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SPA Application for AU Summer Scholars & Artists Program


Advanced undergraduates in the School of Public Affairs are invited to apply for an American University’s Summer Scholars & Artists Program. Summer Scholars will receive $4,000 to support their research-related expenses, which may include living expenses, travel, equipment, supplies, etc.

Each Scholar will work closely with a faculty mentor. Faculty mentors will receive a $1,000 stipend to guide Scholars through their apprenticeship.

The faculty mentor must actively mentor the Scholar throughout the application process, scholarly endeavor, and final presentation. The faculty mentor will aid the Scholar in all phases of development, design, implementation, analysis/interpretation and presentation of the scholarly or creative work. During the summer, the faculty mentor will remain in frequent contact with the Scholar and provide timely feedback. Finally, the faculty mentor will help the Scholar find appropriate venues for sharing the results of his/her project.

A Scholar’s project may be conducted jointly with professors or other students, but must show evidence of significant original work by the Scholar. For example, if the Scholar is directly involved in a faculty research project, they must have their own area of intellectual inquiry to investigate and participate in all phases of design, development, execution, analysis, and conclusions. In essence, the relationship will be one of apprenticeship, rather than research assistance.

Scholars can expect to be invited to attend information sessions or workshops after receiving the payment and are encouraged to publicly present their completed work. For instance, they might incorporate their work into a senior or honors capstone; they might present their work at a conference at AU or elsewhere; or they might publish, display, or perform their work on or off campus.


Applicants must have a minimum 3.3 GPA in their major and a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. In addition, applicants must have earned at least 60 credits and registered for classes in the subsequent fall semester.

The application will include:

  • The proposal for scholarly activity. The proposal is limited to 1500 words, not including references. It should include:
    - a description of the project, including proposed research methodology;
    - an explanation of the project’s significance;
    - a brief description of academic preparation (coursework, etc.) that will enable the applicant to undertake this proposed activity; and
    - a proposed timeline for the 8-week period of proposed research
  • A current transcript (unofficial is fine).
  • A letter of reference from the intended faculty mentor. The letter should speak to the quality of the proposed research, to the applicant’s preparedness for conducting a methodologically sound research project, and to the preparations made for maintaining a close mentor-mentee relationship over the course of the proposed research. (The letter should be sent separately by the faculty member to protect confidentiality.)

Applications should be submitted via email to Justin Williams ( in SPA Student Services by Monday, March 2st, 2020. The subject line should read “Summer Scholars Program.” The faculty mentor should send the letter of support to Justin Williams separately.

Recipients will be announced on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020.


Scholars must be degree-seeking undergraduate students pursuing a major in SPA. Scholars must also be registered for Fall 2020 classes, which may be at AU or abroad through AU Abroad.

Scholars and their mentors should be aware that their payments are taxable.

All Scholars will be expected to publicly present their completed work at both the SPA Undergraduate Research Conference and at a presentation of research event sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Education. Scholars are also strongly encouraged to present their work at additional conferences on or off campus.

Scholars will be invited to provide a summary of their project to the Dean of Undergraduate Education and Dean of Public Affairs by the end of the calendar year. Faculty mentors are required to write a paragraph describing their role and expectations in mentoring the scholar. Guidelines for the summary will be provided by the academic unit should include the following:

  • Summary of the research conducted under the auspices of the program
  • Statement of proposed next steps in the research project (including plans for future coursework, independent research, presentations, or publication)

Should any events prevent Scholars or mentors from starting or completing the project, both the Scholar and the faculty mentor must return the funds to the university. In cases in which reimbursement is not prompt, the University will place a stop on the student’s account.


The intention of this program is to give talented students an opportunity to explore an intellectual interest in depth and at length. The eight weeks of the program are understood to be the beginning of a process that might take six months or a year from conception to final product. As the student’s thinking matures, their scholarship might find its final form in an independent study the following year. The selection committee will keep such issues in mind as a decision is made regarding which project to fund.

The selection committee will be composed of faculty and staff from the School of Public Affairs. The committee will choose one recipient.