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STEPS Center Director’s Fellowship Awards

STEPS Center Director’s Fellowship Awards

The STEPS Center Director’s Fellowship Awards provide prestigious bridge support for stipends, fringe benefits, and tuition (if relevant) for the engagement of high performing graduate students (Masters and Ph.D.) and postdoctoral scholars.

The awards provide interim support of a maximum of 1 year for scholars during their appointment at a STEPS institution who are either beginning research prior to joining an existing STEPS Project (e.g., new recruits) or are building upon existing projects in ways that promote new convergence/integration across STEPS (e.g., new meta-level research projects, creating final products from projects that are ending). When used as a recruitment tool, the Director’s Fellowship Award can provide time for students to establish core competencies in relevant fields, experiment with cross-disciplinary training, and/or work with multiple mentors/PIs in new research areas before committing to a specific project, PI(s), or program.  Research projects that include aspects of diversity scholarship, stakeholder engagement, and participatory research are particularly encouraged, even if a component of a broader research scope.

Applicants must submit a maximum 2-page research proposal, a 1-pg personal statement, a CV or resume, academic transcript, and at least 2 letters of recommendation. The research proposal must be aligned with the vision and direction of STEPS Center research and is designed to be conducted under the mentorship of PI(s) who are actively engaged in the STEPS Center. Therefore, the research proposal should be informed by discussions with the PI(s) but should be authored by the applicant. The personal statement and research proposal will be reviewed based on intellectual merit and broader impacts with final awards recommended by the STEPS Executive Committee and made by the STEPS Center Director. This program is prestigious and should be reserved for opportunities that cannot be foregone. No more than 3 Fellowship Awards are expected annually. This program seeks to broaden participation of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans, who have been historically excluded from their respective areas in the physical, life, social, and economic sciences.

There is no specific annual deadline, although January and May are ideal months to submit with respect to planning for most graduate program start dates in the Fall and Spring semesters, respectively. Potential applicants or mentors are encouraged to contact STEPS headquarters to discuss possible applications.

The award amount and duration are unique to each applicant and consider department, college, school, institutional, and disciplinary norms and expectations. Support may be provided through a segment or subaward to the applicant’s PI(s) or, in some cases, directly to the scholar.

For questions, please contact the STEPS Director and Managing Director at

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q: Do you have to be enrolled (or accepted) in a STEPS institution to apply? (Or for post-docs, a current post-doc?)

A: To utilize the support, the student or postdoc must be enrolled and/or employed at a STEPS institution. Students or postdocs who are applying to begin programs at any STEPS institution are allowed to submit proposals, but awards can only be used at STEPS institutions.

Q: How are proposals reviewed?

A: Proposals are reviewed by ad hoc reviewers invited by the Director or Managing Director of STEPS who do not have a conflict of interest. Reviews are based on the criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts (as defined by NSF).