This Year’s Non-Assistantship: Halleran Dissertation Completion Fellowship

Thanks to a dissertation completion fellowship, I’ll be spending more time writing and revising this year. Image: a photo of a woman sitting at a desk typing on a laptop computer.

A Change in Routine

For the past five years, I’ve held different assistantships at William & Mary. From course instructor to career coach, conference organizer to collections management assistant, I’ve served a variety of roles. These assistantships have provided opportunities to see my various skills applied to different contexts and imagine myself in different career roles. In short, they’ve been a significant part of my life at William & Mary. This year will be different though. For the first time since my arrival at William & Mary, I won’t hold an assistantship. Instead, I’ll be joining a new cohort as a recipient of a Halleran Dissertation Completion Fellowship.

What is the Halleran Dissertation Completion Fellowship?

Named for former provost Michael R. Halleran, the fellowship provides recipients with a year’s worth of funding without the obligation of an assistantship. With this funding, students can focus on their dissertations unencumbered by other commitments. Every year the number of fellowships varies, but for 2023-2024 there will be six of us from different departments and programs. Several people I already know from the American Studies Program, but others come from departments like History or Anthropology.

Applying for the Dissertation Completion Fellowship

When I started considering applying for the Halleran, I wasn’t sure I wanted it. Although the 2022-2023 terms represented my fifth and technically final year of funding, the American Studies Program has secured extra funding for students affected by the pandemic. After talking it over with my advisor though, I decided to treat the application process as a practice run. If I didn’t get it, I’d have the Covid money available. If I did get it, I’d get more time to focus on writing and revision. As far as fellowship applications go, it was a low-stakes scenario.

As I started working on the application, I became more excited about the prospect of the fellowship. Part of the application included drafting a timeline for 2023-2024. As I talked with my advisor and sketched out my tentative schedule, I realized something: I could potentially finish the dissertation in a year. I was already on track to draft Chapters 3 and 4 during the fall semester, and draft Chapter 5 in the spring. By the start of the fellowship period, I’d already have all my chapters in draft form.

Applying for the Halleran encouraged me to consider the project as a whole and see how far I’d come. That, in turn, made me more excited about the prospects of receiving a fellowship.

A New Opportunity

While the committee liked my application, they thought I could finish the dissertation without a fellowship because I’d already drafted a significant amount. As a compromise, they put me on a waitlist. In mid-April, I learned that a fellowship was available, and accepted it. I signed the requisite paperwork a few days later. At the end of this month, I’ll participate in a five-day writing retreat with my fellow Halleran recipients at the end of May.

I’ll admit, it’s going to be a little strange not having an assistantship this year. They’ve been a key part of feeling connected to the William & Mary community, from their alignment with the academic schedule to their physical presence on the campus itself. At the same time, I’ve really come to like the schedule I’ve worked out for myself this past semester. It’s given me the time and energy to focus more attention on my creative projects, so I’m looking forward to continuing that flexibility. Either way, like every assistantship I’ve had, the Halleran will be a unique experience, and I look forward to its opportunities.

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