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Teaching on Purpose Fellowships for Ph.D. Students

Deadline: December 1, 2023

Teaching on Purpose is an opportunity for Ph.D. students to cultivate their own sense of purpose as aspiring teachers who soon will be (and maybe already are) playing a vital role in the flourishing of undergraduates.

Teaching on Purpose will help you develop a robust teaching philosophy, create compelling courses, and incorporate pedagogical approaches that will enliven students’ intellects and shape the lives they lead. Moreover, as a Teaching on Purpose Fellow, you will be part of a dynamic interdisciplinary community of doctoral students and engage with faculty who care deeply about teaching.

Those pursuing the Certificate in College Teaching can earn course credit toward the certificate for participation in Teaching on Purpose.

Applications for spring 2024 are due December 1, 2023. Please review eligibility requirements and commitment before applying.

Faculty are also invited to nominate graduate students from their departments whom they believe are excellent candidates for this fellowship. To do so, please email Katherine Jo at


  • Weekly 2.5-hour sessions (Thursdays, 12–2:30 PM, lunch provided), January 11–April 11 (no session March 14)
  • Final dinner on Thursday, April 18, time TBD
  • Must be able to attend most sessions, with no more than 2 absences due to prior engagements (prior notification required)
  • Weekly readings, written reflections, and practical assignments (3–4 hours/week)


  • $1,000 upon completion of the program and fulfillment of the above commitments


  • Discipline: Ph.D. student in any discipline taught at the undergraduate level (at Duke or other institutions)
  • Status: Must have passed preliminary exams
  • No conflicts with other funding: Participation in this program must not conflict with policies of departmental or external funding sources.
  • Approval of DGS: Applicants must confirm at the time of application that their DGS is aware that they are applying. The Purpose Project team will reach out to the DGSs of selected applicants to confirm approval of participation.

Application questions

  • What would you say counts as successful teaching in college? How has your own undergraduate education informed your idea of what successful teaching is? What do you most want to learn in order to succeed as a college teacher? (500 words max)
  • How did you come to care about your discipline and the research you are pursuing? Why do you believe study of your discipline is worth pursuing? (250 words max)
  • If you could develop your own courses on any two topics, what would you love to teach? Write a brief but compelling description of each that not only informs students about what they will learn but also suggests why the subject is worth their attention. (150 words max each)

Learn more on the Kenan Institute for Ethics website.