Undergraduate Fellowship

The PCD Undergraduate Fellowship is a selective, two-year enrichment program for students interested in American politics and political theory designed to complement and supplement their regular coursework and studies. It consists of courses, reading groups, lunch conversations with scholars, and summer internship and program support. It offers an opportunity to step back from the ideological polarization and frenetic news cycle around us, and to consider the philosophical questions underlying contemporary debates about such issues as constitutional interpretation, the power and limits of government, statesmanship and leadership, and the meaning of democracy, rights, liberty, and equality.

Through reading and discussion of the ways that the best American political, legal, and even literary thinkers have understood these issues since the Founding, the PCD Fellowship gives students space and time to think through their own political beliefs in the context of the American political tradition and at some historical remove from the heat of current debates. In our courses and reading groups, we examine, for example, how the Founders understood the role of the courts in the Constitution, how successive generations of Americans, including Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, Woodrow Wilson, and Milton Friedman have understood tariffs and free trade, how thinkers like John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, John Dewey imagined public education, and how the American regime has been influenced by European and classical political philosophy. Our goal is to promote citizenship that is informed by broad reading and reflection on American political thought from its beginnings.

The PCD Fellowship can be undertaken while pursuing almost any course of study at the university. It does not issue in a major, minor, or special certificate. It is simply time and opportunity to closely read and discuss the books and arguments that have shaped the American regime with a small group of other students who share this interest. Fellows majoring in Politics can apply the courses to their major requirements, and those pursuing other majors can use them to fulfill General Education and elective requirements, as applicable.


The PCD Fellowship is a two-year commitment, consisting of the following activities:

  1. Courses: Fellows are required to complete at least three PCD courses in addition to one course that must be taken before applying. By the end of their fellowship, Fellows will have taken PLAP 2250: The American Political Tradition, PLAP 3400: American Political Economy, and two upper-level seminar offerings (typically listed among PLAP 4500 and PLPT 4500 courses). Seminar offerings change each year, and are intended to allow students to delve more deeply into particular issues like education, federalism, religion and politics, and political rhetoric. Priority in registration for these courses will be given to Fellows.
  2. Faculty lunches: Fellows are invited to lunches with UVA faculty, outside visitors, and PCD faculty.
  3. Reading Group: Fellows participate in a semester-long reading group that meets weekly. The reading group will select a significant political, literary, or philosophical work of relatively mutual interest to all participants and meet for informal (but informed) discussion. Occasionally, we will host a thematic film series in lieu of reading a book. Every fellow is expected to participate for at least three semesters.
  4. Summer Internship/Graduate Application Advising: Faculty will work one-on-one with rising third- and fourth-year Fellows interested in summer internships and programs in politics, policy, and journalism to identify opportunities and put together strong applications.


Applications for the Fellows Program will be accepted from rising second- and third-years. Although PCD is housed in the Politics department, participation in the Fellowship Program is open to all UVA undergraduates, and we strongly encourage students majoring in other disciplines to apply. Each year, we will accept a group of 5-10 new Fellows. Prospective applicants must take either PLAP 2250 (preferred) or PLAP 3400 (accepted) before applying, and must be prepared to make the time commitment required for the program.

To apply, please submit a one-page letter describing your intellectual interests and reasons for seeking a fellowship, a resume, and unofficial transcript to Professor Danielle Charette at dcharette@virginia.edu. The deadline for applications for the 2023-24 school year is September 29, 2023.