Graduate Fellows Program

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Founded in 1976, the Graduate Fellows Program (GFP) provides Berkeley doctoral students with an interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and inclusive environment for research and training. 

The Program plays an integral part in training scholars to address the pressing challenges that face California, the nation, and the world.  It has been especially effective in enabling students from underrepresented groups to complete their doctoral studies and obtain faculty positions at top academic institutions around the United States.

In addition to receiving monthly stipends, Graduate Fellows enjoy access to a rich array of activities that promote mentoring relations with faculty, collaboration with peers, and the exchange of ideas with a broad audience of academic and community leaders. The GFP offers doctoral students the opportunity to work in an intensive, small-group setting on issues of common interest.   Fellows from a range of disciplines support one another's research, make presentations at conferences and colloquia, and publish working papers.  The GFP creates the conditions for forging successful scholarly careers and assuming positions of intellectual leadership in the professoriate.

The unique strength of the program is that it is built around the skills, work, and insights of its graduate student participants.  It is organized around and depends upon the collective intelligence of each Fellow in the cohort working together to produce and share work as well as critiques and reflections on the work of others. The program has developed and changed over time, but the foundations are anchored in two understandings:  1) Financial and individual support, alone, are not adequate to help Fellows develop their research and writing skills and to hone them for success in getting publications and preparing for jobs and other professional objectives; 2) The program works by binding individual financial support with the practical skills, knowledge, and motivation that come from doing research and writing in a shared and collective setting; learning how to research and write is integrated with and inseparable from being readers, listeners, and active critics and supporters of the other Fellows' research.

Using these training techniques, the Graduate Fellows Program has enjoyed an unparalleled record of success.  The Program has enabled more than 200 students to complete their doctorates and carve out distinguished academic careers.  The Program is uniquely situated to nurture the next generation of leading scholars.  Berkeley's graduate programs attract the best and the brightest faculty and students, and the campus is home to an astonishing number of top-ranked departments.  As a result, the Graduate Fellows Program can bring together students of the highest caliber across a range of disciplines and link them to faculty who are doing groundbreaking research.  ISSI has drawn together these outstanding resources to create a legacy of enduring significance.   

The Graduate Fellows Program benefits from the research and training activities of the Asian American Research CenterCenter for Research on Social Change, the Latinx Research Center, the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, the Center for Ethnographic Research, the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, and the Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues -- all part of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.

To make a gift in support of the Graduate Fellows Program, please visit the online giving site and in the "In Honor of:" section list "Graduate Fellows Program".

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Program Overview and Training Content

The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues serves as the research and teaching base for the Graduate Fellows Program. Fellows attend a weekly two-hour in-person seminar in which they receive practical training in theory, methods, and policy work. The core emphasis is on the production of scholarly work geared towards a broad understanding of the patterns of social change. While our geographical focus is the United States; we also welcome transnational projects with some relation to the U.S., as long as all data collection outside the U.S. is complete.  A primary focus has been supporting students who do primary data collection via interviews and/or participant observation. We also accept applications from students who do other kinds of qualitative or mixed methods research. The training draws on insights from a wide array of fields, including sociology, anthropology, political science, urban and regional planning, geography, education, history, public policy, law, social welfare, and public health.

Graduate Fellows can participate in the GFP for up to two years. During the first year, the focus of the training program is on the development of a working paper based on dissertation research. Fellows will receive training in framing a research problem, situating the research within the relevant scholarly literature, explaining their methodology, analyzing data and connecting it to theory, and drafting a research working paper, which they will workshop throughout the year. Papers are drafted by the beginning of March and completed by the end of the academic year, after which they are added to the California Digital Library, the University of California's "eScholarship Repository." In addition to regular attendance at weekly seminars, Fellows are expected to provide and receive critical feedback on other Fellows' works in progress; and be active and contributing members of an interdisciplinary community of emerging scholars. In the spring semester, first-year Fellows make a public presentation of their working papers at an ISSI-organized colloquium, panel or conference, after first practicing the presentation in seminar. The presentation provides an opportunity, in conjunction with development of the working paper, to receive feedback and build skill at crafting a rhetorically and academically effective documentation of one's research.  

Graduate Fellows who are active program participants and successfully complete the requirements during the first year (i.e., regular attendance, completion and presentation of a research working paper) are eligible to apply for a second year as a Fellow. During the second year, Fellows continue to meet weekly to present and receive constructive feedback on their individual research and writing projects and skills training in professional development to prepare them for the academic job market. They also work with Institute staff on a shared project to benefit the Institute. Throughout the two years, Fellows are eligible for shared office space at ISSI to facilitate their research and writing.

