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Summer Institute

Application Process and Selection Criteria

Before reading this page please click here to review the eligibility criteria for participation in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes, and make sure you are eligible to apply to the Religious Worlds institute.

This page includes general instructions for applications to all NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes, as well as specific instructions for applications to the Religious Worlds institute. Please pay careful attention to both.  Specific instructions and information for the Religious Worlds institute are noted in red.



Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers are offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide teachers an opportunity for substantive study of significant humanities ideas and texts.  These study opportunities are especially designed for this program and are not intended to duplicate courses normally offered by graduate programs.  On completion of an NEH Summer Seminar or Institute, NEH Summer Scholars will receive a certificate indicating their participation.

Upon successful completion of the Religious Worlds institute, NEH Summer Scholars will also be eligible to receive three graduate credits or three continuing education credits from Union Theological Seminary (equivalent to a semester-length course).  Click here for more details about these credits.

Prior to completing an application to a specific seminar or institute, please review the project website and consider carefully what is expected in terms of residence and attendance, reading and writing requirements, and general participation in the work of the project.

A seminar for school teachers enables 16 NEH Summer Scholars to explore a topic or set of readings with a scholar having special interest and expertise in the field.  The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection. 

An institute for school teachers, typically led by a team of core faculty and visiting scholars, is designed to present the best available scholarship on important humanities issues and works taught in the nation's schools.  The 25 to 36 NEH Summer Scholars compare and synthesize the various perspectives offered by the faculty, make connections between the institute content and classroom applications, and often develop improved teaching materials for their classrooms. 

Please note: An individual may apply to up to two projects (NEH Summer Seminars, Institutes or Landmarks Workshops), but may participate in only one.



A selection committee will read and evaluate all properly completed applications in order to select the most promising applicants and to identify a number of alternates.  Institute selection committees typically consist of three to five members, usually drawn from the institute faculty and staff members. 

Special consideration is given to the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally and personally from the seminar/institute experience.  It is important, therefore, to address each of the following factors in your application essay:

  1. your effectiveness and commitment as a teacher/educator;
  2. your intellectual interests, in general and as they relate to the work of the project;
  3. your special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the seminar or institute;
  4. the likelihood that the experience will enhance your teaching.

While recent participants are eligible to apply, selection committees are charged to give first consideration to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-supported seminar, institute, or workshop in the last three years (2014, 2015, 2016) and to those who would significantly contribute to the diversity of the program.

The Religious Worlds institute is open to all full-time and part-time teachers from public, private, and faith-based schools, as well as school leaders, administrators, librarians, and other school-based educators. Applicants who are not currently classroom teachers should use their application essay to describe the impact their work in the institute will have on teaching and learning at their school (for example through curriculum development or programs for students).

The Religious Worlds institute is open to all K-12 teachers, but our conversations will be orien­ted towards middle- and high school curricula somewhat more than elementary school curricula.  Elementary school teachers interested in attending the institute should use their application essay to explain how the institute’s focus on “lived religion” will contribute to their teaching on religious diversity.

We welcome applications from teachers who teach (or plan to teach) about religious diversity in a wide range of curricula, including stand-alone com­par­ative religion courses, as well as courses in global studies, world history, American history, literature, the arts, and other fields.

Teachers from faith-based schools in all traditions are more than welcome to apply, but the institute is designed to support the secular, academic study of religion, rather than devotional courses in specific faith traditions.  For example, we would welcome an applica­tion from a Catholic school religion teacher who teaches (or plans to teach) a course in world religions, but a teacher who only teaches courses on Catholic theology or church history would not likely benefit from the Religious Worlds institute.

We welcome applications from teachers of all religious and secular backgrounds.  The institute will be focused on the academic study of religion, not on the religious or spiritual lives (if any) of our summer scholars.

Above all, we invite applications from teachers who are willing to ex­periment­ with the community-based, lived religion pedagogies the in­stitute will model.  Applicants do not need any previous experience teaching about religion, but they should have future plans to do so, as well as a serious interest in enriching the conventional "world relig­ions" curriculum through the study of contemporary religious life.



