PhD Fellowships

The deadline for applications is May 13th, 2022. 


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 social science-related professional schools including School of Business, School of Education, School of Law, School of Earth, and School of Engineering. We view applicants who have already participated in the yearlong PACS workshop favorably (EDUC 374, LAW 781, POLISCI 334, SOC 374). Repeat applicants are also accepted.

Research Topics

The PACS Center explores the role of civil society in a very broad sense. We welcome projects that 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 welcome research that is interpretative, normative, and quantitative/empirical. We are particularly interested in understanding the challenges currently faced by democratic institutions as well as the role of associational life in authoritarian regimes. Projects focused on local, state, and global levels are all welcome.

Civil society plays an 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? How does elite philanthropy shape and/or distort democratic institutions?

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 nondemocratic 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
• Environmental and social impacts associated with energy development and public participation in environmental decision making
• Distributional politics of AIDS drugs in Africa and how NGO efforts affect the health delivery system
• Global trends in education policy reform

• Psychological mechanisms underlying political polarization, intergroup conflict, and attitude moralization
• Collaboration between for-profit organizations and nonprofit organizations that results in sustainable business practices
• New organizational forms, ranging from hybrids to B Corps, from cooperatives to for-profits with a purported social mission; corporate social responsibility; impact investing
• 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—stipend, 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 that Fellows can apply for.


Fellows will spend a year in residence, participating in a yearlong research workshop that meets alternating weeks throughout the school year, and attend other PACS events with notable speakers 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 by filling out this form

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Research Project: Description of research project (maximum length: 5 pages double spaced)
  • Graduate Transcript: Submit your transcript online 
  • Two Letters of Recommendation: Recommenders may provide a letter in PDF format, sent to with the subject line “PACS PhD Fellowship 2022-2023”


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


If you have questions, please contact Gerui Wang at