KMSI Black Religion and Public Life Fellowship  

This fellowship is a communal-based learning experience that prioritizes the integration of theory and practice for solution-oriented partnerships. If selected, fellows will receive a $1500 stipend to participate in this program.  

The Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies at VDS is offering a fellowship program for current Ph.D. and advanced master’s students at Vanderbilt University—beginning summer 2023. The program provides support and community for an interdisciplinary cohort to engage in immersive learning opportunities concerned with the situated-flourishing of Black life. The most qualified participants will demonstrate a capacity to explore the broad intersections of society and religion in local or global communities, while giving attention to their interests in academic study, professional development, and social impact.  

Each fellow will host a consultation in partnership with community leaders, participate in monthly conversations with their cohort, and present their learnings at the Saving Ourselves* convening Spring 2024 in Nashville, TN.  

The program begins July 1, 2023.  


  • Applicants whose collaborative consultation centers faith traditions outside of Christianity, focuses on interfaith matters, attends to multireligious engagement, or considers the broadest aspects of religion and social life are strongly encouraged to apply.  
  • Applicants from all fields within the Graduate School and professional schools are encouraged to apply.   
  • Applicants must be enrolled as full-time Ph.D. or advanced Master’s degree students at Vanderbilt University with a clear interest in Black lived experiences, society, and spirituality. 
  • Applicants must be able to host their Collaborative Consultation by November 1, 2023; meet with other fellowship recipients monthly from July – October; and present their learnings at the Saving Ourselves convening in Spring 2024* in Nashville, TN. 


Collaborative consultations could be a project, event, community conversation, exhibit, or performance that includes community stakeholders directly connected to or involved in the student’s interests. Below you will find example titles with short descriptions of the topic: 

  • “Dem Don’t Worry We” recorded interviews of Black faith leaders who are engaged in social movement and law reform  
  • “They Just Rent Out the Church: Christianity and Urban Educational Programming” – investigation on compromising religion for education within underperforming school districts 
  • “This is Ours: Investigations on the Impact of gentrification on Black religious properties” – interfaith community gathering connecting Black religious leaders with property in changing neighborhoods 
  • “The Character Assassination of Haiti” – an online webinar in celebration of Fèt Gede hosted in collaboration with Haitian Vodou practitioners 
  • “Clean & Unclean: Disrupting the Food Industrial Complex Through Faith” – an interfaith dinner hosted for Black Seventh Day Adventist and Rastafari traditionalists to discuss how their faith calls them to respond to the modern food crisis and disparities 
  • “I will Dance Like David Danced”- an online exhibit showcasing Black male liturgical dance ministries 
  • “Where’s the Pastor: How the Black Church Needs to Pivot Outreach”- listening sessions/street interviews about the ways the Black Church should increase and revamp community outreach 

We will not fund papers, theses, academic association fees, nor conference fees. 


Incomplete applications will not be considered. A completed application includes the following: 

  • One-paragraph biographical profile
  • Curriculum vitae

Please submit your most recent curriculum vitae or resume. Consider including your contact information, education, employment history, awards/fellowships, licenses/certifications/publications, academic presentations, professional affiliations, community and religious service or events, skills/interests that speak to your ability to execute your proposed project. 

  • Short- Answer Questions
  1. Provide a working title for your Collaborative Consultation 
  2. How will you describe this convening to your intended audience?  
  3. How are the Collaborative Consultation’s themes connected to Black life and spirituality? What are your learning objectives? 
  4. What community partners will you collaborate with and how are you already connected to them? 
  5. How does your Collaborative Consultation connect to your research interests, community engagement, and/or professional development? 
  6. How will the fellowship support your learning experience beyond your current program’s curriculum offerings?  
  7. How feasible is it to execute your Collaborative Consultation before November 1, 2023?  
  8. Do you affirm a commitment to host a collaborative consultation in partnership with community leaders, participate in monthly conversations with your cohort, and present your learnings at the Saving Ourselves* convening in Spring 2024? 
  • Statement of Support

Statement of Support: Please have an individual who can speak to your concern for the connection between academic study and social impact, ability to engage communities, capacity to plan and execute projects, intellectual curiosity, and/or collegiality submit a statement of support. The statement of support should be no more than 300 words and include the writer’s signature, current email, and phone number. Recommenders should submit their statement in the fill-form HERE


  • All application materials should be submitted HERE by 11:59PM on June 9, 2023. Applications that do not adhere to these instructions will not be considered.  


  • Finalists will be notified of their acceptance to the fellowship program by June 15, 2023. 


Please contact Nyya Toussaint ( 

*ABOUT THE PROJECT: The KMSI Black Religion and Public Life Fellowship is a program within the Saving Ourselves: Sustaining Black Life and Faith in the Everyday project. Saving Ourselves is an immersive pedagogical project within the research and community activism of Dr. Lisa L. Thompson. This project includes a series of roundtables, exhibitions, collaborative community initiatives, and publications that highlight spiritual practices, existing strategies, and emerging endeavors that support the situated-flourishing of Black life. Saving Ourselves recognizes the arts; interfaith engagement; and collective advocacy as mutual partners with faith in sustaining Black Life in our public and private domains. This project is in partnership with the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School.