Teachers selected to participate as NEH Summer Scholars in five-week projects will receive stipend of $3,900; those in four-week projects will receive $3,300; those in three-week projects will receive $2,700; and those in two-week projects will receive $2,100. 

Participants in the three-week Religious Worlds institute will receive stipends of $2,700.  Click here for more details about these stipends.

Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, books and other research expenses, and ordinary living expenses.  Stipends are taxable.  Applicants to all projects should note that supplements will not be given in cases where the stipend is insufficient to cover all expenses. 

Seminar and institute participants are required to attend all meetings and to engage fully as professionals in the work of the project.  During the project's tenure, they may not undertake teaching assignments or any other professional activities unrelated to their participation in the project.  Participants who, for any reason, do not complete the full tenure of the project must refund a pro-rata portion of the stipend.

At the end of the project's residential period, NEH Summer Scholars will be asked to submit online evaluations in which they review their work during the summer and assess its value to their personal and professional development.  These evaluations will become part of the project's grant file.



Before you begin an application, please study the project website, which contains detailed information about the topic under study, project requirements and expectations of the participants, the academic and institutional setting, and specific provisions for lodging and subsistence. 



A complete application consists of three collated copies of the following items:

  • the completed application cover sheet
  • a résumé or brief narrative biography
  • an application essay, as outlined below

In addition, all applications for the Religious Worlds institute must include one confiden­tial letter of reference, ideally written by a senior colleague or administrator at your school (eg. your department chair, assistant principal, or principal).  

The following four sections will discuss each component of the application in more detail:


The Application Cover Sheet

The first step in the process is to fill out and print an application cover sheet.  Cover sheets must be filled out online at

Please follow the online prompts.  Before you click the “submit” button, print out the cover sheet and add it to your application package.  Then click “submit.”  At this point you will be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for another project.  If you do, follow the prompts to select the other project and repeat the process.

Do not use the same cover sheet for different projects. You must submit a separate cover sheet online for each project to which you are applying, in order to generate a unique tracking number for each application. 



Please include a résumé or brief narrative biography detailing your educational qualifications and professional experience.


Application Essay

The application essay should be no more than four double‑spaced pages.  The essay should address:

  • your reasons for applying to the seminar or institute, including your interest, both academic and personal, in the subject to be studied;
  • the qualifications and experiences that have prepared you to complete the work of the seminar or institute, and make a distinctive contribution to its learning community;
  • a statement of what you hope to accomplish by participating in the seminar or institute, and its relationship to your professional responsibilities.

In your application essay for the Religious Worlds institute, please describe how the institute might contribute to your future plans for teaching or curriculum/program development.  Applicants do not need any previous experience teaching about religion, but they should have future plans to do so, as well as a serious interest in enriching the conventional "world relig­ions" curriculum through the study of contemporary religious life.  Your essay should demonstrate this potential for curricular innova­tion by describing your future plans for teaching about religious diversity.


Reference Letter

One confidential letter of reference must be enclosed in a sealed envelope, and submitted with your other application materials.  If possible, this letter should be written by a senior colleague or administrator at your school (eg, your department chair, assistant principal, or principal).  It should speak to your qualifications as a teacher and scholar, as well as your school's support for your teaching on religious diversity.

Please note that a reference letter is not required for applications to most NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes, but is absolutely required for applications to the Religious Worlds of New York summer institute.  Applications without a reference letter will not be considered complete.



Completed applications must be postmarked no later than March 1, 2017, and sent to the project director, not to the NEH.  Application materials sent to NEH will not be reviewed.

Please mail your application for the Religious Worlds of New York summer institute to:

Dr. Henry Goldschmidt
Religious Worlds Summer Institute
Interfaith Center of New York
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 540
New York, NY 10115

Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on March 31, 2017, and they will have until April 7, 2017, to accept or decline the offer. 

Note:  Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Summer Seminar, Institute or Landmarks Workshop), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.



Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age.  For further information, write to NEH Equal Opportunity Officer, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024.  TDD:  202/606‑8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).