Humanities Dissertation Release

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Humanities Dissertation Release funds make it possible for the College of the Liberal Arts to provide releases from teaching or related service to humanities students who are supported on assistantships and working on their dissertations.  This program is meant to complement, not replace, existing programs such as the RGSO Dissertation Awards and Humanities Institute Summer Residencies.


  • To be eligible for a Humanities Dissertation Release, students must be ABD and be supported on an assistantship for the period covered by the dissertation release.  Fixed-term faculty are not eligible for dissertation releases.  Unless the Associate Dean approved an exception under special circumstances, it is assumed that departments will continue to pay regular assistantship stipends and tuition grant in aids for students receiving awards during the fall and spring semesters.
  • Dissertation releases will be paid for with a $5,000 grant to departments, to cover the cost of replacing the student in the classroom; or a $3,000 award to students directly, in the case of a summer release.  To participate, departments must fully replace the teaching responsibilities or other departmental duties of students who receive a dissertation release so that students may work full time on the dissertation.  In other words, the students cannot be given a partial release from teaching or other duties; they must be given a complete semester release.  Departments that violate this understanding will be dropped from the program.  Note: Only students whose home department is in the College of the Liberal Arts are eligible to receive a summer dissertation release (or $3,000) award under this program.
  • Students are expected to remain in residence at University Park during the period of the release unless they receive permission from their Graduate Director to travel for the sake of research or other legitimate academic purposes.
  • The Associate Dean’s office serves as a clearinghouse to determine eligibility.  Students will be deemed eligible when their department’s Graduate Director certifies that the student has completed an acceptable dissertation proposal.
  • To facilitate planning, Graduate Directors will be asked to estimate students’ eligibility for the following academic year. Only students who complete accepted dissertation proposals by August (fall awards) or December (spring awards) will receive the Humanities Dissertation Release.  Graduate Directors should have reason to anticipate that students will clear all hurdles when making estimates (so that planning can be effective in departments and in the Associate Dean’s office).  Only in extraordinary cases will students be given a release when the Graduate Director has not indicated their likely eligibility beforehand.
  • In order to participate, departments may not provide a second semester of release time for the dissertation. However, students may apply to other programs giving service-free semesters such as the RGSO Dissertation Competition, center or institute predoctoral Fellowship programs, and external fellowships. Second semester dissertation releases from the RGSO Dissertation Support Competition will be granted only after the Humanities Dissertation Release semester.
  • It is understood as a condition of receiving any form of dissertation support that students will present their work at the spring Graduate Research Exhibition unless their dissertation research has already been presented at the Exhibition.  Those affiliated with a Center or Institute may receive additional stipulations in its letter of offer.

How to Qualify and Apply

By November 1st (for spring releases) and May 1st (for fall releases), departments should send Alena Sunderland,, a list of students who are expected to be eligible for a Humanities Dissertation Release and a request for which semester the student will take the release.  Students do not need to complete a specific application; they will be identified by their department.                               


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