near East and Markle Foundations, and the Commonwealth and Rockefeller Brothers Funds (among other materials).

These materials cover a broad swath of United States and global history, from women’s, minority, and other social justice campaigns, to the colonial devolution; scientific, agricultural, and social science research; and public health, the arts and humanities in the US and around the world.  Many of these collections have not previously been used, presenting a significant opportunity for original research.

Selected students may also be able to work with RAC staff to disseminate their research findings to the general public through digital publishing and/or other RAC projects. The resulting papers can also be used for scholarly publications and presentations, and dissertation chapters.

The fellowships are designed to cover travel to Pocantico Hills and any related research costs (although many of the archival materials are also available online).

Information about the Archive Center’s holdings and finding aids are available at https://rockarch.org/. Prospective students are strongly advised to consult the Archive Center’s online finding aids and to contact reference staff to ensure that the available manuscript collections are sufficiently rich for the topic they plan to study.

The 20th-Century US Foundations course is generously funded by the Rockefeller Archive Center.

The Course

The course requirement is a 10-15 page paper based on original research in the foundation collections at the Rockefeller Archive Center, plus weekly reading assignments keyed to the students’ topics, and discussions about their research.

The course will include presentations by archivists and historical consultants about careers in these fields.  It will also provide insights into how the big foundations work and the rationales behind their programs.


Both doctoral and MA students are eligible to apply for the fellowships.  Candidates should submit a one-page  description of their research topic and how it relates to their more general research interests.

Applicants should also include a cover sheet with their  name, discipline, whether they are in a doctoral or master’s program, their level within these programs, any relevant nonprofit, foundation or public history experience they may have, and a brief description of why they are interested in the fellowship in terms of their own career goals.

Submission of a resumé/CV is also requested.  An additional writing sample is optional, but strongly encouraged.

Submissions should be sent as a single PDF file with materials arranged as follows: (1) cover sheet; (2) project description; (3) brief statement about why the applicant is interested in the fellowship in terms of their larger career goals; (4) a resumé or CV; and (5) a writing sample or other documentation (if any).

Proposals and questions about the fellowships should be sent via email to the Associate Director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Barbara Leopold, at bleopold@gc.cuny.edu.

Class participation may be limited to the fellowship recipients.  Other students who wish to enroll should contact Professor Kathleen McCarthy at Kmccarthy@gc.cuny.edu. Permission is required to register.

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