USIP’s Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship program awards non-residential fellowships to students enrolled in U.S. universities who are writing doctoral dissertations on topics related to international conflict management and peacebuilding. Since 1988, the program has supported the dissertations of roughly 300 young scholars, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in research, teaching and policy making.

2018-2019 USIP/Minerva Peace Scholars
2018-2019 USIP/Minerva Peace Scholars

The Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship program competition opens in September and closes in November each year. The awards are announced in early spring. The fellowships last for 10 months, starting in September.

This annual award program also partners with the Minerva Research Initiative to offer additional pre-doctoral fellowships on peace and security topics.

Currently, the Peace Scholar program awards between 12 and 18 scholarships per year. Minerva Research Initiative fellowships are divided between awards that support field-work and awards that support writing; USIP Peace Scholar fellowships may be used for any phase of work on dissertations. 

Applications from members of groups traditionally under-represented in the field of international relations, peace and conflict studies and other related academic disciplines, as well as diplomacy and international policy-making, are strongly encouraged.

Application Process

When the competition opens in September of each year, applying for a Peace Scholar Fellowship is a two-step process.

  • Registration. Applicants must first register for an account here. After registration, login credentials will be sent to access the application portalIt can take up to 72 hours to receive these credentials, so applicants should register early.
  • Application. Applications must be submitted through the Fluxx online application system. On the application form, please indicate the scholarship(s) for which you would like to be considered: the USIP Peace Scholar fellowship only; Minerva Research Initiative Peace and Security fellowship only; or no preference. Both fellowships have the same application form, deadline, award amount, and selection process; the only difference between the USIP and Minerva fellowships is the source of funding. Three letters of recommendation must be attached to your application in the Fluxx system. One letter must be from the dissertation advisor, and two from current professors. 
  • Registration and application deadlines will be announced when the competition opens in September of each year.

(Please note: The application system works best when using Google Chrome as your web browser. If you are experiencing issues with the application system, please email If the answer requires more than an email, we will schedule a time to help you by phone. Please allow us up to 72 hours to respond to your inquiry.) 

Application Topics and Scoring Rubric

Application Topics

Applications from all disciplines and on a wide range of topics related to peacebuilding are welcome. There are several criteria which, if met, will strengthen applications:

  • All applications should be consistent with the Institute’s mission and present a research agenda with clear relevance to policy issues. Historical topics are appropriate if they shed light on contemporary issues. Area studies projects and single-case studies will be considered if they focus on conflict and conflict resolution and/or apply to other regions and cases around the world, or both. 
  • To be competitive, applicants must make persuasive links between theoretical, practical and policy orientations, and demonstrate the links between their projects and the mission and work, including regional and thematic priorities, of the U.S. Institute of Peace and/or the Minerva Initiative
  • For the Minerva Research Initiative Peace and Security fellowship awards, strong applications should also present a persuasive argument that their research makes a basic or fundamental research contribution to the field, and discuss how their basic research contributions relate to broad concerns of conflict management and peacebuilding that may include (but are not limited to) security and stability.
  • Peace Scholar awards may not be made for projects that constitute policymaking for a government agency or private organization, focus to any substantial degree on conflicts within U.S. domestic society or adopt a partisan, advocacy or activist stance.

Scoring Rubric for USIP and Minerva Applications

Applications will be assessed using the five criteria below. Scoring is on a 1 to 5 scale: 1=Not Recommended, 2=Poor, 3=Satisfactory, 4=Good, 5=Outstanding. 

  • Thesis Clarity: Is the research question or project description clearly articulated? Is the proposal soundly conceived with a central problem that has been identified and analyzed?
  • Topic Significance/Relevance: Does the dissertation address an important topic of relevance to the fields of conflict resolution and international peace and security, and what is the likelihood of the research to affect policy or practice? How does it align to the USIP and/or Minerva mission?
  • Originality: How original or cutting-edge is the dissertation topic, and/or does the dissertation fill a gap in USIP’s knowledge of the issue? Is the methodology clear, innovative and rigorous? Is a unique approach presented?
  • Project Design and Implementation: How clear, specific, logical, and achievable are the objectives? Can the proposal be completed according to the intended design and timetable? 
  • Scientific and Technical Merit: Does the dissertation/project make clear the basic research contribution to social science (theoretical, methodological, and generalizable)?

Award Terms and Restrictions

Award Terms

Peace Scholars may be awarded stipends of up to $20,000 per academic year. Awards are paid directly to the individual in three tranches. Peace Scholar fellowships may not be deferred. The Peace Scholar Dissertation fellowship cannot be combined with any other major residential award or fellowship except with the written approval of the Institute. If written approval from USIP is granted, $30,000 is the maximum combined amount from all funding sources that a Peace Scholar can receive during their tenure.  

Minerva Research Initiative fellowships are divided between awards that support field-work and awards that support writing; USIP Peace Scholar fellowships may be used for any phase of work on dissertations. Peace Scholars carry out their fellowship work at their universities or other sites appropriate to their research. Peace Scholars are expected to devote full attention to their work and provide three dissertation update reports to the Institute. Peace Scholars are invited to present their dissertations to experts at the Institute during the annual Peace Scholar conference each fall. Peace Scholars may also be asked to do the following:

  • Work with Institute staff to present their work on the USIP website;
  • Conduct an interview with a USIP staff member about their research;
  • Publish an op-ed based on their work;
  • Participate in Institute workshops, conferences, and other activities.

Award Restrictions

Please note that the Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship program does not support pre-dissertation level graduate work. Doctoral students in non-U.S.-based universities are not eligible. The fellowships cannot support research focused on U.S. domestic conflict and peacebuilding, however, research on U.S. government foreign policy is eligible for support. Peace Scholar awards may not be made for projects that constitute policy-making for a government agency or private organization, focus to any substantial degree on conflicts within U.S. domestic society, or adopt a partisan, advocacy, or activist stance.

Former Scholar Highlights

In May 2017, 2016-2017 Peace Scholar Ore Koren published a piece of analysis on USIP’s website, “How Drought Escalates Rebel Killings of  Civilians,” as well as a blog post, “Food Access and the Logic of Violence During Civil War.”

Former Peace Scholar Reyko Huang (2011-2012) published a book based on her dissertation research, The Wartime Origins of Democratization: Civil War, Rebel Governance, and Political Regimes, with Cambridge University Press. Reyko is now an Assistant Professor at Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Former Peace Scholar Sarah Zukerman Daly (2008-2009) published a book based on her dissertation research, Organized Violence after Civil War: The Geography of Recruitment in Latin America, also with Cambridge University Press. Sarah is an Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Former Peace Scholar Michelle Bellino (2012-2013), now an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, published a book based on her dissertation, Youth in Postwar Guatemala: Education and Civic Identity in Transition, with Rutgers University Press.