James Gisele ’19 in front of Magill Library during their Summer Research Fellowship. Photo by Cole Sansom ’19.

This post marks the start of a series on the Decentered blog highlighting student funding opportunities through the Hurford Center for Summer 2018. These funding opportunities allow students to pursue a variety of arts and humanities projects, both on campus and off.




Grants to support thesis-related or otherwise substantive research projects for eight to ten weeks, up to $4300 for the summer. Students work with a faculty member and/or library staff to articulate a focused question, problem, or area of study to explore. Students must demonstrate significant prior interest and coursework related to the proposed area of study.



These competitive grants are designed to support thesis-related or otherwise substantive research projects, enabling students to spend the summer visiting archives, learning a language necessary to scholarship, or dedicating their time to a focused program of reading.

Students proposing a research project should work closely with a faculty member and Library staff to articulate a focused question, problem, or area of study to be explored; if proposing travel, students must verify in consultation with Library staff or faculty member that the suggested location of research is necessary to the project. Students must also demonstrate prior interest and background in the proposed area of study, having ideally taken at least one course at an advanced level in that field.

Summer Research Fellowships may last up to 10 weeks in length.



  • Current juniors, and more rarely, sophomores, majoring in the arts and/or humanities, or more rarely social sciences
  • Students who are interested in proposing their own research project, rather than helping with somebody else’s project
  • Students who have a clear idea for an academic project they are interested in pursuing, including a clear plan for implementation
  • Students who wish to extend their knowledge of their field beyond what is possible in undergraduate courses
  • Students whose senior theses would benefit from a longer and more intense research period than is possible purely during the school year
  • Students who are skilled at self-management and independent work
  • Students with mentoring relationships with professors who will be present for the summer they are doing work and who are invested in helping the student learn research skills
  • Students interested in an eventual career in academic research



Fellows must propose a research budget that includes food, lodging, travel, commuting costs, and any related research expenses particular to the project (admission to libraries, archives, museums, galleries, or relevant performances; the purchase of books, films, or other texts). Students receiving financial aid who have a summer earnings contribution may apply to the Hurford Center for supplemental support. Students are also strongly encouraged to meet with a research librarian to get guidance and input on their research proposal.

In addition, students will need to prepare:

  • an abstract, or 2-3 sentences summarizing the project
  • a 500 word essay providing a clear, detailed description of their proposed research project. Questions to consider include:
    • what past experience do you have which will prepare you? How does your idea grow out of or complement your past coursework, feed into your thesis, or otherwise manifest as a substantive research project?
    • Whether traveling for research, language acquisition, or reading, how is your destination necessary for your research?
    • What skills do you bring to the project, and which do you hope to gain or otherwise develop through the experience?
    • What final outcomes do you foresee for the project?
  • their resume and transcript
  • a brief reflection on any meetings with library staff that occured while planning the project
  • a letter of support from the faculty member most closely involved in the project proposal
  • note from librarian confirming their involvement and what their reccomendations were, if applicable
  • a brief explanation of the project’s intellectual scope and relationship to the Haverford academic program at large
  • any additional materials that might be useful in considering their project proposal



I proposed a summer research fellowship for the summer of 2017 entitled, “Theorizing Immaturity: Trans and Queer Narrative Production in Internet Culture.” While my project was somewhat unsuccessful— I did not come away from the summer with any written work as I was anticipating— it was incredibly valuable in learning about my academic trajectory overall. I discovered three main things that summer I think will be helpful for anyone interested in proposing a project.


One: doing research as an undergraduate without at least one in-person meeting with an adviser with some prior experience in academic research is very, very difficult. Make sure the professor you choose to be your adviser will be present for the time you do your research— present meaning, in the same city as you— and that they are excited about mentoring you in your work; even if they don’t have intimate knowledge of your subject area, choosing a professor who is invested in passing on skills required for academic research is going to benefit you more in the long term.


Second: I discovered fairly early in the summer that the current academic discourses on transness are produced almost exclusively by cisgender people and binary-gendered, white, middle- to upper-class, middle-aged transgender people. It was immensely difficult to read book after book which theorized my existence and the existence of almost all of the non-cisgender people I knew as if we did not truly exist. Especially if you are in any way marginalized, try to make sure the content you are going to be engaging with for the summer is not going to significantly impact your wellbeing. And if you are studying something that you know has the potential to be damaging, make sure you have prioritized sustainability as well as productivity into your summer research plan. It does nobody any good if you burn out on academic work, especially if you’re going into your senior thesis.


Third: You’re probably not going to get out of the experience what you wanted to get going in. It’s helpful to frame the project this way from the start. For instance, I was planning on getting some academic writing out of this summer; instead, I now have a hairline trigger on authors without a specific experience writing on people who do have that experience (especially cisgender people writing anything about trans people). While this may not classically be considered a success, I view it as one: I know I cannot write my senior thesis on or go to grad school for transgender studies, I have a much stronger sense of ethics when it comes to my own academic work, and I have found multiple new non/anti-academic spaces where people are making content that is meaningful to me. Pick a project with the knowledge that you might not want anything to do with it by the end of the summer. If you still love your field by the end: great! If you do not, you’ll have structured your summer in such a way that you won’t ignore the valuable things you have gained from the overall experience.



James Gisele ’19