USIP’s Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship program awards non-residential fellowships to students enrolled in U.S. universities who are writing doctoral dissertations on topics related to international conflict management and peacebuilding. Since 1988, the program has supported the dissertations of 312 young scholars, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in research, teaching and policy making.

The 2020-21 Peace Scholar application is now closed. The 2021-2022 competition will open in September, 2020.

The Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship program competition opens in September and closes in October each year. The awards are announced in early spring. The fellowships last for 10 months, starting in September.

This annual award program also partners with the Minerva Research Initiative to offer additional pre-doctoral fellowships on peace and security topics.

Currently, the Peace Scholar program awards between 12 and 18 scholarships per year. Minerva Research Initiative fellowships are divided between awards that support field-work and awards that support writing; USIP Peace Scholar fellowships may be used for any phase of work on dissertations. 

Applications from members of groups traditionally under-represented in the field of international relations, peace and conflict studies and other related academic disciplines, as well as diplomacy and international policy-making, are strongly encouraged.

Download a PDF copy of the call for applications here.

Application Process

When the competition opens in September of each year, applying for a Peace Scholar Fellowship is a two-step process.

  • Registration: Applicants must first register for an account here. After registration, login credentials will be sent to access the application portalIt can take up to 72 hours to receive these credentials, so applicants should register early. Registration closes on September 24, 2019.
  • Application: Applications must be submitted through the Fluxx online application system. On the application form, please indicate the scholarship(s) for which you would like to be considered: the USIP Peace Scholar fellowship only; Minerva Research Initiative Peace and Security fellowship only; or no preference. Both fellowships have the same application form, deadline, award amount, and selection process; the only difference between the USIP and Minerva fellowships is the source of funding. Three letters of recommendation must be attached to your application in the Fluxx system. One letter must be from the dissertation advisor, and two from current professors. Completed applications and three letter of recommendation must be submitted by Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at 11pm EDT. Any applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered for this competition.

(Please note: The application system works best when using Google Chrome as your web browser. If you are experiencing issues with the application system, please email jrprogram@usip.org. If the answer requires more than an email, we will schedule a time to help you by phone. Please allow us up to 72 hours to respond to your inquiry.) 

Application Topics, Questions and Scoring Rubric

Application Topics

Proposals from all disciplines and on a wide range of topics related to peacebuilding are welcome. There are several criteria that will strengthen applications:

  • Proposals should be consistent with USIP’s mission and present a research agenda with broader implications to the peacebuilding field as well as potential application to peacebuilding policy and/or practice.
  • To be competitive, applicants must consider the implications of their research on the peacebuilding field. Additionally, applicants should outline the links between their projects and the missions of the U.S. Institute of Peace and/or the Minerva Research Initiative
  • We are looking for proposals that contribute to the general knowledge of the field by either testing or developing theories. Applicants should present a persuasive argument on how their research makes a basic or fundamental research contribution to the field and an explanation of how their basic research contributions address key concerns of conflict management and peacebuilding that may include (but are not limited to) security and stability. 

Application Questions

Below are the four questions on the Peace Scholar Fellowship application. A complete work plan and bibliography must also be submitted with every application.

  • Research Integrity: State the main thesis of your dissertation and list the hypotheses you are testing or assuming in your research. If your methodology does not use hypotheses, please list the main questions your project is asking. List the evidence you will gather to examine your theories and assumptions or to answer your project’s defining questions (documents, interviews, archives, etc.). Explain how you will analyze the evidence to test your hypotheses or answer your project’s defining questions. 
  • Proposal’s Relevance to the Identified ‘Issue Area” and its Unique Contribution: Describe the basic issue or question that this dissertation seeks to address. Explain the gap in knowledge and understanding about the problem/issue that this dissertation fills. Tell us how this research is original.
  • Potential to Advance the Peacebuilding Field: Explain the relevance of your project to peacebuilding policy and practice. Describe how your research will affect policy and/or practice. Draw connections between your dissertation, the USIP mission, and/or the Minerva Research Initiative mission. 
  • Basic Research: Is this research a systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of the ‘issue area’? List the observable facts from your research that have the potential to inform broad, rather than specific, applications toward processes. Applicants should speak to the potential implications of their project beyond their specific case studies or countries (if applicable). 

Scoring Rubric for USIP and Minerva Applications

Applications will be assessed using the four criteria below.

  • Research Integrity: Is there a clearly stated hypothesis with sound methodology and a convincing research plan?
  • Proposal’s Relevance to the Identified ‘Issue Area’ and its Unique Contribution: How well does this research project address the identified issue area? Does the proposal address a gap in knowledge and/or understanding about the issue? Is the research original?
  • Potential to Advance the Peacebuilding Field: How relevant and important to peacebuilding policy and practice is this proposed research? What is the likelihood of the research to affect policy and/or practice? How does this work relate to either the USIP and/or Minerva Research Initiative mission?
  • Basic Research: Is this research a systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of the ‘issue area’? Has the applicant included observable facts that have the potential to inform broad, rather than specific, applications toward processes? Has the applicant spoken to the potential implications of their project beyond their specific case studies or countries (if applicable)?

Award Terms and Restrictions

Award Terms

Peace Scholars may be awarded stipends of up to $20,000 per academic year. Awards are paid directly to the individual in three tranches. Peace Scholar fellowships may not be deferred. The Peace Scholar Dissertation fellowship cannot be combined with any other major residential award or fellowship except with the written approval of the Institute. If written approval from USIP is granted, $30,000 is the maximum combined amount from all funding sources that a Peace Scholar can receive during their tenure.  

Minerva Research Initiative fellowships are divided between awards that support field-work and awards that support writing; USIP Peace Scholar fellowships may be used for any phase of work on dissertations. 

Peace Scholars carry out their fellowship work at their universities or other sites appropriate to their research. Peace Scholars are expected to devote full attention to their work and provide three dissertation update reports to USIP.

Peace Scholars are expected to participate in the annual Peace Scholar Workshop each fall. Peace Scholars may also be asked to prepare and publish an online blog or an op-ed focused on their research.

Upon completion of their dissertation, Peace Scholars are required to submit a copy to USIP.

Award Restrictions

Please note that the Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship program does not support pre-dissertation level graduate work. Doctoral students in non-U.S.-based universities are not eligible. The fellowships cannot support research focused on U.S. domestic conflict and peacebuilding, however, research on U.S. government foreign policy is eligible for support. Peace Scholar awards may not be made for projects that constitute policy-making for a government agency or private organization, focus to any substantial degree on conflicts within U.S. domestic society, or adopt a partisan, advocacy, or activist stance.