[Parentsgroup-list] Cynthia Verba on fellowship appl.

Christine Dianne Wenc wenc at fas.harvard.edu
Tue Jan 10 18:57:04 EST 2006

Hi all--Cynthia Verba sent me her suggestions for how to word one's
fellowship/grant etc. application when you have had your progress
interrupted by family duties.  Do feel free to make an appt with her and
ask her any questions.  We also want to put together a workshop
about how to do this, not just for parents but for anyone who's had major
life events during grad school that have affected their progress.

She sent me two versions.  One is her initial response, and the other is
the Official version which will now be appearing in the Graduate Guide to
Grants (due to our inspiration!).  Note that she does want feedback.

In this email, the Official version is first, and her first take (which I
include because she included a more lengthy suggested wording) is second.

best, Christine


How and When to Include Background Information of a More Personal
Nature:  Childbirth, or Other Circumstances, Such as Illness,
That Have Affected Your Work

If some event or circumstance in your personal life has visibly affected
the progress of your work, you might want to address that issue directly,
rather than leaving it to the reader to speculate.  One possibility is to
ask a recommender to mention it, or you could bring it up yourself.
Should you choose the latter, my main suggestion is to keep a clear line of
separation between the proposal, which should focus exclusively on
explaining the merits of your project, and your inclusion of personal
information.  You could accomplish this separation between the
professional and the personal, either by adding a brief cover note, or by adding at the
end of your proposal a transitional sentence that indicates you are
shifting gears, such as:  "On a more personal note . . ."  Whichever you
choose, you should try to emphasize that you are now basically back on
track, and in fact have acquired considerable expertise at time
management, now that it is such a compelling issue.


I have a few thoughts on how to mention personal issues
on a grant application or other professional applications before we explore it more

I think there should be a clearly articulated line separating the
professional content from the personal:  thus, in a grant application, I
would focus on writing a winning application describing the project and
its importatnce to the field (advice on this and winning samples is in my
publication, Scholarly Pursuits, available in paper version at the Dean's
Office, Byerly Hall, free of charge to GSAS students, and soon to be
available at the GSAS web-site).

Once the scholarly portion is written and
there are personal items that the applicant feels are relevant to include,
that could be done in a cover note attached to the application materials;
alternatively, a final paragraph in the proposal could open with:  "On a
personal note, I would like to mention that I have recently had a baby,
am now returning to a work schedule that allows me to progress with my
research and writing ETC."  Note that in either format the personal is
separate,  Note as well that the personal message assures the reader that
the applicant will devote time to research or writing and is ready to make
progress.  Again, these are just some thoughts; it would be good to hear
from faculty or experienced applicants who have applied as parents.

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