Published: Feb. 22, 2021
CBR Fellows 2019-2020

CU Engage is announcing details about the 2021-22 Community Based Research (CBR) Graduate Fellowship. The application will close Friday, April 16, 2021 at 5pm. You can find the application here

CU Boulder doctoral students who will be in their 2nd-6th years during the 2021-22 academic year are eligible to apply. CU Boulder students seeking their terminal MFA degree, in Year 2 or 3, are also eligible to apply. 

Are you a PhD or MFA student interested in learning and carrying out Community-Based Research (CBR)?

CU Engage’s Graduate Fellowship in Community-Based Research models a strategy for universities to prepare doctoral students for public scholarship. Whereas emerging scholars are often forced to make a choice – “either engage in the community or do peer-reviewed research” – this fellowship is designed to enable scholars to build strong academic careers while working on public issues in partnership with community groups. The CBR Fellowship includes a cohort of 3-5 PhD students each academic year (depending on budget resources). Doctoral students from all academic departments at CU Boulder are eligible to participate. The purpose is for emerging scholars to practice and develop expertise in Community-Based Research through their participation in a supportive cohort.

What is Community-Based Research (CBR)?

The goal of CBR is to broaden who participates in the production of knowledge and to use new knowledge to raise awareness about or develop solutions to pressing public problems. Eligible projects are those where CU doctoral students collaborate with people outside of the university to formulate a research or creative project that examines an issue of public concern and leads to new ideas for policy or practice. Guided by values of equity, social justice, and broadening participation, CBR projects should build capacity for the partner organization and contribute to social change.

Read about CBR Fellowship projects from 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2018-19, which included graduate students from disciplines such as Mechanical Engineering, Ethnic Studies, Education, Computer Science, and Geography.

We give priority to partnerships with people or organizations working with historically marginalized communities or projects that work to promote equity. Because we want to encourage graduate students to align CBR with their academic training and traditions, we are open to a range of types of projects, ranging from natural sciences to the arts and humanities.

Funding Structure for Fellowship

In response to feedback from past fellows, we offer two options.

Option A: Cohort Organizer

  • Equivalent of .25 Graduate Research Appointment (GRA) for two semesters (or .50 GRA for one semester): Cohort Organizers are expected to complete administrative duties necessary for the program, such as coordinate the bi-weekly seminar (schedule, readings, guest lecturers), plan special events, and help promote the visibility of the program on campus. (Cohort Leaders may opt to take their funding as .50 GRA for one semester, but will still be required to participate in activities throughout the year).

Option B: Cohort Participant

  • Equivalent of $8,000 paid out during the year, this funding would be a supplement to your .50 GRA or GPTI. There are no tuition credits or health benefits connected to this award. Participants are expected to carry out CBR projects and participate in all of the activities of the Fellowship (described below). This pay is contingent on your own department policies for allowing this pre doc trainee fellowship. Those selecting this option are not eligible for overload GRA appointments (.625).

Benefits to CBR Graduate Fellows

  • Funding (see above for the two options)
  • Professional development and training to become skilled practitioners of CBR
  • Membership in ongoing scholarly cohort community and introduction to national network of engaged scholars
  • Eligibility to apply for additional funds for materials or community partner stipends depending on project needs (up to $250 per project)​

Requirements of CBR Fellows

  • Participate in the CBR Summer Institute that introduces the Fellows to critical social theory and roots of community-based participatory research (two 4-hour sessions, with required reading, exact dates TBD). Disbursement of funds is contingent on satisfactory completion of Institute.
  • Participate in in-person, bi-weekly research seminars focused on building the capacity of each Fellow to carry out high quality, ethical CBR. There will be readings for most seminars. (This means Fellows need to commit to being in Colorado during the academic year).
  • Satisfactory progress on the CBR project during the 2021=22 academic year, including evidence of reciprocity with the community partner(s). Satisfactory progress will depend on the stage of the project when it begins - expectations about satisfactory progress will be clarified with each Fellow at the beginning of the year.
  • Complete a scholarly paper of 3000-5000 words to be published on the CU Engage website by May 31, 2022. Your paper should be an interim or draft version of a paper that you plan to submit to a journal or conference. It can focus on any aspect of your project. You will receive guidance and feedback along the way.
  • Submit a scholarly paper to an academic conference or journal by Sept. 1, 2022

To Apply

Applications are due by April 16, 2021. Applications will be submitted via Google Forms; the online forms will become available the week of February 22, 2021.

