RGCS Taylor Student Fellows (BA, MA, BCL/JD)
Applications for 2023-24 will open in August 2023. E-mail rgcs.mcgill [at] gmail.com to ask to be added to the distribution list for the call for applications.
The Research Group on Constitutional Studies ( http://www.mcgill.ca/rgcs/ https://www.facebook.com/RGCSMcGill ) 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). It includes some fifteen faculty researchers in Political Science, Philosophy, and Law; postdoctoral fellows; a group of Ph.D. fellows; 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.
The RGCS Student Fellowship was established when RGCS moved into its current space in Ferrier Hall in 2010, in an effort to include students at earlier stages than the Ph.D. in the intellectual community of the research group. Today it typically admits 20 BA, MA, and JD/ BCL students per year from political science, philosophy, and law for a weekly non-credit reading group focused on texts in of political, moral, and social thought. The students receive a small stipend and free copies of the books, as well as various other academic supports such as funding for conference travel and summer research projects.
In that time 170 students have been part of the Fellowship. Thanks to their generous support, along with that of faculty, doctoral students, postdocs, other McGill alums, and other friends and supporters, and the support of the Lemieux Family Foundation, $100,000 has been raised for a permanent endowment to make the Fellowship a permanent part of the McGill academic experience. As of May 2023, that funding has allowed the Fellowship to be renamed The Research Group on Constitutional Studies Charles Taylor Fellowship, in recognition of the contributions of McGill's most distinguished alumnus and emeritus professor in political theory and philosophy. Professor Emeritus Charles Taylor, CC FRSC GOQ FBA, McGill BA 1952, taught in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy for nearly thirty years, and did more than anyone else to establish the intellectual traditions at McGill that RGCS seeks to carry forward.
Eligibility: The Taylor 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.
Students finishing their degrees in December are eligible if they are returning undergraduate members of the fellowship group, but not otherwise.
Returning BA members are normally accepted, as are former BA members now applying in their first year of an MA or BCL/ JD, but still must submit an application. Applications to return for a second year as an MA or BCL/ JD Fellow are welcome, but acceptances may be limited by available spaces.
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. The reading group is not a for-credit reading course and cannot be taken as one.
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.
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, and will be invited to take part in small group meetings with the speakers as well (normally a dedicated dinner). The first question at the lectures is reserved for a member of the Fellowship. (And this is worth thinking about during the lecture!) The 2022-23 lecture series included Jonathan Rodden (Stanford), Asha Rangappa (Yale), Sharon Krause (Brown), and Ryan Muldoon (Buffalo).
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, in recent years including Saskia Sassen, Timur Kuran, Charles Taylor, and Philip Pettit.
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, and workshops; ARIA research assistanceships 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.