Eligibility, Stipends and Application Information

Only registered UC Berkeley doctoral students who have completed at least three years of graduate study by May 2024 are eligible for this program. We strongly prefer that applicants who have already advanced to candidacy, and it is a requirement that incoming Fellows have passed their qualifying exams by July 1.  Click here for advice on preparing for Qualifying Exams from former Graduate Fellows Program Co-Director David Minkus. 

Fellows must be in residence in the Bay Area in order to participate in weekly in-person meetings during each semester.

The GFP is committed to diversity in graduate education and the academy more broadly.  Students from groups historically underrepresented in higher education (such as African American, Native American and Latinx/Chicana/o) are especially encouraged to apply. We are looking for applicants:

  • with the potential to bring to their academic research the critical perspective that comes from their understanding of the experiences of groups historically underrepresented in U.S. higher education or underserved by academic research;
  • who need the additional training and mentoring offered by our program; and
  • who are committed to doing research to advance social justice or social change.


A modest stipend of between $10,000 and $15,000/year will be offered to those who do not have other fellowship funding. The exact amount will be announced when acceptances are issued. Funding for the stipends is provided by Graduate Division, the Division of Social Sciences, and the Asian American Research Center. Fellows who have $15,000 or more in fellowship funding from other sources receive a token amount. Tuition/fee remission is not covered by this fellowship.


View the instructions for the application here.

Complete the 24-25 online application form here 


For questions or additional information please contact Dr. Deborah Lustig, Co-Director of the Graduate Fellows Program: dlustig AT

Selection Process

There are two stages to the selection process:

Stage 1: Applications for the Graduate Fellows Program are due before 5PM on Monday, April 1. Applicants will be notified by Friday, April 26 whether their application has been selected for the second and final stage of the selection process.

Stage 2Applicants who have been selected for the second stage will be provided with critical feedback on their research statement. The second draft of the application is due Monday, May 13 by 9am Applicants will be notified by Friday, May 31 if they have been selected to join the Graduate Fellows Program.

Application Workshop

We will be conducting a workshop via Zoom for all graduate students interested in applying for the Graduate Fellows Program either this year or in a future year. Attending the workshop is not required.

Graduate Fellows Program Application Workshop

Tuesday, March 19, 4-5 pm PT, Zoom. Register here.

If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) in order to fully participate in this virtual event, please contact us with as much advance notice as possible.

Honestly, it's the first time I have received genuine feedback on my work ,and it's helped me get back into writing and feel excited about my work, and feel like I could be in academia.

Graduate Fellow, Education

Through laughter, tears, presentations and lots and lots of editing, I watched a wobbly initial draft of a dissertation outline transform into a beautiful finished product!

Graduate Fellow, Public Health

Since joining the GFP, my research has - to my mind - interestingly delved into deeper issues of practices of urban public space, belonging and citizenship, ... as the sharing of work and discussions has enabled my thinking tremendously.

Graduate Fellow, Medical Anthropology

The program is very helpful for setting up accountability mechanisms (deadlines) and building community.

Graduate Fellow, Sociology

I took seriously the opportunity I received from ISSI to develop as an academic and a thinker. I am pleased that I managed to be productive during a year when I could have very easily been swept up by other parts of my life.

Graduate Fellow, City and Regional Planning

The opportunity to sit once a week with a diverse group, from multiple departments, of smart, talented graduate students that can offer sound advice and different perspectives is one of the most enriching experiences of my Berkeley career so far.

Graduate Fellow, Architecture

The process of developing a working paper in the context of weekly sessions has enabled me to hone my conceptual framework for my proposed dissertation research and my presentation skills as a result of presenting my working paper at an ISSI forum.

Graduate Fellow, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Feedback is fantastic. Peers recognize [our] current contributions and offer feedback to help us realize our full potential. It's wonderfully interdisciplinary.

Graduate Fellow, Education

The readings and the spirited interdisciplinary discussions we had about them during our weekly meeting provided me with opportunities to review and rethink my dissertation research and pushed me to anchor my research more firmly in social science lit.

Graduate Fellow, Political Science

ISSI offered a kind of collegiality and expertise that I was missing.

Graduate Fellow, Medical Anthropology