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Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Fellowship (formerly CIC)




The Big Ten Academic Alliance established in 1958, is a consortium of research universities that collaborate on a wide range of academic and administrative initiatives to advance their academic missions, generate unique opportunities for students and faculty, and serve the common good by sharing expertise, leveraging campus resources, and collaborating on innovative programs.

The current members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance are: University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The University of Chicago is participating in this program as an affiliate.


The Big Ten Academic Alliance universities share the Smithsonian’s goals and commitments.  Through collaboration, member universities build upon the strengths, assets and expertise of each member university, connecting scholars with resources and opportunities and exploring ways to promote greater strategic engagement across the spectrum of the research enterprise.

The goal of the program is to identify current students from Big Ten Academic Alliance universities who have been admitted into doctoral candidacy and satisfied all requirements except completion of dissertation. These doctoral candidates find appropriate advisers at the Smithsonian to conduct research and scholarship that will further the development of their respective theses.

Program Description 

Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Institution Fellows conduct independent study and research related to Smithsonian collections, experts, or facilities in cooperation with at least one Smithsonian advisor.

Stipend, Allowances and Health Insurance:
The Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Fellowship stipend is $32,700 annually. Fellowship stipends are not salary or compensation. They are meant to support study and research during the tenure of the appointment and cannot be issued retroactively. The fellow’s University pays one-half (50%) of the cost of support of the fellow’s stipend. The Smithsonian pays the other one-half (50%).

A one-time travel/relocation allowance may be offered to the fellow (funds are not provided for the travel/relocation of a Fellow’s dependents).

A research allowance of up to $4,000 may be offered. Research allowances defray costs related to materials and travel to attend conferences needed for the fellow to complete research while in residence at the Smithsonian. All fellow applicants who anticipate a need for a research allowance should include a research budget and justification with their application. The research allowance should not include costs for one-time relocation to the Smithsonian which is awarded separately. All materials purchased with the research allowance are the property of the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

Fellows will receive health insurance in accordance with university plans. As part of the Smithsonian contribution, the Smithsonian will provide an allowance for the Fellow to maintain university health insurance. The allowance will provide $600/year (or an amount pro-rated accordingly) for the cost of university health insurance

The Smithsonian’s contributions to each Fellow’s stipend, allowances and health insurance will be transferred to each Fellow’s university after that university submits an invoice to the Smithsonian for the Smithsonian’s portion of costs.

The Big Ten Academic Alliance universities will administer all the fellowship funds withholding taxes when required in accordance with their practices for fellowship awards. The university shall maintain full and accurate financial records relating to Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Fellowship payments.


Only students currently enrolled in one of the Big Ten Academic Alliance member universities are eligible. Students must have completed all course work for their programs, and must have been admitted into doctoral candidacy and satisfied all requirements except completion of the dissertation by the time their appointment begins in order to qualify. The program is open to US citizens and Non-US citizens. Applicants whose native language is not English are expected to have the ability to write and converse fluently in English. All application materials must be presented in English.

No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of his/her employment or contract.

A Smithsonian fellowship may not be awarded to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Institution in the previous year without the prior approval of the Office of Fellowships.

How it Works

Applicants must propose research that is conducted at the Smithsonian in an area of research outlined in the publication, Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study (SORS). Applicants should contact staff members to help identify potential advisors, determine the feasibility of the proposed research being conducted at the Smithsonian Institution, and the availability of relevant resources such as staff, collections, archives and library materials during the proposed tenure dates. Current Smithsonian research staff members can be found in SORS.

Conditions of Appointment:

  • In submitting an application for a fellowship at the Institution, the applicant does not incur any obligation to accept the appointment if selected.
  • Smithsonian Institution Fellows must begin their fellowship within 1 year from the date of their award letter.
  • The fellowship must be completed within two years of the start date.
  • Appointment periods are in accordance with the applicant’s proposal for the research, unless the length of tenure requested is considered by reviewers to be more than required.
  • In accepting an appointment, the fellow will be expected to devote full time effort to the research proposed and to be in residence at the Smithsonian except for approved absences.
  • Financial support for such purposes as research, travel and equipment may be received from other sources provided that no special demands are made upon the fellow’s time.
  • Permission to receive additional stipend support must be requested in writing from the Office of Fellowships and Internships.

