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Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship FAQ

Application Timeline

What is the timeline for applications? For example, if I want to start my project in the summer, when should I apply?

It takes at least two months to process applications, complete the necessary paperwork, and receive fellowship funding. Therefore, the March 1 deadline is for projects expected to start between the following May through November months. The October 1 deadline is for projects expected to start between the following December through April months.

When are the application deadlines?

Applications are accepted twice a year, with application deadlines on October 1 and March 1 each year. All materials, including the reference form, must be submitted by 5:00 PM EST on these dates. Applicants are strongly encouraged to ask their referee to submit the reference form provided rather than a letter of reference because the form inquires about information specific to the applicant’s project and competencies.

How long does it take to notify applicants of a decision?

Applicants can expect to hear back about the status of their application three to four weeks after the application deadline via e-mail.


I participated in the International Honors Program (IHP) of SIT Study Abroad. Can I apply?

Yes, the International Honors Program (IHP) is part of SIT Study Abroad’s portfolio of programs and, therefore, IHP alumni are eligible to apply for this Fellowship.

I did not participate in an SIT Study Abroad or IHP program, but I have participated in another program of World Learning (i.e. the Experiment in International Living or SIT Graduate Institute). Can I apply?

Unfortunately, only alumni of SIT Study Abroad or IHP are eligible to be considered for this Fellowship.

Can I submit two separate proposals at the same time?

Applicants are only permitted to submit one proposal per application round. Application rounds occur twice annually, with deadlines on March 1 and October 1 each year.

Can I submit a joint proposal with someone else?

No joint proposals are accepted for this Fellowship. All proposals must be submitted by a single individual, seeking funding for that individual and their project. Applicants may, however, combine this fellowship grant with other grants for the same project.

I applied for the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship during an earlier application round and was not selected; can I apply again?

Yes, there is no limit to the number of times you can apply for this Fellowship. However, applications are not kept active, so you must submit an application each deadline to be considered. Please keep in mind, applicants are only permitted to submit one proposal per application round, and preference is given to applicants who completed their SIT or IHP within the past five years.

I am currently in the country where I want to do my project. Can I apply?

Yes, you can apply for the Fellowship if you are already in the country your project will be based in. However, please be aware that this Fellowship is intended to give alumni an opportunity they would otherwise not have, to complete a project that has not yet begun and needs funding to be realized. Therefore, preference will be given to applicants who have not yet returned to their program host country or community. Please keep this in mind when you are applying, and be clear about your current priorities in that country, as well as the nature of your proposed fellowship project there.

Fellowship Project and Proposal

What kinds of projects are supported by this fellowship?

The common thread between all fellowship projects—and what the Committee considers when reviewing applications—is that they are initially called for by the community. Projects should be local, grassroots ideas which originate within the community, as opposed to theoretical ideas about development and education derived by the fellow.

How long should my project last? Is there a minimum or maximum time length?

There is no minimum or maximum project length. Fellows are responsible for creating their own, reasonable project timeline and the project length will largely depend on the nature of the project, as well as funding and resources. Past fellows have completed projects in as short as two weeks and as long as six months.

Must I return to the country where I studied abroad, or can I pursue my project elsewhere?

This Fellowship is designed to return SIT Study Abroad and IHP alumni to the country and, more specifically, the community of their program. However, there are two specific exceptions: (1) If you participated in another SIT program, then you are welcome to submit a proposal for any country and community you studied in during that program; (2) If your proposal deals with an issue directly related to your SIT Study Abroad or IHP  coursework or ISP, but your project will be based in a neighboring or related country, that is also acceptable.

Do fellows typically work with pre-existing organizations or independently?

There is no standard about whether Fellows should work independently or with a pre-existing organization—both are acceptable. For the most part, fellows will have an extensive list of contacts in-country prior to leaving, such as with local NGOs, community groups, health facilities, or arts organizations. Some fellows collaborate on projects with small community organizations, while others design new projects for a pre-existing organization or community. The common thread is that all projects are initially called for by the community—they are local, grassroots ideas that originate within the community, as opposed to theoretical ideas about development and education derived by the fellow.

I want to do research in… or  I’m doing my thesis/dissertation on…

This is not a research grant; it is a human rights fellowship for action-based projects. If the primary beneficiary of the project is you as the student or researcher, your project will not be eligible for consideration. However, action-research projects can be submitted. Action-research is when the proposed project is the centerpiece of the Fellowship, and the Fellow secondarily uses the project at a later date as a case-study for reflection or further research. Ask yourself: “Who will primarily benefit from this work?” If your answer is the community, then you are on the right track.

Do I have to live with a homestay family while completing my fellowship project?

Fellows are not required to live with a homestay family while completing their project, and may secure alternate living arrangements. However, it is recommended that fellows explore a homestay living option because: (1) a homestay helps fellows stay immersed and involved with the community they’re working with, and (2) homestay arrangements are typically more cost effective. Please note that you will be responsible for finding your own homestay. In the “Projected Budget” section of the application, please base your projected homestay living expenses on the reasonable amount it would cost the homestay family to house an additional individual in their home for the length of your project.

How do I fit all of my proposal ideas into just 2000 characters (~300 words) on the application?

There is a character limit for your proposal to encourage well-written and direct proposals. The best applications have well-crafted, clear proposals about excellent projects. We encourage you to refine your ideas, get feedback from advisors, mentors or peers, and create a concise proposal within the word limit.

Can I supplement my application with a letter to the Rowan Swanson family?

While this gesture is very thoughtful, letters to the Rowan Swanson family are not appropriate supplements for your Fellowship application.

Fellowship Funding and Project Budget

What is the size of the fellowship award?

The standard fellowship award is $5,000. However, proposals for projects with budgets below or exceeding $5,000 may be submitted. If a project budget exceeds the limit, applicants should plan accordingly to cover the remaining budget.

What type of project expenses does the Fellowship funding cover?

The fellowship may fund transportation to and from the destination, living expenses in a homestay environment, project expenses including capital projects, interest charges on student loans serviced by the student during the period of the fellowship, and any other expenses reasonably incurred by the student in pursuit of this project, at the student’s discretion, but always subject to the terms of the Fellowship Agreement.

May I combine funding from the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship with outside funds for the same project?

Yes, fellows may combine their Fellowship award with any outside resources to fund their project.

May I use the Fellowship as a salary for myself while working for another organization in an unpaid position, such as an internship?

This Fellowship is not designed to fill the staffing needs of other organizations. We are looking for unique, start-up projects that might otherwise not occur without the fellowship—if that description applies to the position you will be filling, we welcome your application and encourage you to be detailed and precise about your role in your proposal.

Reference Form

Who should complete the Reference Form and act as a reference for me and my project?

SIT Study Abroad alumni should have the reference form completed by their former Academic Director. International Honors Program alumni should have the reference form completed by their IHP Country Coordinator of the region they wish to complete their fellowship project in. If you need assistance obtaining the contact information for this individual, please contact us at [email protected] at least two weeks prior to the application deadline.

What should I do if I cannot reach the individual recommended to complete the Reference Form?

If your former Academic Director or IHP Country Coordinator is unable to complete the Reference Form, other relevant individuals can complete the Reference Form in their place, such as an ISP advisor or other SIT/IHP staff/faculty member you worked closely with during your SIT or IHP program. If you need assistance determining the appropriate individual to provide a reference, or need assistance obtaining their contact information, please contact us at [email protected] at least two weeks prior to the application deadline.


Please contact us with any questions regarding the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship.