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Dissertation Completion Fellowship Program

The FINRA Foundation’s mission is to empower underserved Americans with the knowledge, skills, and tools to make sound financial decisions throughout life. It accomplishes this mission through educational programs and research that help consumers achieve their financial goals and that protect them in a complex and dynamic world.

The FINRA Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship program seeks to expand the pipeline of researchers from racial and ethnic backgrounds whose underrepresentation in the U.S. professoriate has been severe and longstanding. To achieve that goal, the FINRA Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship will provide an award of up to $40,000 to advanced doctoral candidates within their last year of Ph.D. dissertation writing to support completion of their dissertation research and writing.

The Fellowship program will support doctoral candidates who are pursuing dissertation research centrally concerning financial services and the capital markets on topics related to the following areas: financial capability; investor protection; expanding access to financial services and the capital markets (including fintech services); and understanding the systemic barriers to financial inclusion experienced by underserved communities and communities of color. Graduate study may be in any academic discipline.

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Fellowship Program Description

For the 2022-2023 academic year, the FINRA Foundation plans to make available up to five Dissertation Completion Fellowships. Recipients of a Fellowship are “Fellows.” The Foundation will review and determine in each year whether to offer Dissertation Completion Fellowships, in what numbers and for what amounts, and the relevant eligibility criteria.

The Fellowships will support one year of research and writing of advanced doctoral candidates within their last year of Ph.D. dissertation writing. The Fellowship program will support doctoral candidates who are pursuing dissertation research centrally concerning financial services and the capital markets on topics related to the following areas: financial capability; investor protection; expanding access to financial services and the capital markets (including fintech services); and understanding the systemic barriers to financial inclusion experienced by underserved communities and communities of color. Graduate study may be in any academic discipline.

Fellows will be selected for a one-year term through a competitive application process. The Fellowship is nonrenewable.

Fellows will receive an award of up to $40,000. Each Fellow must execute a contract with the Foundation incorporating the terms of the award and other relevant terms of the program.

The Foundation intends that these Fellowships will be the primary source of funding for the Fellow (i.e., that the Fellowships will be awarded to Fellows who do not have other large outside funding sources available to them). An applicant who has some smaller sources of funding available (i.e., teaching or research assistantships, departmental awards, small travel grants) will still be eligible to receive a Fellowship under this program.

The Fellowship is intended to alleviate a Fellow’s need for significant other employment during the final 12 months of completing his/her dissertation. However, the Foundation recognizes that individuals have unique needs and circumstances, and accordingly a Fellow who has “reasonable” outside employment during the Fellowship year is not disqualified from receiving a Fellowship. The Foundation encourages no more than 20 hours/week but will seek to collaborate with Fellows if more is required. If an applicant intends to work during the Fellowship year for any number of hours/week, the applicant must seek so indicate in his/her application for the Fellowship, or, if the opportunity arises after the award is issued, the Fellow must obtain the Foundation’s approval. Additionally, the selection committee must have ample evidence to demonstrate that the Fellowship applicant will be able to finish the dissertation within the timeframe specified.

A selection committee of scholars and research experts from diverse fields will select award recipients.


Fellowship Program Features

  • The research and writing must be conducted within the United States, either in-residence at the home university or remotely.
  • The Fellowship money may be used for the following purposes:
    • University tuition and fees and other educational expenses
    • Research support, such as data, software, specialized computing services
    • Living expenses
    • Dependent childcare
    • Travel to professional meetings, conferences, or seminars
    • To the extent the Fellowship is paid through the university, indirect costs payable to the university provided, the amounts payable to the university must not exceed 10 percent of the Fellowship award
  • In connection with an award, Fellows are advised to consult with their tax advisor regarding the taxability to the Fellow of the award.
  • The Fellowship will be paid in four quarterly installments. To receive an installment, the Fellow must submit (and the Foundation must accept) a progress report describing, among other things, the progress the Fellow has made toward completion of the dissertation.

