Dissertation Fellowship Program

The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at the University of California, Berkeley supports rigorous interdisciplinary research projects on topics aligned with our mission: to understand the dynamics and policies affecting workers, working life, and employment. We are inviting applications from promising scholars from departments across the Berkeley campus. The application period for 2020-2021 funding has ended.

IRLE seeks to fund a broad and interdisciplinary range of research areas that intersect with our mission. In recent years, we have funded projects focused on education, public employment, criminal justice, labor markets, racial equity, gender discrimination, and immigration. The fellowship provides a stipend of $7,500 per semester and in-state tuition and fees.

Recipients must be conducting research related to IRLE’s mission and commit to engaging with IRLE’s activities during the funded period. IRLE seeks to promote an interdisciplinary research culture focused on improving the lives of working people, and awards fellowships in a wide range of disciplines.

Eligible expenditures

  • Stipend funds should be used to advance completion of dissertation, including by freeing students from teaching obligations.
  • Funds must be spent by May 30th, 2021.

Reporting requirements and expectations

  • Fellows must submit a one-page report on the research project’s status within two weeks after the grant period ends.
  • Fellows are expected to be active and contributing members of an interdisciplinary community of emerging scholars at IRLE.
  • In the spring semester, each Fellow will present a completed chapter or working paper at an IRLE research workshop.
  • Fellows are strongly encouraged to publish their research in IRLE’s working paper or policy brief series and are expected to inform IRLE about the eventual publication date and outlet.

Applicant eligibility

  • Doctoral students with a GPA above 3.0 and no incompletes.
  • Applicants must be in residence at UC Berkeley and not on leave during the grant period.
  • Because the purpose of the IRLE Fellowship is to enable full-time research and writing, preference is given to Fellows who do not hold teaching or other academic appointments during the fellowship year.

IRLE support

IRLE offers an interdisciplinary environment for students to develop their research ideas and receive feedback on written work. Dissertation Fellows are eligible to participate in IRLE’s Research Working Group, a weekly forum for presenting and critiquing academic work under the guidance of IRLE’s Director and Associate Director.

Fellows are also eligible for shared office space at IRLE to facilitate their research and writing.

Application instructions

To apply, complete this form to submit the following: 

  1. Cover letter that describes your interest in IRLE’s mission and trajectory for completing your dissertation
  2. 5-page dissertation prospectus.
  3. CV
  4. Current transcript (unofficial is fine)

Letter of support from your Dissertation advisor. The letter does not need to be long or detailed. (This can be uploaded as part of your application but if your advisor prefers, it can also be sent by e-mail to irle@berkeley.edu).


  • The application period for 2020-2021 funding has ended.
  • Decisions will be communicated by May 15, 2020.
  • IRLE will consider proposals on a rolling basis pending fund availability.

2019-2020 Fellows »

1. If tuition and fees are covered by another university source, IRLE will provide the $7,500 / semester stipend only. Awards cannot be deferred to future years. Out-of-state fees and professional supplemental fees will not be covered.