TIAA Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship

Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton

TIAA established the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship at TIAA-CREF in 2005 to honor the scholarship, memory, and legacy of Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton (1937-2003), a former professor at MSU and member of the TIAA Board of Trustees. Dr. Hamilton's 35-year-long career at MSU included appointments in the Department of Sociology, the African Studies Center, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and the Center for Advanced Study of International Development. Dr. Hamilton was a valued member of the TIAA Board of Trustees from 1989 to 2003, serving on the Board's Corporate Governance and Social Responsibility Committees from 1990 to 2003, as well as the Board's Executive Committee. In the mid-1980s, she founded the African Diaspora Research Program (ADRP) Routes of Passage Volume 1, Part 1 Coverat MSU that served as a movement center for mentoring graduate students in Afro-Diasporic Studies.  She established a reputation as a leading scholar in the study of the African Diaspora and African urbanization. The research that she conducted with her students, as exemplified by MSU Press’s Ruth Simms Hamilton African Diaspora Series, "highlights the global experiences and dynamic dimensions of peoples of African descent" from the vantage point of multiple disciplines.  Before her death, she was working on an 11-volume book series on the African Diaspora, under the concept of “Routes of Passage." Former MSU president and former CEO of TIAA-CREF, Clifton Wharton Jr., expressed the following about Dr. Hamilton: "Trying to capture the spirit of Ruth is a daunting task. There are so many words to describe her approach to life. She was a rare human being whose life made a difference to us all. Her life was a priceless jewel that will always be remembered."

The creation of the TIAA Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship at MSU is a natural and appropriate step to ensure continued recognition of Dr. Hamilton. The fellowship provides support for MSU doctoral students whose dissertation research is related to the African Diaspora (i.e., research that is focused on any aspect of the communities of people descended from the voluntary or forced historic movement of African peoples to other parts of the world and who are usually connected back in some way to Africa) and honors the high standards Dr. Hamilton set.

Selection Process and Requirements

The applications will be evaluated by an advisory committee composed of an Associate Dean in the Graduate School and MSU faculty members with expertise in the study of the African Diaspora from various disciplinary backgrounds who will advise the Dean of the Graduate School on the selection of the Fellow. Only complete applications will be considered.

The Fellow must be enrolled in the Spring Semester after the selection to receive the funds. The Fellow may travel to support research, present at scholarly conferences, support the collection of data, or complete writing of the dissertation. The Fellow is also required to express acceptance of and appreciation for the award to TIAA, and to participate in an awards reception at MSU during the Spring Semester.

Award Amount

The Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship is awarded in the form of a Graduate Assistantship for Fall and Spring Semesters with tuition, health insurance and stipend ($1,100 bi-weekly) . Please note that the recipient must be enrolled at Michigan State University in a doctoral program in Spring Semester to receive the funds. 

Application Procedure and Deadline

Nominations/Applications are due to the Graduate School by 5:00 PM January 14, 2022.

The application must include the following:

  1. A completed Application/Nomination form
  2. A current curriculum vitae (c.v.) that adheres to the standards of your discipline
  3. A description of your dissertation project and research interests, highlighting how your dissertation project is “related to the African Diaspora” and contributes to the foundational scholarship and work of Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton (1,250 words maximum)
  4. A detailed timeline for completing your dissertation project
  5. One letter of recommendation from your major adviser

For questions or additional information pertaining to the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship, contact Dr. Pero G. Dagbovie at or Mikala Rioux at

Previous TIAA Ruth Simms Hamilton Fellowship Recipients

  • 2019-20: Christopher Shell, History
  • 2018-19 Suban Nur Cooley, Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
  • 2017-18 James Blackwell, History
  • 2016-17 Tara Mock, African American and African Studies
  • 2015-16 Blair Proctor, African American and African Studies Program
  • 2014-15 David Walton, History/African American and African Studies Program
  • 2013-14 Ronald Jackson II, History
  • 2012-13 Kamahra Ewing, African American and African Studies Program
  • 2012-13 Alexandra P. Gelbard, Sociology

To be eligible for the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship, the applicant must:

  • be currently enrolled full-time in a doctoral program at MSU and in “good standing”; enrolled in the Spring Semester after the selection; and able to participate in the Awards Reception during the Spring Semester
  • have completed their comprehensive examinations
  • be engaged in research “related to the African Diaspora” that builds upon Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton’s legacy

Due Date: 
Friday, January 14, 2022
Funding Amount: 
Graduate Assistantship
Semester Due: 
Spring Semester