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A Guide to Kennan Institute Grants

This guide serves as a general aid in the process of learning about and applying for the various grants offered by the Kennan Institute. The specific requirements and provisions of each individual grant are detailed on its own page and application form, and any guidelines laid out below are subject to change. If you still have questions after reading this guide, please do not hesitate to contact Kennan staff by emailing kennan@wilsoncenter.org with the subject line “Grant Inquiry” or by calling us at 202-691-4100.

Competitions and the Application Process

The deadlines and funding status for grants may change. The grant pages are the best resource for finding the current deadline and whether or not the grant opportunity is currently open.

Applications should be submitted in their entirety (including letters of recommendation) by midnight EST on the indicated closing date. Since letters of recommendation must be submitted by the referee, it is strongly advised that you build in extra time to make sure that your referees are able to submit the documents before the deadline. It is also strongly advised that you submit all materials by email with a subject line that clearly references the name of the grant for which you are applying. Arrangements can be made for fax or mail by communicating with Kennan staff ahead of time to ensure that your application materials are not missed.

You are responsible for ensuring all necessary documents are transmitted on time; if you have not received confirmation of receipt within two business days of sending your application, please reach out to Kennan staff by phone or email.

Once the competition has closed, complete applications will be transmitted to the Kennan Institute’s Advisory Council. Council members typically have one month to review and rank the applications before returning their recommendations to the Kennan Institute, at which point awardees and alternates will be informed. Therefore, you should receive an email approximately six weeks after the competition has closed indicating an award, decline, or alternate status. None of these statuses affect your eligibility to apply for a future competition.

Proposal Guide

The Kennan Institute is interested in many topics and disciplines and there is not one “right” way to write a project proposal. The following is a list of suggestions to help make your application competitive:

  • Answer all questions and bullet points in the relevant application explicitly and thoroughly and submit all requested materials. Failure to do so can harm or disqualify an otherwise competitive proposal.
  • Even if the policy relevance of your project seems obvious, make it explicit – do not leave it up to your referees to explain the relevance or to the Advisory Council to infer it.
  • Write your proposal with clear, concise language. Keep in mind that the Advisory Council is composed of academics and experts with varied backgrounds. They are knowledgeable about the region, but they may not be experts in your area of study. Avoid the specific jargon of your field as much as possible.
  • Ask referees to give holistic recommendations. The best recommendations explain your expertise and skills, specifically as they pertain to your proposed project. But they should also explain who you are, your goals, and your character. 
  • Deliverables, such as a manuscript, article, or presentation, can often help organize the research, but they are not a required element.

The best proposals are designed to match the length and resources of the grant. Successful applicants have a discrete research goal and a detailed plan of how they will use the resources available to achieve it.

Also, this pamphlet is a good resource for general proposal-writing tips: https://www.ssrc.org/publications/view/7A9CB4F4-815F-DE11-BD80-001CC477EC70/

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Each grant has specific citizenship and experience/education requirements. Please read each grant page carefully and ask Kennan staff if you are still unsure. For grants where related experience may be used in lieu of education, your proposal must explain what that experience is and why it equips you to complete the proposed project.

  • All proposals pertaining to the region (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltics, the Caucasus, and Central Asia) will be considered. Each grant page explains the goals of that specific opportunity. Remember that your project should be relevant, in some way, to an American audience.

  • Yes; several of our scholarships are available to foreign nationals. You must be eligible to receive a J1 visa (the Wilson Center cannot host you under any other category of visa) and not currently under any visa bar. Upon acceptance of a grant award, Kennan Staff will work with you on the J1 visa application process.

  • The Kennan Institute has a mission and tradition of researching the cultures of the region to render a deeper understanding of the roots of today’s policy concerns. Review past scholars’ projects, events, and publications at www.wilsoncenter.org to see how historical and cultural projects have provided insights to contemporary issues.

  • If you’ve applied before, there is no reason not to apply again. If you did not succeed previously, you do not have to revise your application, but updating your proposal by reframing your topic or including new work you have completed can help make it more competitive.

  • You may apply to multiple scholarships at the same time, but remember that the strongest applications are usually tailored to the specific opportunity.

  • No. Kennan Staff cannot give specific feedback about a proposal.

  • No. The Kennan Institute does not share the reviews provided by the Advisory Council.

  • The specific grant page will lay out the details of when you may be in residence. Scheduling can be complicated on both sides; you may have to deal with professional, family, or immigration considerations and the Institute has to consider space and grant reporting deadlines. If you have questions about the timing of your residency, please contact Kennan staff.

  • The resources vary from grant to grant, but all scholars are provided with at least a library carrel with a PC workstation and access to networked printers. You will also have access to the top-notch Wilson Center Library and its staff.

  • Yes. All of Kennan’s grants are residential and it is expected that you will keep a regular schedule at the Institute. That said, it is understood that if a heavy component of your research is, for example, at the National Archives or Library of Congress, you will often need to work off-site. We encourage our scholars to take part in the cultural life of the Wilson Center, where chance encounters and public events can often add to the scope of your work.

  • This depends on the grant. We ask all scholars to submit a short final report on their work at the Wilson Center, which serves as a record of your grant.

  • It is like a university without the students. Staff wear business casual unless a special event requires otherwise. The working hours are roughly 9am to 5pm, though this is flexible. Depending on your grant and space availability, you will be assigned either a library carrel or an office – both of which will have a workstation that is connected to network printers. You are welcome and encouraged to attend any and all public events.

  • The interval at which you receive your stipend will depend on the grant. It will be paid out by check or by direct deposit if you request and complete an ACH form. For foreign scholars, you may need to open a local bank account in order to deposit or cash your stipend check. This can be handled in your first days at the Kennan Institute. It can also be arranged for your stipend to be disbursed to your home institution if arrangements are made ahead of your grant.

  • Yes. Kennan staff cannot give tax advice, but will work with you to try to answer your questions. You are ultimately responsible for making sure you have fulfilled any tax obligations in the U.S. and in your home country, if you are a foreign scholar.

  • The Kennan Institute can provide a list of landlords with whom scholars have rented before and can make general recommendations. The staff will not arrange housing for you.

  • The Wilson Center does not have childcare facilities. Kennan staff can provide you with a list of some of the available options nearby, but you will be responsible for making arrangements. We recommend that you reach out to childcare centers well in advance of your grant since they fill up quickly.

Related Program

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American expertise and knowledge of Russia, Ukraine, and the region. Through its residential fellowship programs, public lectures, workshops, and publications, the Institute strives to attract, publicize, and integrate new research into the policy community.  Read more