RGCS Taylor Student Fellows

CFA: RGCS Charles Taylor Student Fellowship 2023-24

The McGill Research Group on Constitutional Studies is accepting applications for its 2023-24 Charles Taylor Student Fellowship. (This is the same program that was previously called the RGCS Student Fellowship. Thanks to the support of generous alums and other donors, it has been renamed for professor emeritus and McGill alum Charles Taylor '52.)

RGCS brings together the study of political theory, political and legal philosophy, constitutional and public law, and empirical political science about constitutional institutions (the judiciary, federalism, separation of powers, etc.). It aims to unify these within an overarching research agenda on the foundations, institutions, and principles of political societies. "Constitutional" is construed broadly. It encompasses both the modern sense of the word (the fundamental institutions of a society's formal political and legal order, including institutional and legal norms limiting and directing political decisions) and the ancient (concerned with the match between political regimes and the societies they govern, and so concerned with the norms and rules governing family life, economic relations, and social orders). RGCS includes some fifteen faculty researchers in Political Science, Philosophy, and Law; postdoctoral fellows; a group of Ph.D. students; and this Student Fellowship of undergraduates and Master's students. RGCS is a unit of the Yan P. Lin Centre for the Study of Freedom and Global Orders in the Ancient and Modern Worlds.

Eligibility: The Fellowship is open to Arts undergraduates (U2 or later) studying political theory and related fields (including political science, philosophy, intellectual history, and the other social sciences, but background preparation in political theory and philosophy is a primary consideration). Pursuing an Honours course of study is an advantage but not a requirement. It is also open to students in the MA programs in political science and philosophy, and in the BCL/ JD program in Law. Applications are welcome from previous Student Fellows hoping to return for another year. Students finishing their degrees in December are eligible if they are returning undergraduate members of the fellowship group, but not otherwise.

Award: $500, plus free copies of the books.

Activities: The RGCS Student Fellowship meets 3-4 Thursdays per month, 4:30-6 pm (and so Fellows should protect that block of time every week), for two kinds of activities.

1) The first, and primary, activity is a reading group with two members of the RGCS faculty: William Roberts and myself. The reading group is not a for-credit course and cannot be taken as one; it is not graded.

Fellows are expected to attend the reading group regularly, to do the reading in a timely fashion, and to take an active, thoughtful part in discussion. The group works as a sustained conversation over months, and can't succeed without continuity from week to week. This year we will read Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile; Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, and Sophie de Grouchy, Letters on Sympathy, and possibly one more work at the end of the year.

2) The second activity is linked to the RGCS Lecture Series, which features speakers on the values, institutions, and principles of a free society. They take place in the same time slot, Thursdays 4:30-6 pm. Fellows are expected to attend all of the lectures. The first question at the lectures is reserved for a member of the Fellowship. (And this is worth thinking about during the lecture!) There are also dedicated dinners with the speakers following the lectures; normally half of the Fellows attend each dinner.

The 2022-23 lecture series will include Ryan Griffiths (McGill) September 14; Kevin Vallier (Bowling Green) October 26; Emily Nacol (Toronto) January 18; and Kevin Elliott (Yale) March 14. Michele Moody-Adams (Columbia) will be delivering the Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique Charles Taylor Lectures February 8-11; it is likely that we will also attend the February 8 lecture instead of holding the reading group that week.

Other activities: Fellows will also be occasionally invited to other talks, seminars, and conferences in political theory, political philosophy, constitutional law, and the history of political thought; unlike attendance at the lectures, participation in these is optional. There are sometimes small group meetings with visiting speakers outside the RGCS Lecture Series, especially the speakers who give the annual Yan P. Lin Centre Lecture.

Sometimes RGCS is able to secure space in the audience for Fellows at other kinds of events; these have included lectures by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, essayist Roxane Gay, novelist Margaret Atwood, Nobel laureate in Literature Mario Vargas Llosa, and Templeton Prize winner Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. When possible, RGCS supports other academic opportunities for Student Fellows, including support for travel to academic conferences, seminars, summer schools, and workshops; ARIA research assistantships with members of the RGCS faculty; and self-organized summer reading groups.

RGCS sponsors an annual Arts undergraduate student writing prize; it is not limited to members of the Fellowship but they are encouraged to apply.


To apply, please e-mail rgcs.mcgill [at] gmail.com by 5 pm on August 18. The e-mail should contain:

1) Your year and program (e.g. "U3, Joint Honours Political Science and Philosophy," "MA1, Political Science");

2) the courses you have taken in political theory, political philosophy, the history of political thought, constitutional law, jurisprudence, or related fields (e.g. the history of economic thought), including instructor's name and term/year, and the grades you received in them;

3) a brief (1-2 sentence) description of your educational/ career goals after graduating from your current program;


4) copied-and-pasted at the bottom of the e-mail (not as an attachment), your "unofficial transcript" from Minerva (not applicable to MA1 students).

You may also include

5) mention of any exposure you have had to political theory, constitutional law, and related fields outside of formal coursework, such as conferences and workshops you've attended.

Please put all of this in the body of the e-mail, not an attachment.

The first meeting of the Fellowship will be on September 7, 4:30 pm.


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