Humanities Grant Writing Camp gives graduate students a head start on funding applications

A group of 16 people poses for a photo.
Students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences participated in the 2023 Humanities Grant Writing Camp. Participant Diego Alegria, a PhD candidate in English, said that the camp impacted how he approaches the “stakes” of his research project and its potential. Photo courtesy of the Writing Center.

Graduate students at UW–Madison are getting a jump start on funding their humanities work through the Humanities Grant Writing Camp, a partnership between the Graduate School and the Writing Center.

The four-day event provides participants with a structured introduction to the nuts and bolts of writing funding proposals to support a wide range of humanities work, from research travel and dissertation writing to public humanities projects. Graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences are eligible to participate with advisor approval.

Diego Alegria, a PhD candidate in English who participated in the 2023 Humanities Grant Writing Camp, said that the camp impacted how he approaches the “stakes” of his research project and its potential.

“I was particularly impressed by how the Camp not only allowed us to put the generic conventions of grant applications into practice, but also to reflect on the histories and methods of our disciplines in the present state of the humanities,” he said, noting that other participants he talked to during the camp felt similarly.

“The Camp gave me the space, the time, and the resources needed to distill the description of my creative and scholarly work, and to think critically about its relationship with the current landscape of the arts and the humanities,” Alegria said.

During the camp, participants learn how to develop compelling, readable project descriptions that can help them secure funding. They learn how to draft and revise grant proposals, timelines, and budgets, with help along the way from peers who review their work.

By the end of the camp, participants can make substantial progress on writing a grant application to support their current work. Students who submit a grant proposal within a year of completing camp also receive a $250 stipend to encourage and motivate them to carry forward what they learned.

Humanities Grant Writing Camp began as a pilot program in spring 2022, inspired by a larger initiative by the Council of Graduate Schools called The Humanities Coalition. The Humanities Coalition and related project like UW–Madison’s Humanities Grant Writing Camp leverage information about PhD career outcomes for alumni in the humanities across dozens of institutions to target skills that can help students thrive in diverse humanities careers, secure resources for their work, and build professional relationships.

Compared to UW–Madison graduate alumni overall, arts and humanities alumni are more likely to have careers in academia and non-profit institutions than in the industry or government sectors, making it important for alumni to have strong skills in obtaining resources and funding for their work.

A group of four people sits around a table with laptops open in front of them.
Humanities Grant Writing Camp participants work together during a small group session. Photo courtesy of the Writing Center.

The Graduate School partnered with the Writing Center to offer the camp, based on a similar and successful partnership running the annual Dissertation Writing Camp. Both camps allow graduate students to set aside focused time to work on their projects with support from professional writing staff and with camaraderie from peers.

In addition to providing a high-level view of how to approach talking about humanities work, Humanities Grant Writing Camp also teaches logistics such as how to find grants, analyzing calls for proposals, considerations for international travel and fieldwork, writing for public humanities work, and writing for grants from nonprofits.

PhD student Pearly Wong said that her biggest takeaway from participating in the Humanities Grant Writing Camp was knowing the different types of reviewers involved in a grant proposal review, and what she should include in the grant to meet their expectations.

“It really helps me look at my proposal from a different lens,” said Wong, who is in a joint PhD program of Cultural Anthropology and Environment and Resources with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

The camp takes place in person at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, located in the University Club building. Breakfast and lunch are provided each day to allow participants to focus on learning from the daily workshops and drafting their grant proposals.

Wong said she enjoyed the day-to-day camp experience. “I like that we have different formats throughout these days, so it is not repetitive,” she said. “I appreciate input from the many invited panelists and speakers.”

How to participate in Humanities Grant Writing Camp

Applications are currently open for the 2024 Humanities Grant Writing Camp, taking place May 20 through 23. Interested graduate students must apply by Monday, April 1.