Use of Smithsonian Facilities:

Fellows will be assigned to a particular unit or department based upon the proposed primary advisor and research topic.

  • Fellows will be provided with space to conduct their research within the department in which they are conducting their research.
  • Applicants should consult in advance with their proposed advisor(s) regarding the availability of facilities and necessary equipment.
  • The amount of support services available to the fellow will be determined by the workload of the department and the policy of the department chairperson and/or unit director.
  • Fellows have access to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries with privileges which include borrowing library materials, interlibrary loans, intra-library loans, document delivery, database searching, and reference assistance.

How to Apply

You first need to create an account in SOLAA and then you will be able to apply. Applications for the Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Fellowship Program are not listed under the museum, research facility or office in which the applicant proposes to conduct research. Applicants for the Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Fellowship Program need to select the Pre-doc application found under the Office of Fellowships in SOLAA.


The following must be uploaded with your application:


  • No more than one page

Research Proposal: You should correspond with your proposed Smithsonian advisor(s) as you prepare your proposal (being sure to discuss potential research costs) with your proposed advisor(s) before submitting your application

  • The full statement of your research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian
  • Maximum six pages double spaced (not including references)
  • Paper size should be 8.5 by 11 inches (210 mm x 297 mm)
  • 12 point type

In preparing your proposal, be sure to provide and address the following:

  • Methodology
  • The importance of the work both in relation to the broader discipline and to your own scholarly goals
  • Justification for conducting your research at the Smithsonian and utilization of research facilities and resources
  • Identification of the member of the Smithsonian’s research staff who might serve as your principal advisor/host
  • Identification of potential co-advisor(s) and/or consultant(s) if applicable

Time Table

  • Estimate of time period for each phase of the research proposed
  • This needs to be uploaded for the application material name “Other” in SOLAA
  • Applicants should consider the following factors carefully when choosing the dates for the proposed fellowship: academic schedule, completion dates of their preliminary exams, course work, dissertation (if applicable), the schedule of their proposed advisor/host and the availability of required resources
  • The dates of tenure proposed in the application (and any change of dates if the fellowship is awarded) should be selected in agreement with the proposed principal advisor

Budget and Justification

  • Budget and justification for equipment, supplies, research-related travel costs, and other support required to conduct the research itself
  • Do not include stipend and/or relocation costs
  • If the funds exceed the maximum research allowance, please explain the source of additional funds


  • Bibliography of literature relevant to the applicant’s proposed research

Curriculum Vitae

  • Including previous and current fellowships, grants, and/or awards, and a description of your research interests.
  • If English is not your native language, describe the level of your proficiency in reading, conversing, and writing in English

Transcripts (unofficial are acceptable)

  • Graduate School Transcripts (or other materials when transcripts are not issued)
  • If transcripts or other materials are not in English the applicant should provide translations


  • Names and email addresses of two persons familiar with your work. Not the proposed SI advisor. The SI advisor will already have an opportunity to offer feedback about your proposal as part of the application review proces



  • Through SOLAA you will send an email to these referees so they can provide references through the web and you are expected to check back to ensure your references have been submitted by the application deadline.

Selection Criteria

Applications are evaluated by a Smithsonian Peer Review Committee (see committee descriptions under “References” below) made up of scholars in appropriate fields. Fellows are selected based on the following:

  • Proposal’s merit
  • Applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research and study
  • Likelihood that the research could be completed in the requested time
  • Extent to which the Smithsonian, through its research staff members and resources, could contribute to the proposed research.

The Smithsonian Fellowship Program does not discriminate on grounds of race, creed, sex, age, marital status, condition of handicap, or national origin of any applicant.

The number of appointments made each year is determined by the availability of funds for the program.

More Information 

For More Information including a link to FAQs, and Committee Descriptions go to the SIFP Fellowship website here.

For a list of Smithsonian Fellowship contacts on Big Ten Academic Alliance campuses go here.