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Call for Proposals: YMCA Strategic Inquiry Fellowships


The YMCA of the USA, in collaboration with the Kautz Family YMCA Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries, invites proposals for fellows conducting research that aligns with the Young Men’s Christian Association’s [YMCA] strategic and organizational goals. These goals form three areas of focus for inquiry: multicultural leadership development, public health, and mental health. These archival fellowships support individuals, including academics, community-based experts, and students, in their research that explores and advances understanding of these three topical areas, particularly as they relate to the history and present of the YMCA movement.

Applications are accepted through June 21st, 2024, with successful applicants notified by July 19th, 2024. Successful applications will have through May 2nd, 2025, to conduct their research and submit their findings.

Research Themes:

  • Multicultural Leadership Development:
    • As an American institution, the history of the YMCA mirrors that of the nation. It includes salient examples worth admiring and aspiring towards and cautionary episodes that warrant critical examination. Successful applications for this theme will want to explore how the YMCA at the international, national and local levels has influenced and contributed to developing leaders of color. This may include investigating the impact of non-white leaders and communities on shaping the YMCA, emphasizing the dynamics that cultivate excellent leaders and their broader impact beyond the YMCA, identifying and analyzing historical barriers to inclusion, and proposing strategies for creating a more equitable and inclusive environment within the organization.
  • Public Health:
    • While today, perhaps most recognized for its wellness offerings, the YMCA has a rich history of promoting the health of communities. Successful applicants for this topic are encouraged to think broadly about what is and is not public health. Examples include, how has concern for the health of individuals and communities informed the YMCA’s trajectory? What are the processes for both innovation and successful implementation? And critically what competencies are needed at the organizational and individual levels to deliver public health initiatives?
  • Mental Health
    • Founded in 1844 as a community for young Christian men, one may argue that the YMCA’s original concern was emotional well-being. Successful applicants will interrogate organizational history, seeking narratives that underscore or possibly reframe how mental health has and has not been a concern in YMCA programs, initiatives, and culture. As an organization founded on Christian principles, other areas of interest include the intersection of religion, mental health, and community, as well as the promotion and impacts of normative identities.

Fellowship Details:

  1. Up to six fellowships will be awarded, each providing an award of $10,000 (taxable).

(Successful applicants affiliated with the University of Minnesota will receive lesser awards of $6,290 (faculty/P&A), $6,650 (Civil Service), and $7,490 (Student professional) factoring in taxes and fringe.)

  1. Half of the stipend will be disbursed at the beginning of the fellowship, with the remaining half provided upon the successful completion of the research.
  2. Fellows must extensively use archival materials from the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.
  3. Fellows will have digital access to relevant resources and archives to support their research.
  4. On-site research is welcomed but not required. Additional financial support for travel is not available.
  5. Research results are expected to be presented as a white paper written for a general audience.
  6. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Ryan Bean (– YMCA Archives Program Director, Kautz Family YMCA Archives – University of Minnesota Libraries, to discuss the collection and proposal.

About the Archives:

The Kautz Family YMCA Archives, a part of the University of Minnesota Libraries and Special Collections, collects, preserves, and provides access to the rich heritage of the American Young Men’s Christian Association. Founded in London in 1844, the first American YMCA was established in Boston in 1851. Positioned initially as an auxiliary to the church, predominantly evangelical protestant confessions, the YMCA has grown and evolved in tandem with American Society.

The archives, which date to 1877, document the growth and evolution of the American YMCA and American society and culture. Frequently positioned as a mediator of modernity, scholars can expect to find through the lens of the YMCA both a participant in and witness to the unfolding of the 19th and 20th centuries. Core themes within the collection include civil society, religious discourse, ecumenism, missiology, transnational interaction, war work, community education, industrialization, race relations, health and recreation, sport, youth development, and non-profit sector development.

Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants must demonstrate the ability to engage in the topic seriously. This may be through an affiliation with an accredited academic institution or lived experience and recognition from community stakeholders.

Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.

Review process:

Applications will be evaluated by a YMCA of the USA and University of Minnesota Libraries staff panel.

Apply now

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