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.

Award Amount

The 2023-24 Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship is $35,000. Please note that the recipient must be enrolled at Michigan State University in a doctoral program to receive the funds. The Graduate School will work with the recipient to decide if the funds will be awarded as a fellowship or assistantship.

Application Procedure and Deadline

The Application/Nomination form will prompt you to upload a description of your dissertation project and research interests, upload a detailed timeline for completing your dissertation project, and upload your CV. You will also be asked to provide the name/email of your major advisor.

The Graduate School will contact your major advisor and ask for a letter of support. Applicants are asked to submit their application with enough time to allow the major professor/advisor to submit their letter of support. Applications without a letter of support will not be reviewed. 

For questions or additional information pertaining to the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship, contact Dr. Terah Chambers at


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 semester of the award; 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

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.

Previous TIAA Ruth Simms Hamilton Fellowship Recipients

  • 2022-23: Lakya Goss, Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education
  • 2021-22: Hikmatu Awudu, Sociology
  • 2020-21: Jaleah Rutledge, Psychology
  • 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
Due Date: 
Funding Amount: 
Semester Due: 
Spring Semester