The School of Philanthropy

WPI Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

The WPI Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is for emerging scholars who focus in the area of women’s philanthropy or gender differences in philanthropic behavior. The fellowship is intended to support research and dissertation writing.  The fellowship stipend is paid at the beginning of each academic year. 

Previous recipients have included:

  • Deborah Skolnick Einhorn (Brandeis University/Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)  for research towards her dissertation,The Power of the Purse: Jewish Women’s Philanthropy and Social Change.  
  • Laura Gee (University of California at San Diego/Economics) for a series of studies designed to better understand how donors, especially women, choose between volunteering, fundraising, and monetary donations.   
  • Brent Pieper (Indiana University/Educational Leadership) for research on Women's Philanthropy Networks in Higher Education.
  • Megan Springate (University of Maryland/Anthropology) for research on women's holiday houses which were founded in turn of the 20th century America to provide working women affordable and healthy vacations from urban factory life

Learn more about the criteria for applying and complete the application here.  

Impact of the WPI Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

The goals of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, established in 2009, are to increase research and understanding of gender and philanthropy; to contribute to build the field of study about gender and philanthropy; and to support and encourage emerging scholars in their study of gender and philanthropy. The fellowship supports a scholar whose primary research focus is in the area of women’s philanthropy or gender differences in philanthropic behavior and giving.

The fellowship has been awarded in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014.  The impact to date has far exceeded expectations. 

The recipients

Deborah Skolnick Einhorn, our inaugural Women's Philanthropy Institute doctoral fellow, now serves as Assistant Dean for Academic Development and Advising and Assistant Professor of Jewish Education at Hebrew College in Massachusetts.  Deborah successfully defended her dissertation, "Power of the Purse: Social Change in Jewish Women's Philanthropy," in December 2011, one year after receiving the WPI fellowship.  She has published her research in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility, Encyclopedia Judaica and Westminster Dictionary of Women in American Religious History.  In addition to teaching at Hebrew College and Brandeis and Tufts Universities, Deborah has spoken at national convenings of major Jewish women philanthropists, including the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.  Deborah's research has impacted not only her writing and speaking, but also her teaching and her volunteer life.  Her courses emphasize the role of gender and power in communal organizations, as well as the impact of philanthropy on Jewish life in the United States.  In her local community, Deborah co-chairs the Women's Alliance Endowment Fund (a model which she investigated for her dissertation) which raises and allocates funds toward social change for women and girls. 

Laura Gee, received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in May 2013.  She published one of the papers from her dissertation, “The Nature of Giving Time to Your Child's School,” in the April 2011 issue of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.  This paper discusses how households view volunteering as both a public and private good.  It also had some interesting findings specifically about how households with women who work full time report volunteering less, but fundraising more.  She is now an Assistant Professor of Economics at Tufts University where her research focuses on how individual decision-making is influenced by group dynamics and social networks.   

At the 2011 ARNOVA conference Laura presented a paper on related work that was building off of work done by Professors Debra Mesch and Una Osili.  The presentation looked at women's patterns of volunteering and compared it to the findings from the Women Give 2010 report which was about women's monetary contributions.

Brent Pieper, the 2012 doctoral dissertation fellow, received his Ph.D. in May 2014.  He has already presented findings from his dissertation to three distinct audiences: academic leadership, donors, and fundraisers.  Pieper spoke to an Ohio University Women in Philanthropy foundation board meeting which included deans and the provost.  He also shared his research study with the Cleveland State University development staff and foundation leaders.  Brent’s presentation at the joint CASE/WPI conference, "The Power of Women's Philanthropy Programs: Optimizing Your Donor Base," in Washington DC in fall 2012 was a highlight for WPI.  Additionally, Brent promised to share his results with the twenty-five institutions which participated in the survey. 

Brent indicated that the findings are helping fundraisers reflect on what motivates women to give and how marital status, household income, age, and preferred giving vehicles affect female philanthropic decision-making.  His dissertation built upon prior research and creates a new benchmark for further research into this important area. 

Megan Springate received the 2014 doctoral dissertation fellowship for her work on women's holiday houses, an example of the work of middle-class women in philanthropy in early 20th century America. She brings an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the complexities around the motivations of Progressive Era social reformers.  Springate's research is filling a gap in understanding how women across classes worked together and occasionally at odds with each other to improve society in late 19th and early 20th century America.    

Significance of the Award

The fellowship is intended to support additional research and dissertation writing, critical stages in the dissertation process.  In all cases, the fellowship award helped the recipient move much closer to completion of the dissertation.  For Einhorn, the fellowship assisted with completed transcripts, dedicated dissertation time and final data collection.  Gee used the fellowship award to work full-time on her research during the summer rather than taking a teaching assistantship.  The fellowship enabled Pieper to contract with a statistician to analyze the survey results.  Funding for this stage of the dissertation process is difficult to obtain; for emerging scholars this fellowship fills a much needed gap. 

WPI Fellowship Award Impact

The WPI doctoral dissertation fellowship embodies the interdisciplinary strengths of the philanthropic studies discipline.  The first four fellowship recipients received or will receive doctorates in the fields of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Economics, Higher Education and Student Affairs, and Anthropology.  Additionally, the fellowship recipients extend and deepen the work done at the WPI.  Skolnick, Gee, and Pieper have continued to collaborate with WPI on various projects including blogging about their research, introducing WPI to various stakeholders, and participating in panels and presentations that WPI organized. Perhaps the most unanticipated outcome of this fellowship is the remarkable outreach to new audiences in which the recipients have been engaged. Each has already contributed to expand understanding about the importance of gender as a factor in philanthropy through presentations to a wide range of academic and practitioner audiences. 

The WPI Doctoral Dissertation Award is another example of how the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy increases awareness and understanding of philanthropy.