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Application Information and Instructions

Summer Seminars for College and University Teachers are offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide college and university faculty members and independent scholars with an opportunity to enrich and revitalize their understanding of significant humanities ideas, texts, and topics. These study opportunities are especially designed for this program and are not intended to duplicate courses normally offered by graduate programs, nor will graduate credit be given for them. Prior to completing an application, please review this website and consider carefully what is expected in by way of residence and attendance, reading and writing requirements, and general participation in the work of the seminar.

Seminars include various participants working in collaboration with one or two leading scholars. Participants will have access to a major library collection, with time reserved to pursue individual research and study projects.


Seminars are designed primarily for teachers of American undergraduate students. Qualified independent scholars and those employed by museums, libraries, historical societies, and other organizations may be eligible to compete provided they can effectively advance the teaching and research goals of the seminar or institute. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline. Foreign nationals teaching abroad at non-U.S. chartered institutions are not eligible to apply.

Application Requirements

Applicants must complete the NEH application cover sheet and provide all the information requested below to be considered eligible. Please fill it out online as directed by the prompts. When you are finished, be sure to click on the “submit” button. Print out the cover sheet and add it to your application package. 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 and select another project and then print out the cover sheet for that project. Note that filling out a cover sheet is not the same as applying, so there is no penalty for changing your mind and filling out cover sheets for several projects. A complete application consists of the following items (all must be collated) and must be sent to the seminar director (do not send it to the NEH) :

  • three copies of the completed application cover sheet
  • two letters of recommendation for the summer seminars
  • three copies of a resume (not to exceed 4 pages)
  • three copies of an application essay (not to exceed 4 double space typed pages Times New Roman font # 12)

Candidates for degrees are eligible to apply only if they are employed by an institution other than the one at which they are degree candidates and if their participation is intended to enhance their teaching of American undergraduates. Degree candidates can never use their participation in an NEH seminar to meet a degree requirement, including work on masters’ theses or doctoral dissertations. An applicant need not have an advanced degree in order to qualify. Adjunct and part-time lecturers are eligible to apply.

Selection Criteria

A selection committee will read and evaluate all properly completed applications to ensure selection of the most promising applicants and to identify a small number of alternates.

The most important consideration in the selection of participants is the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally. This is determined by committee members from the conjunction of several factors, each of which should be addressed in the application essay. These factors include:

  1. quality and commitment as a teacher, scholar, and interpreter of the humanities;
  2. intellectual interests, both generally and as they relate to the work of the seminar;
  3. special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the seminar;
  4. commitment to participate fully in the formal and informal collegial life of the seminar;
  5. the likelihood that the experience would enhance the applicant’s teaching and scholarship; and
  6. the conception and organization of the applicant’s independent project and its potential contribution to the seminar.

When choices must be made among equally qualified candidates, several additional factors are considered.

Participants Profile

It is my great hope that the seminar will attract individuals from a variety of the disciplines. I have located the seminar in Tunisia precisely so as to engage individuals from multiple backgrounds, those who deal principally with texts and those who deal with material cultures, art history and archaeology to name two. It is difficult for me to imagine this seminar without an art historian as a participant, as the Bardo Museum has today the greatest collection of mosaics in the world. The scholar of religion cannot escape the looming presence of St. Augustine. The literary scholar will find a depth of nuance in the Passion and of course the flash of rhetorical fireworks in the Confessions.  The historian of late antique Rome and Carthage’s contribution to that Imperial world will find much to study. Imagine what a seminar might be with such a rich gathering of different voices.  In sum, what I am trying to create is a community of intellectuals whose commentary will reveal the diversity of the world of Perpetua and Augustine.

The application may be downloaded from the website However, applications must be submitted in hard copy. Please follow the instructions carefully. Applications must be postmarked by March 2 and sent to the following address:

Dr. Thomas J. Heffernan
Departments of English and Religious Studies
University of Tennessee
301 McClung Tower
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0430.


Your essay is easily the most important part of the application. It should include relevant academic and personal information and your qualifications to do the work of the seminar and contribute to discussions. The essay should not exceed four double spaced typed pages. There is no single ideal applicant. I would like you particularly to discuss why you are interested in this seminar and its texts. In other words, I want you to address not so much why you think that you would benefit from participation in a Summer Seminar, but rather why you would benefit from five weeks of study of the Passion of Perpetua and the Confessions of Augustine and what gifts you can bring to the seminar. Furthermore, I would like you to comment on the particular value for you of studying for five weeks in Tunisia. Although for many of you there may be some direct application to your classes when you return from Tunisia that is not required. However, you should explain as fully as possible how the work of this seminar will fit into your general intellectual and professional development.

Letters of recommendation should come from people who know you and your professional achievements and concerns well. I welcome letters from a department head, colleagues, former students, former NEH seminar participants, and directors of institutes and seminars that you may have been a part of are of great value to me and the selection committee. Letters should be submitted in hard copy but if you choose to send the referee letters electronically they should come as pdf’s with the signatures scanned or faxed. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the recommendations have arrived in Tennessee before the selection committee members begin their review of applications beginning about 5 March 2010.

Stipend, Tenure, and Conditions of Award

Individuals selected to participate in the seminar will receive a stipend of $3,900. Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the seminar location, books and other research expenses, and living expenses for the duration of the period spent in residence. Stipends are taxable. Applicants should note that supplements will not be given in cases where the stipend is insufficient to cover all expenses.

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

At the end of the seminar’s residential period, participants will be asked to submit on-line evaluations in which they review their work during the summer and assess its value to their personal and professional development. These evaluations become part of the project’s grant file and may become part of an application to repeat the seminar.


Contact Information

Professor Thomas J. Heffernan
NEH Seminar
Department of English & Religious Studies
310 McClung Tower
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-0430

Office: (865) 974-6968
Fax: (865) 974-6926