On November 9 in the Class of ‘41 Studio, Dr. Susannah Ashton, the Chair of the English Department and professor of American Literature, led a presentation on how to improve your chances of receiving archival research fellowship grants. The audience included members of the Clemson faculty who are currently working on their own archival research projects and are aiming to learn about different opportunities to increase their probabilities of receiving a grant.
Archival research fellowship grants are typically used to assist scholars in their research and allow them access to different archives as well as a reference staff. In her presentation, Dr. Ashton explained that when applying for a grant, it is necessary to include details on not only what your project entails, but also how you will use the resources to further your project. In doing so, you are assisting the board in justifying their investment. Dr. Ashton also emphasized the importance of educating yourself on the archives and library ahead of time. By knowing how previous scholars have used the materials, you will show that you have done your research. Further, if you appear ignorant in regards to the offered materials and only need a few documents, you are less likely to receive the grant. Don’t be afraid to share your previous accomplishments and demonstrate your ambitions for the project. It’s okay to be excited about your work!
A major factor when applying for a grant is obtaining recommendation letters. This is a process that few look forward to, but ultimately, most people are usually happy to offer recommendations, especially if they’ve worked with you before. Reach out to your senior colleagues, as it is their job to help you with these sorts of things! You can also request letters from people who have edited your work, cited you or invited you to speak. That being said, model the principle and write letters for others! You have the ability to really make a difference in someone’s project.
In order to be what Dr. Ashton referred to as a “good fellow,” you should strive to make connections with senior colleagues and peers, as friendliness can go a long way. Through sharing your own findings, writing for their newsletters, attending various social events or offering to speak at their institutions, you can build relationships that will in turn make others more willing to assist you in your work. It is also important to encourage others in their projects, such as writing reference letters, sharing materials or mentoring those with less experience than yourself. Even if you don’t have a grant application in progress, you can start cultivating relationships now. Getting advice over coffee, inviting people out to lunch after a panel or using your name when asking a question at a conference will also demonstrate an honest networking initiative. People will remember you for being thoughtful and kind and will want to work with you in the future.
Lastly, Dr. Ashton recommended checking out some samples of successful grant applications. These can be extremely helpful because they represent what the grant makers like to see. Now, using these helpful tips from Dr. Ashton, start applying for grants! Be ambitious, and do everything you can to get your project going.
Written By: Lauren Golden