Interseminars Graduate Fellowships

Interseminars is designed to prepare graduate students to be adept at both navigating and actively shaping the kind of higher education landscapes and cultures they want to see in the 21st century.

Interseminars invites applications for its second (2023–2024) graduate cohort on the theme of "Improvise and Intervene."

  • Have you always wanted to co-create a graduate seminar along with other students and faculty from across the arts and humanities?
  • Would you like to learn from professors and guest lecturers across disciplines, including scholars, artists, and activists?
  • Do you want to collaborate with faculty and graduate students to organize a conference, exhibition, or public performance?

If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you may be interested in applying to the second Interseminars cohort: “Improvise and Intervene.”

The Interseminars Initiative has been made possible by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation and seeks to build communities of inquiry among graduate students and faculty at the University of Illinois around emerging research directions in the interdisciplinary humanities and arts.


The Interseminars fellowship is an eighteen-month interdisciplinary graduate experience that runs from the summer of 2023 through the fall of 2024. Students in the fellowship receive a full academic year of support (2023-2024, $25,000) plus two summer stipends (summer 2023 and 2024, $5,000 per year), and an additional $2,250 in research funds, for students across the arts and humanities to seek interdisciplinary training for their research projects, creative portfolios, and public humanities work. 

In this way, Interseminars will prepare graduate students to be adept at both navigating and actively shaping the kind of higher education landscapes and cultures they want to see in the 21st century.  

Interseminars welcomes applications from graduate students in all disciplines across the arts and humanities whose research or creative practices connect with the 2023–2024 theme: “Improvise and Intervene.” Applicants should be in coursework during the 2023–2024 academic year, and prepared to enroll in one Interseminars course each semester. The fellowship also includes a week-long intensive workshop each summer, and culminates in an event in fall 2024, where students will share their experiments in speculative practice and study. We are especially interested in fostering interdisciplinary work between the humanities and the arts that is committed to social, racial, economic, and gender justice.


Interested in applying for the fellowship but want to learn more? View the October 28, 2022 info session in the video below.


2023–24 HRI Interseminars theme: "Improvise and Intervene" 

Improvise and Intervene explores improvisation as critical theory and method towards developing innovative approaches to interdisciplinary and collaborative research design in the Arts and Humanities. Taking inspiration from text and arts-based scholarship and practices of collectivity and collaboration in the Black radical tradition, indigenous critique, critical ethnic studies, liberation theology, Third World feminism, and queer of color critique, this seminar seeks to develop modes of intervention that imagine and practice liberation. We are interested in bringing together graduate students, especially those from historically underrepresented communities, who draw from and contribute to these intellectual, affective, and embodied genealogies and traditions.

The major social and political problems of our time require a reimagining of how we do our work, while we also have deep traditions of creative, intellectual, and social practice to draw upon. From anti-colonial intellectuals Aimé and Suzanne Césaire’s surrealist games to Ruthie Gilmore’s reminder that “abolition is life in rehearsal… not a repetition of rules,” we learn that play and experimentation are specific strategies towards everyday theoretical and practical interventions in the world. For example, how do we incorporate into collaborative research the modes of listening and co-creating that musicians explore when they freestyle, jam, and call and respond?

Traditionally, scholars working in the same area or theme enter into debates and arguments with one another with little or no experience of working together. What changes in theory and method if scholars are tasked with examining a single problem together? Imagine a historian, a dancer, an ethnographer, a computer scientist, and architect working together on an issue. What would their expertise and training bring to the experience of collaboration? Moreover, what would collaboration look, sound, and feel like? While suggesting experimentation in theory and method, the Improvise and Intervene cohort will explore how collaborative teams can improvise and intervene in the social and political landscape.

Convened by three interdisciplinary scholars, this interseminar draws from its commitment to activist research and pedagogy that mobilizes the university and redistributes its resources towards liberation.

What to Expect:

Fellows will enroll in an Interseminar course each semester during the 2023–24 academic year. Students will engage in study and struggle with a cohort of students from across the arts and humanities disciplines across multiple semesters. The fall 2023 and spring 2024 seminar courses will integrate theory and practice around the concept-models of Improvise and Intervene. In each course, faculty and students will explore texts and creative works that grapple with pressing social issues and the multiple methods used in conducting and presenting research. The fall semester will emphasize experimentation, building skills, and theoretical grounding as students collaboratively produce writing and creative work on a weekly basis in response to textual and creative prompts. The spring semester course will be used to specify case studies and engage in active collaborative research.