Fellowship Program Eligibility

  • The Fellowship is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, U.S. permanent residents, or individuals granted deferred action status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program or Temporary Protected Status, in each case who are members of certain racial and ethnic groups historically underrepresented in higher education (as defined in the Fellowship terms). International students studying in the U.S. on a student Visa are ineligible for this Fellowship.
  • Applicants must be enrolled full-time at a U.S. non-profit (private) or a state (public) doctoral-granting institution of higher education that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.
  • Applicants cannot be affiliated with (i.e., employed by or related to, or have an immediate family member who is employed by or related to) a current director, officer, staff member of the FINRA Foundation, or a current member of the FINRA Board of Governors.
  • Applicants cannot be an “Associated Person” as defined under FINRA Rule 1011(b) and cannot otherwise affiliated with (i.e., employed by, or have an immediate family member who is employed by) a securities firm regulated by FINRA.
  • Applicants cannot be affiliated with securities regulators, self-regulatory organizations, or securities industry trade associations.
  • Applicants must be enrolled full-time in a Ph.D. degree program.
  • All pre-dissertation requirements must be met by the Fellowship start date, including approval of the dissertation proposal. If not already approved as of the application date, proof of approval for the dissertation proposal must be submitted no less than 30 days before the commencement of the Fellowship.
  • Applicants must be in the writing stage of their dissertation by the time the Fellowship begins.
  • Applicants must not hold other doctoral degrees; this should be an applicant’s first doctoral program.
  • Applicants who have previously received a Foundation Fellowship are not eligible to receive another Fellowship, and Fellowships are not otherwise renewable.
  • Applications must be submitted by email by the application deadline.

Required Application Elements

  • Completion of application form.
  • A current curriculum vitae (CV).
  • Graduate Transcripts. An unofficial copy is sufficient for the application, but an applicant chosen to receive a Fellowship must submit an official transcript before payment of the first installment of the award.
  • Explanation of significance of the original research, 300-word abstract and how it furthers the research agenda the Fellowships seek to support.
  • Contribution to the field of study (i.e., a brief description of the potential contributions this research will make to the field, and how the research advances the current state of knowledge in the field, substantively and/or methodologically).
  • Project proposal (max 2,500 words)
  • Variables List – i.e., a categorized list of the variables from the NFCS (National Financial Capability Study), or other data set(s) that will be used in this research project. (2 single-spaced pages maximum)
  • Budget – how the funds will be used, other sources of funding available to the applicant (if applicable).
  • Two letters of support: one from dissertation director/chair, and one from another faculty member are required.
  • Statement from the applicant’s institution (preferably from the applicant’s department chair, director of graduate studies, or dean) attesting to the viability of the proposed timeline for completion.

Factors for Fellowship Selection

  • Applicant’s scholarly excellence.
  • Quality of project design, including its methodology, scope, theoretical framework, and grounding in the relevant scholarly literature.
  • Originality of project.
  • Scholarly significance of project to the discipline and how it furthers the research agenda the Fellowships seek to support.
  • Feasibility of project and proposed schedule.
  • Potential of applicant to make a significant contribution to the field.
  • Applicant is from an underrepresented racial/ethnic background whose underrepresentation in the American professoriate has been severe and longstanding:
    • Alaska Natives (Aleut, Inuit, or Yupik, or other Alaska Natives)
    • Black/African Americans
    • Hispanic/Latinx
    • Native Americans (historically sometimes referred to as American Indians)
    • Native Pacific Islanders (Hawaiian/Polynesian/Micronesian)
  • Applicant is from an underrepresented area of the country or type of university other than a top-level research institution.

Fellowship Program Terms and Conditions

Terms

Acceptance of a FINRA Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship requires fulfillment of certain terms, including:

