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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.



NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes allow K-12 teachers an opportunity to enrich and revitalize their teaching through the study of humanities topics that bear upon K-12 education. Participants will receive a certificate upon completion of the program, but the programs are not intended to duplicate graduate-level courses.

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

Each seminar provides an intimate and focused environment in which 16 participants (NEH Summer Scholars) study a specific humanities topic under the guidance of one or two established scholars. Seminars have few, if any, visiting faculty. They emphasize sustained interaction among the participants and director(s) through discussion of common readings, conversations about teaching, and advising on independent projects.

Each institute allows 25 to 36 participants (NEH Summer Scholars) to pursue an intensive program of study under a team of scholarly experts, who present a range of perspectives on a humanities topic. The Religious Worlds institute will admit 25 summer scholars. Participants and faculty explore connections between academic scholarship and K-12 pedagogy on the topic.

Please note: In any given year, an individual may apply to up to two NEH summer programs, but may participate in only one.



A selection committee is comprised of the project director and two or more colleagues, at least one of whom is a K-12 teacher.  They evaluate all complete applications to select a group of NEH Summer Scholars and identify alternates.

Application essays should explain how the specific program will benefit the participant professionally. They should, therefore, address the following:

  1. your effectiveness and commitment as a teacher/educator;
  2. your intellectual interests, as they relate to the topic of the seminar or institute;
  3. any special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the program;
  4. evidence that participation will have a long-term impact on your teaching.

Three spaces in each seminar and five spaces in each institute will be reserved for teachers who are new to the profession (those who have been teaching for five years or less).  While past participants are eligible to apply, first consideration is given to those who have not previously attended an NEH Seminar or Institute.  When choices must be made between equally qualified candidates, preference is given to those who would enhance the diversity of the program.

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

The institute is open to all K-12 teachers, but our conversations will primarily be orien­ted towards middle- and high school curricula.  Elementary school teachers who are interested in participating 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, philosophy, the arts, and other fields.

Teachers at 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 on 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 -- you certainly don't need to be religious to apply.  The institute is focused on the academic study of religion, not on the religious or spiritual lives (if any) of our summer scholars.

Above all, we welcome applications from teachers who are willing to ex­periment­ with the 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.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR 2019:  In this year's selection process, preference will be given to teachers who were admitted to the 2018 Religious Worlds institute, but were unable to attend due to the cancellation of last summer's program.



Each participant will receive a stipend according to the duration of the Seminar or Institute, whether one ($1,200) two ($2,100), three ($2,700), or four ($3,300) weeks. The stipend is intended to help cover travel, housing, meals, and basic academic expenses.  Stipends are considered taxable income.  Participants in the three-week Religious Worlds institute will receive stipends of $2,700.

Click here for more details about these stipends, and the expectations that accompany them.

Seminar and institute participants must attend all meetings and engage fully as professionals in the work of the project.  During the project, participants may not undertake teaching assignments or professional activities unrelated to their participation in the project.  Those who, for any reason, do not complete the full tenure of the project will receive a reduced or prorated stipend.

At the end of the project's residential period, NEH Summer Scholars are expected to submit online evaluations of the seminar or institute. 



Prior to applying to a specific seminar or institute, please study the project website and carefully consider the project’s requirements.  A complete application consists of three collated hard copies of the following three items:

  • completed NEH cover sheet
  • résumé, curriculum vitae, or brief biography
  • 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 application process is to complete a cover sheet online, at the NEH website.

  • To fill out a cover sheet, go to and follow the prompts. 
  • Before you click the “submit” button, print the cover sheet and add it to your hard-copy application package.  Then click “submit.” 
  • You will then be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for a second project.  If you do, repeat the process.  Do not use the same cover sheet for two different seminars or institutes.



Please include a résumé or curriculum vitae (not to exceed five pages) 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 in the subject to be studied;
  • the qualifications and experiences that equip you to do the work of the seminar or institute, and to make a 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.

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


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 required for all applications to the Religious Worlds institute.  Applications without a reference letter will be considered incomplete, and will not be reviewed.



Completed applications must be postmarked no later than Friday, March 1, 2019, and sent to the project director, not to NEH.  Applications 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 Friday, March 29, 2019,  They will have until Friday, April 5, 2019 to accept or decline the offer of admission. 

Note:  Once you have accepted an offer to attend an NEH summer program, you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw from the first program 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).