Students will have the opportunity to engage with an array of visiting scholars, activists, and artists and will co-design a fall 2024 culminating event.

The Improvise and Intervene Interseminar will involve week-long workshops in both summer 2023 and summer 2024. The 2023 summer intensive workshop is an opportunity to get to know one another and co-create the syllabus of each Interseminars course. The 2024 summer intensive will focus on organizing the culminating event to be held in fall 2024.

The Interseminars Project Faculty will work closely with fellows through the entire fellowship period, offering individualized and group mentorship and accompaniment through case study research.

Application Deadline Date


Champaign-Urbana campus PhD, DMA, and MFA graduate students from across the arts and humanities and humanistic social sciences are eligible to apply for this fellowship opportunity. Please note that students in combined MA/PhD programs are eligible to apply, while those in master's-only programs outside of an MFA are not. Graduate students from self-supporting programs, such as an MBA or MLIS, are ineligible. Applicants should be in the coursework phase, since the Interseminars fellowship requires participation in an Interseminars courses in both fall 2023 and spring 2024. Graduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds are particularly encouraged to apply. Fellowship support is intended to provide full funding and is a tuition waiver-generating appointment during the 2023–24 academic year and corresponding summers. Fellowship support is intended to fully support graduate fellows for the full year without need for other research or teaching appointments.

All Interseminars fellows are required to maintain residency on the Illinois campus (residing within a 20-mile radius) during the academic award year, be available in person for the summer 2023 and 2024 week-long intensive workshops and participate in all elements of the fellowship.

If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact the Interseminars Coordinator, Alaina Pincus.


  • Fellowships of $25,000 for up to eight graduate students in a participating arts and humanities degree program (MFA, DMA, or PhD) for the 2023–2024 academic year and corresponding summers, and a tuition and partial fee waiver.
  • A summer fellowship of $5,000 per graduate student fellow per summer for two years (2023 and 2024), dispersed over the course of three months, from May 16–August 15 each year.
  • Research funds of $2,250 per student (which can be used for travel, books, and other research-related expenses). These funds will be managed by HRI.
  • Fellowship support is intended to obviate the need for other tuition waiver-generating appointments during the 2023–24 academic year.

Application Guidelines

The application must be completed and submitted via the application form no later than 11:59 p.m. on November 18, 2022.

Submit your application 

Applicants must submit the following materials as a single PDF (documents should be in 12-point Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins; materials that exceed the required length will not be considered):

  • 1000-word research or artist statement identifying how your work connects to the theme of Improvise and Intervene. What theories and methods are you interested in learning, contributing, practicing? How would you describe the stakes of your research interests?
    • Include your commitment to racial and social equity. This may take the form of a description of how your work engages with these themes or a personal statement describing your commitment to these subjects.
    • Conclude by confirming your willingness to participate in all Interseminars activities, including two summer workshops (summer 2023 and 2024), a course each semester of 2023–2024 academic year, and a culminating event in fall 2024.
  • A current curriculum vitae, including a list of all U of I graduate courses taken, papers published, presentations made, assistantships and fellowships held, and any relevant skills one brings to interdisciplinarity (photography, design, DJing, languages, hardware/software, etc.) (maximum 5 pages).
  • Work sample that is representative of your scholarly or artistic interests. This can take the form of an excerpt from an academic paper (between 5–10 pages), a portfolio, or performance. This sample should be exemplary of your academic or artistic practice but does not need to engage the theme of Improvise and Intervene.

Selection Criteria

The applications will be reviewed by the Interseminars team and Advisory Committee, who will make their award recommendations to HRI; the HRI Director and the Assistant Director for Education and Outreach/Interseminars Coordinator serve on the committee in an ex officio capacity. 

Submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria: the applicant’s scholarly/artistic promise and relationship to the theme of Improvise and Intervene, commitment to racial and social justice, strong interest in interdisciplinary studies, and the case made for how the Interseminars experience would be beneficial to the student. 


All applications will be acknowledged via email, and all applicants will be notified December 20th, when the search has concluded. Please do not contact HRI about the status of an application unless you are having difficulties with online submission; because of the volume of applications HRI receives, we are unable to answer questions about the suitability of particular research topics or the progress of the review and selection process.


Questions about these fellowships may be addressed to Alaina Pincus, Assistant Director for Education and Outreach and Interseminars Coordinator.