PhD Fellowships

Application deadline: The deadline for applications is May 1, 2017.


Second year Stanford PhD students and beyond, at the pre- or post-dissertation proposal stage, are eligible. Students will be expected to begin the year with a well-defined research project to carry out during their fellowship year. The project is often, but need not be, connected to a dissertation. We welcome proposals from the social sciences, the humanities, and professional schools. We have a preference for applicants who have already participated in the year-long PACS workshop (EDUC 374, LAW 781POLISCI 334SOC 374), open to students at any stage of their doctoral work. Repeat applicants are acceptable.

Research Topics

The PACS Center embraces the idea of civil society in a very broad sense. We welcome projects that specifically address questions about nonprofits and civil society organizations as well as research that examines the role of the state or the marketplace in contrast to nonprofits, philanthropic foundations, or civil society. We are particularly interested in understanding the challenges faced by democratic institutions and the role of associational life in authoritarian regimes. Projects focused on local, state, and global levels are all welcome.

Civil society plays a rapidly expanding role in addressing and defining social problems in the U.S. and around the world. As one of the key participants in civil society, philanthropy serves as a critical supplier of resources for nonprofit organizations, and as a champion for particular kinds of policy interventions. Does philanthropy play an appropriate role in addressing public needs? Questions — and answers — about the changing roles of philanthropy and civil society are integral to a variety of disciplines and cover a wide range of topics.

The PACS Center encourages applications from students studying the institutions and activities that define civil society. Students may explore a range of themes dealing with, for instance, comparisons of public, private, and nonprofit mechanisms for delivering social services or public goods; the effects of different modes of financial support on nonprofit organizations; and the role of nongovernmental organizations in non-democratic nations. We also welcome applications from students working on the changing role of associational life in a digital age.

The following are some examples of previous fellows’ topics:

  • The role of civil society as opposed to formal public institutions as a site for democratic deliberation
  • Can lab experiments with human subjects induce them to make charitable donations by priming them with various schemas that make salient the role of chance or fortune in life outcomes
  • Environmental and social impacts associated with energy development and public participation in environmental decision-making
  • The relationship between think tanks, charitable foundations, and democratic governance
  • Distributional politics of AIDS drugs in Africa and how NGO efforts affect the health delivery system
  • Performance differences between public and nonprofit homeless shelters in Santa Clara County
  • The relationship between public schools and philanthropy and educational reform
  • Collaboration between for-profit organizations and nonprofit organizations that results in sustainable business practices
  • Environmental social movements, and the foundations that support them

Without limiting submissions to items on this list, these are several issues that we are particularly interested in:

  • The expansion of global governance, particularly transnational organizations and their causes and impact;
  • The role of social movements and advocacy groups in policy reform or efforts at measuring effectiveness in the social sector;
  • The relationship between philanthropy and democracy;
  • New organizational forms, ranging from hybrids to b corps, from cooperatives 
to for-profits with a purported social mission; corporate social responsibility; 
impact investing;
  • Novel approaches to analyzing the expanding importance of civil society
in a digital age;
  • New open models of public media and knowledge, ranging from journalism to 
encyclopedias to scientific production.


The fellowship provides up to a full academic year of support — 50% stipend and tuition, and health insurance — for PhD students. Please note the fellowship does not support travel or data collection. PACS has a separate fund to support travel and data collection.


All fellows are expected to be in residence during the full term of their fellowship, participate in a year-long research workshop that meets alternating weeks throughout the school year, and attend other PACS events throughout the year. Fellowship recipients will also be expected to complete a writing project during their fellowship year, and aim to turn that work into scholarly articles for academic journals within two years of receipt of the fellowship.

Application Requirements

Applications will be reviewed by members of our Faculty Steering Committee and by our Faculty Directors and Executive Director. Please provide the following information with your application:

  • Curriculum Vitae: Email pdf curriculum vitae to
  • Research Project: Email description of research project (maximum length: 5 pages) to
  • Graduate Transcript: Submit your transcript online (through Axess) and have it sent to (Guide to submitting transcripts through Axess)
  • Two Letters of Recommendation: Recommenders may provide a letter in pdf format to

For applications to be considered each of the above pieces must be received by the above stated deadline.

If you have questions, please contact Priya Shanker at