Fellowships Are Out There for Planners Like You

There are ample opportunities for highly motivated mid- and senior-level planners to get international fellowships. For planners who want to grow and explore, they can be extremely fulfilling, both professionally and personally.

Explore Fellowships for Opportunities

Over my planning career, I have been awarded six fellowships on four continents. Each one has been an opportunity of a lifetime for me and has enriched my life, my productivity, my perspective, and, I think, the quality of my work immensely.

There is no trick to finding fellowships.

  • Search the Internet for fellowships, post-graduate fellowships, mid-career fellowships, emerging leader fellowships, and residencies.
  • Look at the CVs of senior planning professionals and especially academic planners to see what fellowships your peers and mentors earn.
  • Call up people who have served on a fellowship and ask them for their ideas.

Fellowships in academia are certainly far more common than in practice, and many fellowships are just open to academia, but many fellowships are also open to practitioners as well, with a few available only to practitioners. Few fellowships are open just to the planning field, but fellowships focused on social justice, urban areas, sustainability, resiliency, environmental issues, governance, and other areas are applicable.

Tell Your Story Effectively

The bigger challenge for many applicants is laying out a compelling story.

Think of the application as a big grant or a big job application, both things that most planners have experience doing.

  • How will this fellowship contribute to your personal growth, your professional work, your current agency, your future work, academia, policymakers, the field of practice, and your new international partners and colleagues?
  • How will you help disseminate and share ideas during the fellowship and upon your return?
  • How has your entire career, perhaps your entire life, led you to this opportunity?

Fellowships want participants who are leaders, emerging leaders, and highly productive professionals. Part of this is telling your story from that perspective. Equally important, of course, whether or not you ever apply for a fellowship, is thinking about how you can enrich your work to improve your satisfaction to give back to the profession even in advance of a fellowship.

I work as an adjunct lecturer of practice because I find it some of the most fulfilling work I do. In teaching, I discovered that I was eligible for and earned a fellowship to teach abroad for six weeks. I wrote a PAS report, Assessing Sustainability: A Guide for Local Governments, because it was a challenge I was grappling with in my work and I was fascinated with the field.

In doing this work, I found a new international collaboration on assessing sustainability that directly led to another fellowship. Each of my fellowships came out work of that I was already doing and let me prove both my interest and my productivity.

What are your passions, how can they motivate you to do more, and how can a fellowship help?

Top image: Thinkstock photo.

About the Author
Wayne Feiden is director of planning and sustainability for the City of Northampton, Massachusetts. His focus includes resilience, sustainability, downtown revitalization, multimodal transportation, open space preservation, assessments, and management. 

July 17, 2017

By Wayne Feiden, FAICP