The Louisville Institute

The Louisville Institute
1044 Alta Vista Road Louisville, KY 40205 (502) 992-5432

First Book Grant for Minority Scholars


Are you ready to apply? Begin Online Application Here.

The Louisville Institute’s First Book Grant Program for Minority Scholars assists junior, non-tenured religion scholars of color to complete a major research project on an issue in North American Christianity related to the priorities of the Louisville Institute. All too often such scholars are asked to assume a heavy set of institutional responsibilities that can make it more difficult to complete the scholarly work necessary to secure tenure. The First Book Grant program enables scholars to spend an entire academic year devoted to that research project while free of other professional responsibilities.

In keeping with its fundamental mission, the Louisville Institute is especially interested in identifying and supporting scholars of color who seek through their academic work to be in conversation with church leaders and to strengthen their faith communities.

View Previously Awarded Grants


Applicants must:

  • be members of a racial/ethnic minority group,
  • have an earned doctoral degree (normally the Ph.D. or Th.D.),
  • be a pre-tenured faculty member in a full-time, tenure-track position at an accredited institution of higher education (seminary, college, or university) in the United States or Canada,
  • be able to negotiate a full academic year free from teaching and committee responsibilities, and
  • be engaged in a scholarly research project leading to the publication of their first (or second) book, focusing on some aspect of Christianity in North America.

If the institution does not award tenure, the school must provide some form of continuing, full-time employment, such as renewable term contracts. For purposes of this grant program, the term “racial/ethnic minority group” includes African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Previous Louisville Institute grant recipients are eligible and encouraged to apply; however, all program and financial reports for any previous grants must be submitted prior to January 15th. Applicants may not submit applications to more than one Louisville Institute grant program within the same grant year (June 1-May 31).

Questions about eligibility may be sent to

First Book Feasibility Feedback

The Louisville Institute is glad to provide brief initial consultation to help you determine if your project ideas fit our funding criteria. Feasibility Feedback is optional and not required to submit an application. Because of the large number of First Book applicants, consultation does not automatically guarantee funding. However, staff feedback can help you discern whether to develop your ideas into a full grant proposal.

Before contacting us, please follow these steps:

• In a single paragraph, state your project’s core question and explain why it is important to the church in North America

• In 2-3 paragraphs identify how you plan to investigate this question, indicating your research strategies

• Share your outline with several trusted colleagues and incorporate their feedback

After completing these steps, you may email this brief project outline (500 words maximum) to Don Richter with the subject heading “First Book feedback.” We will respond to all feedback requests submitted prior to December 15.

Application Procedure

Beginning with the Applicant Information link below, please upload your application materials in *.pdf format (preferred). Assemble all required documents and recommender email addresses and upload your application materials in one session. All digital documents must be submitted by the annual January 15 deadline. Recommenders must submit their letters by January 22nd. If you encounter problems with online submission contact Keri Liechty at

Applications should include:

  • Applicant Information (Application details; 1-3 sentences stating your project's core question and why it is important to the church in North America; and 200-word summary)
  • Narrative statement of approximately 5-7 pages (12-point and double-spaced). Describe your proposal in detail using the following outline:
    • Concern/Question: What is the primary concern or question being addressed?
    • Rationale: Why is the proposed topic important to you and to the church? What are the consequences if this issue is not investigated and responded to?
    • Plan: How do you intend to study and investigate the concern? Include a description of the way in which you will conduct the inquiry: bibliography of the main sources to be read, field work if appropriate, travel and other resources necessary to complete the project.
    • Dissemination: Who is your audience for this research? How do you plan to share your research with them? What oral forms of dissemination fit the project (e.g. sermons, education venues, speeches, conference papers)? What written forms of dissemination fit the project (e.g., essay, article, book, other possible publication venues)?
    • Impact: What personal, academic, and spiritual impacts do you see for yourself in engaging in this project? What benefits will come to your institution and to the larger church?
    • Timeline: What is the schedule and timeline for the project?
  • Selective bibliography of the main sources to be read (2-3 pages double-spaced)
  • Detailed budget and budget narrative – see Guide for Budget Preparation
  • Copy of your current Curriculum Vitae or résumé (no more than 4 pages).
  • Two Letters of Recommendation (Colleague and Assessing Project Feasibility) and Letter of Release: When uploading your application materials, please provide email addresses for your two recommenders. After submitting your application, the Louisville Institute will immediately email those persons with instructions for submitting their documents online. You will also receive an email confirming that recommenders have been notified. We notify you via email as each person successfully submits a document. We advise applicants to contact their two recommenders well in advance to explain procedures and guidelines (below) so that completed letters can be promptly uploaded when requested by the Institute. Letters of Recommendation need to be submitted by January 22nd.
    • Letter of Recommendation from Colleague — The recommender will be instructed: After reviewing the applicant's plans, craft your letter (on letterhead, if applicable) as a colleague. Provide your candid assessment of the applicant's reliability and capacity to carry out the proposed project. Describe how the applicant's previous work demonstrates skills needed to conduct this study. In what ways might this project strengthen the church in North America?
    • Letter Assessing Project Feasibility — The recommender will be instructed: After reviewing the applicant's plans, craft a letter (on letterhead, if applicable) providing your candid assessment of the need for this project, the feasibility of this project, and the distinctiveness of this project in light of what others are doing or have already done. Tell us how the applicant is well-suited to undertake this study and why the proposed project has relevance for the church in North America.
    • Letter of Release — The applicant’s academic dean or chairperson confirms release from teaching responsibilities in the event a grant is awarded.

Review and Selection Process

Every year the Louisville Institute Board appoints a selection committee to review proposals and award First Book for Minority Scholars grants. Committee membership and deliberations remain confidential.

Applicants whose projects are not funded will be notified by mail as soon as possible following the adjudication process. Due to the large number of applications the Institute receives, LI Board and staff members do not provide additional feedback on declined proposals.

Duration of Award and Stipend

The grant amount requested should not exceed $40,000 and must supprt a full year of academic leave. (The First Book Grant does not support sabbatical leaves of less than a full academic year.) Since the Louisville Institute pays the grant directly to the applicant's academic institution, the budget cannot include indirect costs to institution. Awards will be announced on or before March 15, 2016.


Grantees must be released from all teaching and committee responsibilities during the award year, and applications should include a letter from the appropriate dean or chairperson confirming that the applicant will be released from those responsibilities if receiving an award. (If the institution does not award tenure, this letter should also briefly describe the faculty review process that provides faculty members with continuing, full-time employment, such as renewable term contracts.) Grantees may not accept other awards that provide a major stipend during the tenure of this grant except insofar as necessary to bring the sabbatical year salary up to the grantee’s full salary level. Although the Louisville Institute First Book Grant Program for Minority Scholars has no residence requirement, However, all grantees selected in 2016 are expected to participate in the Institute’s annual Winter Seminar scheduled for February 2017 (exact dates TBA). The Louisville Institute will pay travel and lodging expenses for this gathering.

No recipient of a Louisville Institute grant or fellowship may also be awarded a Henry Luce III Fellowship during the same selection year. Applicants to both programs may only accept one award.

Please note that Louisville Institute grantees may not simultaneously hold two grants from Lilly Endowment-funded organizations that total more than $45,000.