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Admission And Financial Assistance

Admission and financial aid are competitive. In order to focus faculty attention and resources, the graduate program will enroll a maximum of 19 fully-funded Ph.D. students, which translates to approximately two to four new graduate students per year. These students will be generously funded with a Graduate Teaching or Research Assistantship and a University Tuition Scholarship for five years. University Tuition Scholarships are service-free awards that pay all or part of tuition costs. The following graduate awards are normally supplemented by a full University Tuition Scholarship, which usually includes student health insurance coverage: University Fellowships, Graduate Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Research Assistantships, Traineeships, and Teacher Training Awards. The Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Research Assistantships (RA) provide our anthropology graduate students with essential training in pedagogy, research, and the ethical practices of our discipline. The support provided by Vanderbilt University is among the best available in anthropology programs in North America.

Transfer credits may reduce the number of semesters of funding. Continued funding is conditional on very satisfactory performance in course work, TA/RA duties, a passing grade on the comprehensive exams, and successful defense of the dissertation proposal (this is the Qualifying Exam). Students must also secure a Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) by the end of the second semester; the GAC is comprised of the adviser and two other faculty members. To maintain funding, the student must also secure a Ph.D. committee at least one month before defending the dissertation proposal (i.e., before taking the Qualifying Exam). The Ph.D committee consists of a minimum of four faculty members (including one from outside of the department). According to Graduate School rules, the Qualifying Exam (dissertation proposal defense) should be completed by the fourth year.

Many of our graduate students also earn competitive University Fellowships, University research and travel grants, and University conference travel grants. All graduate students are also required to apply for external funding to support their research endeavors. Vanderbilt Anthropology graduate students have been very successful in securing external grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Wenner-Gren, Fulbright, Fulbright-Hayes, Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Ford Foundation, PEO, American Association of University Women, Sigma Xi, and Lewis and Clark, among many others.

Huancayo Alto, Chillon valley, Peru

Graduate awards and research funding

Writing grant proposals and successfully obtaining research funding are critical to the profession of anthropology. These are important components of a student's graduate education at Vanderbilt. We expect students to learn to compose effective proposals and to seek their own research funding throughout their graduate education. A student is expected to apply for at least one source of grants for graduate support or research during his or her first two years in the program.

Graduate Support:

Students are strongly encouraged to apply for external funding (e.g., a National Science Foundation 3-year Graduate Fellowship [NSF-GRFP] or a Ford Foundation pre-doctoral Fellowship) for their graduate studies before or during their first year at Vanderbilt. The content and form of the proposal will be discussed with the student's primary adviser and the DGS.

Summer Research:

As part of their graduate training and in preparation for their dissertation projects, students are expected to regularly conduct summer research projects. It is the student's responsibility to seek funding for these projects. Vanderbilt University offers several competitive awards for summer research, and there are also external sources of support (see below). After having successfully obtained an on-campus award and completed the proposed research, the student will submit a 2-page written report of the research project to his/her advisory and advisory committee. This document should summarize the project and its findings.


It is the student's responsibility to obtain funding for his/her dissertation research. Students may work on faculty-sponsored research projects if so decided by the faculty member. However, working on a faculty-sponsored project involves certain obligations and conditions, which are to be discussed by the student and faculty member prior to the field research.

Internal Sources Of Funding

Travel Grants for Conferences 

Summer Research Grants 

Dissertation Grants 

  • The Robert Penn Warren Fellowship provides a year of non-service funding for graduate students who are working full-time on their dissertation.

 External Sources Of Funding