Nicole Spigner Receives 2018 Woodrow Wilson Fellowship

Photo: Phil Dembinski '08

CHICAGO (March 20, 2018)—English Assistant Professor Nicole Spigner, PhD, has received the 2018 Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The fellowship, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, affords exceptional junior faculty to pursue scholarly research and writing during the fellowship period in order to facilitate acquisition of tenure.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity and I’m excited about how it will help me advance my career and situate me within the academy,” said Spigner, who has been teaching at Columbia since 2015. “What we do here is really unique. Columbia is a place where a practicing artist can receive a strong liberal arts foundation,” added Spigner. 

Spigner also sees the award as an opportunity for the college to receive more recognition throughout the academy about the high-level and quality of scholarship by faculty across the institution.

“To be selected for the Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship—one of only ten junior faculty members across the country in any discipline—is an enormous achievement,” said Kenneth Daley, chair of English and Creative Writing. “I can think of no greater recognition of the value and promise of Dr. Spigner’s scholarly work.”

Spigner will use the time to continue research and work on her book project, Niobe Repeating: Black New Women’s Literature and Ovidian Transformation, which argues that “while forging a new literary tradition at the end of the nineteenth century, Black New Women writers in America utilized ‘the master’s tools’ of classical allusions, plots, and forms to undermine national narratives grounded in American neoclassicism.” 

Columbia will receive a $30,000 maximum stipend through this fellowship, and Spigner will receive $1,500 for research, travel, or publication. The fellowship also includes a mentorship program in which recipients are paired with a scholar they haven’t worked with before.

“The program encourages us to reach outside of our institutions and our networks, and think beyond tenure,” said Spigner. “At this point in our careers, we can get so focused on tenure as the finish line and forget that the bulk of our careers come after that. This is just the beginning.”

Spigner received her MA in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University. Her research and teaching focuses broadly upon African-American literature, Gender and Women’s Studies, and American Studies. 


About the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowships:
Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation identifies and develops leaders and institutions to meet the nation’s critical challenges. The Woodrow Wilson Fellowships responded to a shortage of college faculty at the conclusion of World War II by offering talented students the opportunity to attend doctoral programs and begin college teaching careers. As college enrollments swelled in the latter half of the 20th century, the Woodrow Wilson program prepared generations of faculty, creating a well-known fellowship and becoming a hallmark of academic excellence.

Over time, the Foundation’s fellowships have evolved to address emerging needs, serve specific populations underrepresented in the academy, strengthen designated fields, and support key stages in professorial careers. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation has awarded fellowships to more than 22,000 scholars, who now include 15 Nobel Laureates, 38 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellows, 19 Pulitzer Prize winners, 27 recipients of Presidential and national medals, and many others.

About the Mellon Foundation:
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.To this end, it supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. 

Columbia College Chicagois a private, nonprofit college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts and business for nearly 7,500 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens. For more information, visit


Anjali Julka