Research Opportunities

The English department is keen to support students in their application for fellowship opportunities, and to provide opportunities for those who are eager to pursue a special interest in literary studies. 

The following programs allow students to build relationships with faculty, explore areas of interest, gain new knowledge in a topic of interest, and engage in exciting projects during the summer and/or academic year.

    Each semester, students may apply to take an independent study session with an approving professor. The topic, point value (1-4), assignments, and grading rubric is decided by the student and sponsoring professor and subject to approval by the DUS. Students should review the list of guidance on how to evaluate the point value of an independent study.

    To apply, please complete the independent study application form and submit it to the Undergraduate Studies Coordinator in 602 Philosophy Hall two weeks prior to the start of classes.

    Program Description 

    The Senior Essay Program offers qualified senior English majors in the College and General Studies the opportunity to write a substantial piece of critical writing (of approximately 10,000 words), under the guidance of a faculty member in the English Department.  It is not a requirement of the major, nor is it a requirement for receiving departmental honors.  

    Program Deadlines

    Final essay drafts will be due the first Monday in April. 

    A preliminary draft (ca. 20 pages) will be due to supervisors on the first Monday in March.  

    In addition, the Essay Seminar will have other smaller deadlines along the way. 

    Evaluation and Credit

    Academic credit for the course will appear on the Spring transcript as a 4-point course entitled “Senior Essay” (please let the DUS know if this presents a problem in terms of credit limits, and we can find a solution).  Faculty sponsors will submit an evaluation of the essay and a grade for the essay course to the CUE, and will also return final comments to the student.  The CUE will provide essayists with an additional set of written final comments, and will also consider Senior Essays as part of the process for determining departmental honors and prizes. 

    Three of last year's prize-winning essays can be found here:

    David Ehmcke (Hickey Prize), "Writing the Invisible:  Ariana Reines's Occult Poetics" & “Senior Essay Proposal – David Ehmcke

    Rachel Page (Bunner Prize), "White House, Chocolate City: Reading DC in the Age of Marion Barry” & “Senior Essay Proposal – Rachel Page

    Angelo Hernandez-Sias (Barratt-Brown Prize), "Winter Chemistry: Joy Williams and the Art of Coldness" & “Senior Essay Proposal Angelo Hernandez-Sias


    The Richmond B. Williams Traveling Fellowship

    The department’s Williams Fellowship supports summer research projects requiring foreign travel, with grants of up to $6000.00.

    The competition is open to any Columbia College junior majoring in English and Comparative Literature. 

    Recipients of the award must undertake a significant piece of independent scholarship based on their research in the senior year – either as an independent study, or as part of the Senior Essay program. 

    The application consists of:

    (1) A completed application form, which includes the name of a faculty member who has agreed to sponsor the project (note: your faculty sponsor should also be, in principle, willing to advise your writing project the following year), and the names of two additional faculty who are willing to be contacted by the selection committee for further references

    (2) A detailed proposal of no more than two pages single-spaced.  This proposal should include the intellectual rationale for the research project, the particular sites and sources that you plan to visit and consult, and a breakdown of your estimated budget. 

    (3) A current transcript (including courses currently in progress, via SSOL).

    (4) A completed School Sponsorship Application

    (5) Applications are due by April 14th, 2023.


    Note: It is highly recommended that applicants review Columbia’s Undergraduate International Travel Policy before and during the application process.

    Humanities Summer Research Program

    The Humanities Research Scholars Program (HRSP) offers rising juniors in Columbia College the opportunity to pursue an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences*, while receiving guidance from a faculty member in developing analytical and investigative skills. HRSP is designed to help students learn from one another and from leaders in the academic and professional world, and to support the Scholars in their intellectual growth and professional trajectory. 

    HRSP Scholars attend a six-week summer program that provides training in research methods and strategies, and that engages them in discussion of larger questions that emerge through the process of conducting research. Discussions are directly related to their research projects, and are supplemented by workshops, training sessions, and conversations with guest speakers that expose Scholars to a range of skills and resources that will enhance their current research and future professional pursuits. Students meet regularly with faculty mentors and supervisors at their relevant research institutions, and receive additional guidance from graduate students (and, in the future, alumni of this program), which will allow scholars to benefit from ‘near-peer’ mentoring and networking. 

    Through this program, HRSP expects Scholars to discover exciting and meaningful ways to better understand a specific topic in the humanities, and also the reasons why the lessons found in the works of the humanities are crucial to our understanding of the world and our place within it.

    Applications due March 1

    Summer Session I, on-campus housing and stipend provided

    For more information about funded and non-funded research and fellowship opportunities available to Columbia undergraduate students, additional resources include: 

    1. Undergraduate Research & Fellowships – information and guidance on a range of fellowships and research opportunities available to Columbia and non-Columbia students 
    2. The Columbia College Bulletin - information about department-specific and Columbia College-specific opportunities
    3. The School of General Studies - information about General Studies-specific research opportunities