At-Risk Scholars Program

The University of Pennsylvania’s At-Risk Scholars Program provides central University support to Penn Schools, centers, and departments who wish to help at-risk scholars escape persecution and danger to themselves and their families through a period of residence at Penn.

The At-Risk Scholars Program, administered by the Office of the Provost, is intended to simultaneously lend humanitarian aid and refuge to at-risk scholars and to enhance the University’s teaching, research, and service missions.

The program provides limited matching financial support of up to $30,000 per year for a maximum of two years to Penn Schools, centers, and departments wishing to host at-risk scholars, artists, writers, journalists, public intellectuals, and other individuals who help advance the University’s teaching, research, and service missions. In addition, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), a division of Penn Global, provides support for U.S. visa applications, entry into the United States, and compliance with U.S. immigration policies; as well as resources for integrating into life in the United States and at Penn.

Sponsorship Requirements

  • At-Risk Scholars must be sponsored by at least one Penn faculty member or senior administrator as well as by a Penn School, center, or department. Sponsors are expected to contribute funding for the proposed at-risk scholar either from their own budgets or from external sources such as the Scholar Rescue Fund and Scholars at Risk Network. The At-Risk Scholars program will provide matching funds. Sponsors for Penn's At-Risk Scholars program are strongly encouraged to advise proposed at-risk scholars to apply for assistance from both the Scholar Rescue Fund and Scholars at Risk Network even if they receive support from Penn

  • The At-Risk Scholars Program is only able to provide matching support and funding of up to $30,000 per year for a period of residence of up to two years. Regrettably, no extensions can be given to this period of residency. In addition, the program prioritizes support to Penn Schools, centers, and departments who are unable to support at-risk scholars from their own internal financial resources. 

  • The At-Risk Scholars Program cannot be used to employ staff or to fill University positions.

If Sponsorship Is Not Possible

If Penn sponsorship for a visa is not possible, at-risk scholars may also be eligible for other types of immigration options (for example asylum claims or refugee status). A consultation with one of Penn’s outside immigration law firms is possible for Penn departments interested in exploring these options.

Sponsor a Scholar

Before You Apply

  • Sponsoring faculty members or senior administrators are strongly encouraged to contact Penn Global at global@upenn.edu with any questions they have about the program prior to applying. 

    • For questions specifically about visa eligibility for potential scholars, please contact Chiwei Huang-Ma at cwhuang@upenn.edu.

  • Faculty or staff positions are encouraged, if possible, for departments wishing to host an at-risk scholar.

  • Sponsoring faculty members or senior administrators are also encouraged to consult School, center, and department leadership as early as possible prior to application.

Application Instructions

To be considered, applications must include:

  • Details of why the scholar is at risk; how the proposed at-risk scholar will be integrated into the life of the University; what support and resources the sponsoring Penn School, center, or department is able to offer; and plans for transitioning the at-risk scholar following their period of residence at Penn.
     
  • Letters of support for hosting the proposed at-risk scholar from at least one sponsoring Penn faculty member or senior administrator; the department chair, center director, or equivalent administrator of the sponsoring Penn center or department; and the dean or equivalent administrator of the sponsoring Penn School, center, or other entity.

    Letters of support from Penn Schools, centers, and departments should emphasize the proposed At-Risk Scholar’s activities, responsibilities, and role at Penn, including contributions to research and teaching, and include a proposed start date.

Applications must be completed and submitted by a faculty or staff member of the sponsoring Penn organization. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Apply Today

Head shot of Salam al Kuntar
Highlighting Previous Visiting Scholars and Their Work
Scholars at Penn

Dr. Salam al Kuntar (pictured right), a Syrian-born archeologist, is recognized as a leading advocate for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage sites in Syria. At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. al Kuntar was a Research Fellow at the Penn Museum, where she served as lead curator on a special exhibition, titled "Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq." She also co-led the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq (SHOSI) project, based in the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, and the Tell Hamoukar Project in northeast Syria, among many other critical efforts. Prior to joining Penn, Dr. al Kuntar worked for the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria. 

Partners & Resources at Penn

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Center for Media at Risk

The Center for Media at Risk at the Annenberg School for Communication is a global hub dedicated to identifying threats to media and strategizing in response to political conditions that undermine free and critical media practice worldwide. We are invested in providing scholars and practitioners the educational tools necessary to detect changing parameters of threat across the global media landscape—in journalism, documentary, arts/entertainment and digital spaces. Through our wide range of programming – from lectures to art exhibits, documentary film screenings to podcasts and beyond – we hope to offer a programming platform and funding support for At-Risk scholars and their sponsor schools and centers.

Please connect with us to see how we can serve as a resource: media.risk@asc.upenn.edu

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Center for Media at Risk

The Center for Media at Risk at the Annenberg School for Communication is a global hub dedicated to identifying threats to media and strategizing in response to political conditions that undermine free and critical media practice worldwide. We are invested in providing scholars and practitioners the educational tools necessary to detect changing parameters of threat across the global media landscape—in journalism, documentary, arts/entertainment and digital spaces. Through our wide range of programming – from lectures to art exhibits, documentary film screenings to podcasts and beyond – we hope to offer a programming platform and funding support for At-Risk scholars and their sponsor schools and centers.

Please connect with us to see how we can serve as a resource: media.risk@asc.upenn.edu

Questions

Please contact global@upenn.edu with any questions or to provide additional details or clarifications.