Nicholson Fellowship at Cornell Summer Institute

Applications are invited from full-time graduate students for the Nicholson Graduate Fellowship, which allows two Sponsored Participants selected by the Unit for Criticism to participate in the School of Criticism and Theory (SCT) at Cornell University on June 11 - July 20, 2023. We welcome applications from graduate students whose research centers on critical and interpretive theory or the interdisciplinary study of culture and the arts. Cornell’s deadline for the application is February 1. However, the internal deadline for the Unit to receive your application for the fellowship is January 18. The application requires a letter of intent, two letters of recommendation, a CV, a UIUC transcript, and a writing sample. Please send these materials to Unit Director D. Fairchild Ruggles.

General Information 

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory has historically offered fellowships for two graduate students to attend the School of Criticism and Theory (SCT) at Cornell University. Currently directed by Hent de Vries, the Paulette Goddard Professor of the Humanities at New York University, the SCT is a six-week summer institute that has existed for more than thirty years and provides the opportunity for graduate students and faculty members to take seminars with some of the world’s leading critical theorists. The SCT provides an unparalleled opportunity for advanced training in critical theory and for making connections with an international cohort of peers and world-class scholars. Under the SCT’s “Sponsored Participant” program, the Unit for Criticism has been able to select two graduate students to send to Cornell. With the help of funds from the Nicholson Gift Fund, LAS, and the Graduate College, the Unit pays for the SCT tuition in full, and also contributes $1,600 for housing, food, and transportation costs. (On-campus housing at Cornell costs $1,100, but less expensive options in town are also possible.) The Sponsored Participants chosen by the Unit do not have to go through the SCT application process; they simply file an abbreviated application and are generally guaranteed the seminar of their choice.

See the eligibility criterion for more information, including the application link below. For more information about the SCT, including detailed seminar descriptions, see Cornell's School of Criticism and Theory website.

1. Applicants must be full-time graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting program at UIUC who will return to UIUC in Fall 2023.
2. Applicants must be affiliated students of the Unit for Criticism, but Unit applications can be submitted prior to the deadline. Follow this link to the affiliation form. 

Students who would like to apply to be one of the Unit for Criticism’s Nicholson Fellows/Sponsored Participants should read the guidelines below and submit the necessary materials through the link below NO LATER THAN January 18, 2023.
The fellowships will be awarded soon after and applications and other materials are due at Cornell. Fellowships will be awarded by a selection committee made up of the Unit’s multidisciplinary Advisory Board. Please note that the SCT recommends that students be in their post-coursework phase of scholarship and that preference will be given to more advanced students. However, all students who meet the Eligibility Criteria described below are eligible to apply. 
Application Materials: 

1. A short cover letter that includes the following information:

            a) the names of two Illinois faculty references (Please note that faculty members will not necessarily be contacted for references). 

            b) the title of the six-week seminar the student would like to attend. 

2. A statement of approximately two pages, single-spaced, describing current scholarly interests and plans and a description of how the SCT might further these goals. The statement should include information about courses taken in critical theory and about ongoing and projected research projects. It should also clarify what your current status is in your program (i.e. ABD, taking courses, etc.). Please be sure to connect your interests and research to the particular seminar you would like to attend. This is the most important part of your application. 

3. A current C.V.

Guidelines for Enrollment in SCT: 
If your application is accepted by the Unit for Criticism, you will need to submit a truncated set of application materials to the SCT. 
(The Unit’s Sponsored Participants’ will automatically be given special consideration by the SCT).
If you have any questions about this program, please contact Unit for Criticism Director Dede Ruggles ( after consulting the Unit's website which includes testimonials from previous Unit students who have attended SCT.

To apply, email all the required documents to Dede Ruggles (


2023 Major Seminars

This summer’s SCT will take place in person from June 11 - July 20, 2023 and will feature the following four six-week seminars from which participants pick one:

  • Martin Hägglund — "The Fundamental Ontology of Life and Freedom"
  • Sandra Laugier — "Concepts of the Ordinary"
  • Alexandre Lefebvre — "The First and the Last Liberal: Michel de Montaigne and John Rawls"
  • Dianne M. Stewart — "The Ties that Bind: Global Black Feminisms and Womanisms"

Want to know more about what SCT could be like for you? Read our past Unit SCT fellows' reflections:


2023 Fellows

Mona Khneisser (Sociology)

Nubras Samayeen (Landscape Architecture)

2022 Fellows

Debayudh Chatterjee (English) Reflection

Soumya Dasgupta (Architecture) Reflection

2021 Fellows

Sabrina Lee's (English) Reflection

Joseph Coyle's (Anthropology) Reflection

2019 Fellows

Alana Ackerman's (Anthropology) Reflection

Jamillah R. Gabriel's (Information Science) Reflection

2018 Fellows

Lettycia Terrones's (Information Science and Latina/o Studies) Reflection

Anirban Mukhopadhyay's (Institute of Communications Research) Reflection

2017 Fellows

Eman Ghanayem's (English) Reflection

Peter Thompson's (History) Reflection


Previous Unit SCT Fellows

2016: Jennifer L. Thomas and Daniel F. Johnson Mardones 

2015: Jeffrey Okla Elliot and Roman Friedman

2014: Andrew Santana Kaplan and Brenda Sanya 

2013: Julie McCormick Weng and Brandon Jones 

2012: Ben Bascom and Michael Uhall 

2011: Chase Dimock and Claire Barber 

2010: Ergin Bulut and Austin Riede 

2009: Melissa Free and Zia Gluhbegivic