Kahn projects bring together 18 fellows, comprised of Smith faculty, staff, and students, Five College faculty, and visiting scholars, to participate as equals to explore diverse areas of research in a collaborative and interdisciplinary setting. Every Kahn project is proposed and designed by Smith faculty members who serve as the project’s organizing fellows.
A long-term Kahn project develops intellectual fellowship and fosters communities of scholars in which the line between student and teacher is dissolved. Faculty and Student Fellows meet weekly during a semester or a year and work together as equals, discussing and debating the complex issues surrounding the seminar’s research questions. To build community, fellows share a meal before or after the seminar providing an opportunity to discuss their work in a more informal and relaxed setting.
Short-term projects provide new contexts for Smith and Five College faculty to explore topics of common intellectual concern that bear on their own research and may serve as seeds for future long-term projects. Short-term project formats are flexible, but typically take place within an abbreviated timeframe. Short-term projects often include public events, panels or forums, film screenings, workshops, field trips and other activities over the course of two to three days, a weekend, or a series of daylong symposia.
Pitching and Participating in Projects
Informational meetings are held each year for faculty and students who are interested in learning more about long-term projects. See the Projects page for additional information about projects currently recruiting and about proposing short- and long-term projects.
All current and emeriti Smith faculty, as well as Smith staff members and faculty from the Five Colleges, are eligible to become fellows in Kahn Institute projects. See the projects page to learn about opportunities.
Organizing fellows propose projects to the Kahn Institute director. After a project is approved by the director and the Kahn Advisory Committee, its organizing fellows work with the director and Kahn staff to select participating project members and to develop a program of related public events.
The director works with the organizing fellows to draft a concise statement of the project to be used for announcements and publicity. Organizing fellows may be invited to meet with the Kahn Institute Advisory Committee to discuss their plans.
During the project year, organizing fellows direct the project's weekly seminar, provide overall supervision for the work of the student fellows (though most of them will be working directly with other faculty fellows or independently), and work closely with the Kahn Institute staff. The staff handles the many details that keep a project running smoothly, including coordinating and publicizing all public events and managing financial and budgetary matters and behind-the-scenes work.
Fellows organizing year-long projects are released from teaching one course. The year preceding the project can be a busy one for organizing fellows, for they must help select project fellows, periodically meet with them and the Kahn Advisory Committee, and work with the Kahn project manager to decide on the scope and timing of public events. Organizing fellows may elect to take their one-semester course release during the planning year instead of during the project year. At the conclusion of a project, organizing fellows must submit a reasonably detailed report for the institute’s records, including suggestions for improving the operation of future Kahn projects.
Faculty fellows on a project participate in seminar meetings for two hours each week with student fellows at the Kahn Institute.
During these meetings, organizing and faculty fellows develop their research and critique one another’s work in progress. Fellows may also invite scholars, artists and others to share their research and to participate in events, such as films, lectures and performances that are open to the college and the broader community.
Fellowship is fostered at a weekly lunch or dinner for all faculty and student fellows in a project. In general, the meal immediately follows the colloquium meeting and provides an opportunity for fellows to get to know one another and to discuss their interests and the day’s topic in a more informal setting.
Each long-term project typically includes approximately 14 faculty fellows and four student fellows. One goal of long-term projects is to foster communities of scholars in which faculty and students participate as equals, where the line between student and teacher is dissolved.
Faculty fellows may also participate in short-term projects that provide new contexts for exploring topics of common intellectual concern that bear on their own research. The structure and duration of short-term projects vary; they can be adapted to meet a variety of needs. Short-term projects include activities such as workshops, meetings, panel discussions, public lectures and symposia.
The Kahn Institute provides budgetary, organizational and publicity support for project activities and public events including honoraria, travel, accommodations, and other expenses for visitors who are invited to lecture and engage with the project. The institute also provides funds, organizational support for all project activities, and publicity for public events. Smith Faculty Fellows receive research grants in the amount of $3,000 for yearlong projects and $1,500 for one-semester projects. Project organizers receive a course release in addition to a research grant. Junior faculty may opt for a course release or a research grant. Five College Faculty Fellows receive an honorarium between $1,500-$3,000 depending on the length of the project.
Long-term projects recruit faculty fellows early in the fall semester. Short-term projects recruit fellows approximately eight weeks before they are scheduled. Applications are posted online when they are open.
Questions about applying for Kahn project participation may be directed to Kahn Institute staff.
Kahn Student Fellows research their own independent question within the broader project theme. They participate as equals with faculty fellows in weekly seminar meetings, meals, and special events throughout the project.
Most students will not have had much previous experience defining a research topic or doing original research, so the institute established a research orientation program for student fellows. It is critical that student fellows participate in the orientation activities in the spring and return to campus a few days early in the fall to attend an orientation workshop that takes place before classes resume.
A Kahn student fellow is an enrolled Smith College junior or senior who
- will be on campus during the project semester
- is prepared to take initiative in conducting independent research
- takes themselves seriously as a scholar
- is sufficiently confident to present their research to faculty and visiting experts.
Visiting & Senior Fellowships
Visiting fellows are appointed by the institute’s director on the advice of the organizing fellows. Appointment lengths vary based on project needs and the fellows’ availability. Visiting fellows participate in public events and in weekly meetings, working closely with faculty and student fellows. The Kahn Advisory Committee, in cooperation with the selection committees for the Kennedy and Neilson visiting professorships, encourages faculty to design proposals that include prospective Kennedy or Neilson professors.