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Susan Ford Dorsey Field Research Fellowship

Are you an H&S doctoral student engaged in research on sub-Saharan Africa? The Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship provides financial support for Ph.D. candidates to undertake field research in Africa in support of their dissertation projects.

The Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship for Field Research in Africa is awarded to outstanding Stanford doctoral students who are engaged in research on sub-Saharan Africa. The fellowship provides financial support for Ph.D. candidates to undertake field research in Africa in support of their dissertation projects. Applications are welcome from doctoral students across all disciplines in the School of Humanities and Sciences, though applicants should be attentive in their proposals to the broader implications of their research as it relates to contemporary issues and debates of importance to the African continent.

Both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects are welcome, and priority will be given to those projects with the greatest promise to improve our understanding of Africa. After completion of field research, Ford Dorsey fellows will become affiliates of the Center for African Studies, taking full part in the intellectual life of the Center. Fellowship funding is for three quarters of dedicated field research.


All currently enrolled H&S Stanford Ph.D. candidates who have reached Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status are invited to apply for a Graduate Dissertation Research Fellowship. The dissertation field research must take place in sub-Saharan Africa. Applicants must have advanced to candidacy by the end of spring or summer quarter and have a research proposal approved by their dissertation committee. Fellows must be continuously enrolled for the duration of their fellowship.

Fellows will receive a stipend of $26,658. The fellowship covers TGR fees and 50% of insurance costs for the academic year. Fellows are expected to be enrolled in research units at Stanford while in the field. Fellows will be asked to submit a narrative report of their fieldwork (approximately 8-10 pages) at the end of their fellowship, and present their research at a public forum at the Center for African Studies.


  1. No other employment, assistantship, or fellowship may be held concurrently.  Exceptions to this restriction must be approved by the Center for African Studies.
  2. Fellows must be Center affiliates for one full academic year following completion of field research and present their research at a Center for African Studies public forum.
  3. Fellows will submit a narrative report of their fieldwork at the end of their fellowship.

Application Deadline

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Instructions for Application

To apply for a fellowship the candidates should submit the following:

  • CAS Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship Application 2020 Cover Page
  • A five-page statement (single-spaced, including all notes and references) addressing the following:
    • Summary of dissertation research, including its contribution to your field.
    • Description of objectives and concrete plans for fieldwork, including how data collection is essential for successful completion of the project.
    • How current work is related to contemporary issues and debates of concern to African Studies.
  • Timetable for completion of research and degree.
  • An itemized budget specifying overall project costs, amount of funding requested from the Center for African Studies and sources and amount of confirmed/pending financial support for the project. For the pending financial support, please indicate the date by which funding decision will be announced. If you are ineligible for other financial support, please explain why.
  • Curriculum vitae of no more than two pages.
  • A current transcript from Axess (unofficial is fine).
  • Two letters of recommendation from Stanford faculty evaluating the quality of the research project and its successful and timely completion. One must be from the principal dissertation advisor.
    • Have your references email the letter to as a PDF on official letterhead; or if they prefer, they can give you a hard copy in a sealed envelope, stamped or signed over the back seal, for you to deliver to the CAS office.

Email application to with the subject line Susan Ford Dorsey Field Research Fellowship Application.

Fellow Highlights

Rachael Hill

2015 Recipient of the Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship for Field Research in Africa
PhD Candidate, History

Rachael Hill spent the past academic year in Ethiopia researching the history of medicinal plant research, bioprospecting, and public health in Ethiopia. Rachael’s research focuses on the government’s efforts to regulate and harness the potential benefits of traditional medicine in the twentieth century. Documents from the National Archives, the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, and the former Pasteur Institute in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa, have provided valuable primary source data. Additionally, Rachael has conducted oral interviews with Ethiopian scientists, biodiversity experts, and traditional healers who have been involved in various efforts to study, legislate, and promote traditional medicine as a viable public health resource. The interlocking web of controversies, conflicts, and fraught collaborations that characterize this history illuminates a number of issues related to the development of science and medicine in resource-poor settings as well as the shifting politics of health-related knowledge in contemporary Ethiopia.

Jess Auerbach

2014 Recipient of the Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship for Field Research in Africa
PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Susan Ford Dorsey recipient Jess Auerbach has spent the past academic year in Benguela, Angola, where she has been conducting ethnographic research on the emergent Angolan middle class. Angola suffered 27 years of brutal conflict, but is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources. After more than a decade of peace, the country is developing rapidly and both wealth and prosperity are becoming ever more visible despite significant challenges. Jess seeks to understand, through detailed interviews and observations, what the shift into peace, and with it capitalism, has meant for everyday people in everyday life. She has worked principally with government employees, small business owners, educators, boy scouts, and university students and has gathered data that will bring light to both local and international influences on the emergence of the middle class. Her data includes material on race, citizenship, aspiration, and consumption, and specifically how these aspects of life are influenced by the historical realities of Portuguese colonialism.

Kennedy Opalo

2013 Recipient of Inaugural Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship for Field Research in Africa
PhD Candidate, Political Science

Kennedy Opalo has spent the past year in Kenya, Ghana and Zambia investigating why some African parliaments have managed to emerge as credible checks on the executive arms of government — while others have remained as mere "rubber-stamp" legislatures. To help answer his research question, he has collected and organized a vast amount of data from the Kenyan National Assembly, including bills that have been brought for debate in the Assembly in each calendar year between 1963-2010, and the number of these bills that were eventually enacted and became Acts of Parliament. Kennedy has also attempted to disaggregate national expenditure in each financial year between 1963-2010 by districts, to get a sense of how much local politics has influenced resource allocation and in Kenya's history. He has conducted interviews with the staff and members of parliament.

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