Applications will include the following elements (letters should be uploaded to the online submission form):

  • Project title (10 words or less)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Project proposal (no more than 1500 words, double-spaced, not including reference list)
    • Abstract (250 words)
    • Rationale for the project, addressing a) what is “community-based” about the project, b) its compelling policy or practice rationale, and c) how it will contribute to your field (500 words)
    • Proposed research methodology, including planned data collection strategy that addresses how project decisions will be made collaboratively with the community partners (500 words)
    • Anticipated project significance for addressing the focal issue and scholarly contribution (250 words)
  • Personal professional narrative (250 words)
    • How does this project advance the applicant’s professional development?
  • Letter of support from community partner: letter should speak to the nature of the relationship and the importance of the project from the community partner’s perspective.
  • Letter of support from faculty advisor: letter should speak directly to how this project will advance the candidates doctoral training and what role the advisor will play in supporting the project throughout the year; advisors should verify that the student will have another 25% appointment.

Timeline for selection and disbursement of funds

  • April 16 – Application deadline
  • May 21 – Award recipients selected
  • May 24 – Award recipients notified
  • August: CBR Summer Institute (dates TBD)
  • August 1, 2021 – Funds transferred to department speedtype

Selection Preferences

  • Strong proposals show familiarity with the ideas and concepts of public scholarship or community-based research or participatory action research. You do not need to be an expert - but you should show understanding of core commitments. (See suggested readings at bottom of this announcement).
  • Project proposals should illustrate for the selection committee how the project reflects principles of ethical community engagement, with particular regard to:
    • participation by research partners in defining, identifying, or shaping the research question
    • evidence of an established relationship with community partner or sufficient promise of a collaborative relationship
    • questions or topics that reflect concerns for people in communities, schools, or neighborhoods facing complex public challenges
  • Project proposals should demonstrate how the project advances the applicant’s scholarly goals and interests. This means that the proposal:
    • has a strong connection to the applicant’s dissertation interests, either as pilot work or the dissertation itself
    • shows support from faculty advisor in home department
    • integrates a compelling community or public need with a compelling scholarly contribution to student’s academic field or emerging scholarly field of CBR
  • Applicants should demonstrate, either through lived experience, professional experience, or social identity, deep understanding of the communities and/or social contexts where they aim to do their work
  • Community partners must be groups whose primary membership is not employees or students of CU Boulder; these groups should be guided by missions of strengthening democracy, contributing to the resilience of communities, or improving the quality of public-serving institutions (such as schools). They can be located anywhere in the world.

CBR Project FAQs

  • Can a project be proposed in which the partner is outside of Colorado or outside of the United States?
    • Answer: We discourage projects that face logistical barriers to communication and interaction with partners. However, you are still eligible to apply, particularly if you can explain how your work will be consistent with principles of collaboration and reciprocity despite geographic distance. Also note that if you are doing fieldwork that will take you out of state for considerable amounts of time, then you will not be able to participate in the bi-weekly seminar meetings, which are required.
  • Can an applicant receive the Fellowship if data has already been collected?
    • Answer: Most quality proposals will still have data to collect or fieldwork to complete. However, if data were collected in the context of a participatory or collaborative project and the applicant can describe how analysis and communication of findings will have a collaborative element, then you are encouraged to apply.

Please email Dr. with additional questions.

CBR Interdisciplinary Scholarly Resources 

Aaron, KF, & O’Toole TP (2003). Community-based participatory research (Special issue). J Gen 
Intern Med 18(7):592-594. 

Ansley F., & Gaventa, J.: Researching for democracy and democratizing research. Change, January- February, 1997, pp. 46-53. 

Hall, B.L.: From margins to center: The development and purpose of participatory action research. Am Sociologist 23:15-28, 1992. 

Israel, B. A. et al. (1998). Review of community-based research: Assessing 
partnership approaches to improve public health. Annu Rev Public Health 19:173-202.

Nyden, PW, Wiewel, W: Collaborative research: Harnessing the tensions between researcher and practitioner. Am Sociolist 24:43-55, 1992.

Strand, K., Marullo, S., Cutforth, N., Stoecker, R., & Donohue, P. (2003). Community-based research and higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tisdahl, et al. (2014). Guidelines for peer-reviewing community-based research. URBAN Publications Committee. Retrieved from

Torre, M. E., & Fine, M. (2008). Engaging youth in participatory inquiry for social justice. In M. Pollack (ed.), Everyday anti-racism: Getting real about race in school. New York: New Press.


Listen, below, to our CBR Fellows edition of CU Engage's AMPLIFY podcast, where CU Boulder doctoral student Brian Lightfoot talks about his research and partnership work with the organization Pathways2Teaching.

Read here about 2016-17 CBR Fellow, Engineering doctoral student David Pfotenhauer, and his work with the organization Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart to improve air quality in Denver communities.