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What is a Fellowship Program? Why You Should Host One, Different Models, and More

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What is a fellowship?

Fellowships vary in disciplines, types, amount, and targeted candidates, but are generally an advanced study route that subsidizes the fellow’s education and research. The financial support is awarded as a scholarship to help cover the costs of the graduate or doctorate student’s tuition of their home institution or waive the program fees of the participant’s host institution. Apart from financing a fellow’s courses, fellowships can provide the funds for activities that aid the fellow’s studies like trips, thesis or research materials, and presentations. 

The differences vary depending on the participant’s status and the type of fellowship. Hospitals, corporations, government agencies, arts or non-profit organizations, universities, or media outlets can offer fellowships to candidates proven to be skilled and dedicated to their field. Fellows can be enrolled students, recent graduates, doctors who have completed residency, or meritable figures in a field despite their academic status or focus. Also, there are some entry-level fellowships that are geared towards providing access and training.

Benefits of participating in fellowships

The benefits for an institution that offer fellowships are built around supporting new careers, accessibility, and education. These benefits include:

  • Providing guidance, institutional support, and professional development to the fellow
  • Receiving new ideas, tactics, and perspectives from the fellow
  • Taking part in social responsibility and community engagement
  • Opening their doors allowing for transparency 
  • Contributing to the success of future leaders in a given field

The benefits for a person participating in a fellowship are geared towards supporting their educational and career paths. These benefits are listed below:

  • Fellowships can help subsidize the ever-increasing cost of education.
  • Fellowships can serve as an alternate option to pursuing formal education, graduate school, or doctoral degrees. 
  • The fellow gains practical knowledge through experiential learning [link to Symba article on Experiential Learning Models]
  • The fellow can receive feedback from the program managers, their peers, or the community.
  • A participant gains exposure to the field and a network with professionals or other fellows.

Different types of fellowship models

Fellowship models are subject to the discipline, the partner organizations involved, and the targeted outcomes for fellows (i.e. employment with the host institution, a completed project, or a presentation of their work). Below are the fellowship models that are most commonly conducted. 

  1. Group fellowships: Disciplines that rely on team effort and collaboration may benefit from also implementing peer work into a fellowship program. Fellows can collaborate on singular projects while learning from each other and improving their group dynamics like delegation and communication. A group fellowship also builds in a support system for fellows to turn to during their program. 
  1. Alumni fellowships: An alumni fellowship offers return programs for the institution’s alumni. This can include students who were unable to partake in extra programs prior to graduating or those who want to further their work with the institution more deeply. This setup can also be an opportunity for fellows to collaborate with the host institution’s partnerships as an extension of their studies.
  1. Art or cultural fellowships: A fellow who participates in the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat is given a full or partial scholarship to participate in their artistic residency. The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation funds emerging Native artists who share and discuss their culture. These types of fellowship programs tend to be run by non-profit organizations that rely on funding via grants or donations. There are also government funded arts fellowships driven by the initiative to develop and support the arts and artists.
  1. Dissertation-centered fellowships: Fellowships that provide funding and support towards a graduate students’ dissertation research and completion can be offered by university graduate programs. The student receives funding to pay for their tuition or a stipend to cover their research and submission of their completed dissertation. Students can apply for these fellowships in their senior year of undergrad or first year in graduate school. 
  1. Medical fellowships: A medical fellowship typically spans one to three yers and can be a step to further towards a physician’s specialty after completing medical school and residency. A participating doctor can dive deeper into the speciality they are pursuing and get an opportunity to work closely with the host facility. Many medical fellows go on to work full-time with the facility where they completed their fellowship.
  1. Graduate fellowships: As mentioned before, a graduate fellow receives a scholarship to help cover the costs of their graduate studies. The funds can also be used for research materials, accommodation, and extracurricular activities related to their program.
  1. Postdoctoral fellowships: A postdoctoral fellowship is awarded to those who recently completed doctorates but want to commit more time and research into their study. They are given the subsidy to extend their coursework and to become even more specialized and experienced in their field. A postdoc fellowship can fund both the courses and related projects the fellow wishes to pursue. 

If a student, artist, physician or any person wishes to learn more about their field, work with professionals, receive financial support, and accumulate quality work experience, then fellowships are a viable option. 

Are you a corporation, educational institution, or non-profit organization that is hosting a fellowship program? Symba provides the program management and data analytics tools you need to elevate your fellowship program or any type of workforce development program. Sign up for a demo today.

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