  • Fellowship recipients must sign and abide by a written contract as acceptance of the award.
  • Fellowship recipients must pursue their projects full-time (i.e., at least 40 hours per week) during the Fellowship period.
  • No partial fellowships are awarded. Fellowships may not be deferred.
  • Fellows must obtain prior written approval from the Foundation for any major changes in plans for the Fellowship year.
  • Fellows must notify the FINRA Foundation promptly, in writing, of any change in the status of an application resulting from acceptance of another award. Concurrent funding from a Fellow’s institution may be allowable depending on the parameters of that funding, but this is reviewed by the FINRA Foundation on a case-by-case basis.
  • Acceptance of the Fellowship affirms that the information contained in the Fellowship application and supporting documents is true and accurate to the best of the individual’s knowledge.
  • Fellowship recipients must conform to their institutional and departmental policies and procedures, to any applicable student code of conduct, and to applicable laws.
  • Applicants must submit a certification of advancement to doctoral candidacy from their doctorate-granting institution.
  • If the Applicant has not yet defended his or her dissertation proposal when submitting the application, the letters of support must testify that the Fellowship applicant will do so before the time of the award. If selected, the Fellow will need to submit the written approval of the dissertation proposal before commencement of the award.
  • Applicants must submit an endorsement from the dissertation chair in the form of a letter before the application deadline.
  • Applicants must certify that they have not been convicted or found in violation of any state or federal securities laws, have not been enjoined or sanctioned by any regulatory authority for those types of violations, and are not named as a defendant in any pending federal action alleging securities laws violations.
  • Applications must be submitted by email by the application deadline.
  • If an applicant is not selected for a Fellowship, the applicant may reapply in a future year if still eligible at that time. However, the applicant must submit a new application at that time.


Funding Restrictions

The FINRA Foundation intends that these Fellowships will be the primary source of funding for the Fellows (i.e., that the Fellowships will be awarded to Fellows who do not have other large outside funding sources available to them). An applicant who has some smaller sources of funding available (i.e., teaching or research assistantships, departmental awards, small travel grants) will still be eligible to receive a Fellowship under this program. Fellows will be expected to decline major grants or fellowships from other sources for the Fellowship period. The Foundation may consider exceptions to the foregoing on a case-by-case basis.

The Fellowship is intended to alleviate a Fellow’s need for significant other employment during the final 12 months of completing his/her dissertation. However, the Foundation recognizes that individuals have unique needs and circumstances, and accordingly a Fellow who has “reasonable” outside employment during the Fellowship year is not disqualified from receiving a Fellowship. The Foundation encourages no more than 20 hours/week but will seek to collaborate with Fellows if more is required. If an applicant intends to work during the Fellowship year for any number of hours/week, the applicant must seek so indicate in his/her application for the Fellowship, or, if the opportunity arises after the award is issued, the Fellow must obtain the Foundation’s approval.

Reporting Requirements

Fellows will be required to submit a brief progress report (i.e., 3-5 pages) quarterly through the entire Fellowship period. Fellows must submit a final report at the end of the Fellowship period. The final report will consist of an extended dissertation abstract (3-5 pages), a statement of research dissemination and communication activities and plans (1-3 pages), and the complete approved dissertation. It must be submitted electronically to [email protected]. All reporting requirements and deadlines will be outlined in the award letter. In general, the failure to submit a progress report will result in the quarterly installment payment being withheld.

Funding Disbursement

Each installment payment after the initial installment is contingent upon receipt of, and approval of, the quarterly progress report or final report (as applicable). Fellows will receive one-quarter of the total award at the beginning of the Fellowship period, one-quarter upon approval of the first progress report, one-quarter upon approval of the second progress report, and one-quarter upon approval of the final report.

A Fellow may request that the Fellowship be awarded through the Fellow’s institution, subject to confirmation that the arrangement will comply with the Foundation’s requirement that any amounts payable to the educational institution in connection therewith must not exceed 10 percent of the Fellowship award.

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At A Glance

  • Stipend: $40,000
  • Application Deadline: December 17, 2021
  • Notification: March 2022
  • Fellowship Year: June 1, 2022 – May 31, 2023

Fellowship Program FAQ

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Ph.D. Candidate Outreach

The FINRA Foundation has developed the following materials for use by colleges, universities, and other institutions to share information about the Dissertation Completion Fellowship with Ph.D. candidates.

  • Digital Postcards
  • Social Media

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Advancing Financial Inclusion

The Foundation is working to create new understanding and relationships that address systemic wealth disparities and lead to better outcomes for communities of color and underserved communities. 

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