Graduate Fellowships

To ensure that progress in teaching and research in ethics will continue into the future, the Center trains younger scholars who are prepared to dedicate their careers to the study of practical ethics in a wide variety of subjects. The Graduate Fellowships in Ethics were established in 1990 with the support of the American Express Foundation, and subsequent gifts from Mrs. Lily Safra and Mr. Eugene P. Beard. This early expansion of the Center's mission provided a unique opportunity for graduate students writing dissertations or engaged in major research on topics in practical ethics. Nearly two hundred Graduate Fellowships have been awarded to Harvard-enrolled graduate and professional students.

In 2010, a generous gift from Mrs. Lily Safra endowed the Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowships in perpetuity, ensuring that the Center's role in training younger scholars and developing future leaders in ethics will continue as long as Harvard endures.

The Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowship program is currently co-directed by Mathias Risse and Meira Levinson.


Graduate Fellows are expected to devote their time to an approved course of research and study and to participate in a weekly Center seminar, where they workshop papers and dissertation chapters and discuss research problems and strategies common to the study of practical and professional ethics. In addition, Graduate Fellows are expected to take part in the wider intellectual life of the Center.

For the 2022-23 academic year, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics will continue its focus on the theme of “A New Social Compact?” Variations in national responses to the pandemic; disparate experiments with technology, economic, and health policies; and conflicts over foundational political institutions have thrown into stark relief different conceptions of the social compact (a phrase we use loosely to refer to shared understandings of what members of societies believe they owe to each other) around the world. Myriad challenges--including challenges relating to education, climate and the natural environment, migration, new technologies, public health, elections, racial justice, and economic well-being--call us to revisit and evaluate existing conceptions of the social compact at both national and global levels. We ask, is it time for a new social compact? Applicants need not work on related topics, but should know that much of the Center’s programming for the year will be connected to this area of inquiry.


Students should be (a) enrolled in a Harvard doctoral program; (b) enrolled in or a recent graduate of a Harvard professional degree program that does not require a doctoral dissertation for a career in that field (such as law or medicine); or (c) a full-time, academic year visitor to Harvard, who is hosted by a Harvard graduate program, but is still enrolled in a graduate program at another university and has no competing academic or professional commitments during the fellowship year. All course requirements and general examinations must be completed before the start of the fellowship year. Students taking a full or partial course load in either semester of the fellowship year are ineligible. The Center seeks applicants who have excelled in their fields of specialization, have demonstrated an interest in questions of value that cut across disciplinary boundaries, and who are likely to make significant contributions to teaching and scholarship in practical and professional ethics. Some successful applicants will have a strong background in moral philosophy or political thought; others will be grounded in fields of public policy or professional practice.




The stipend for the 2022-23 academic year is $34,000, plus a small allocation for research. In addition to the stipend and research allowance, Graduate Fellows are provided with a shared study space (unless the Center’s offices are inaccessible), office supplies within reason, and access to a printer/copier. Graduate Fellowships are announced in mid-February for the upcoming academic year.