The Religion, Race & Democracy Lab invites first-generation undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Virginia to join with faculty, staff, and fellow students to investigate the complex interrelationships between religion, race and democracy. Selected students will receive a stipend—$3,000 for undergraduates and $5,000 for graduate students—to produce a short non-fiction audio documentary on any topic that explores religion, race, and democracy. We seek stories from around the globe and throughout history. Final projects should engage the broadest possible audience.

The Lab requires all student collaborators to participate in an online workshop, “Introduction to the Documentary Arts,” led by UnionDocs Center for Documentary Arts on January 10–12, 2022. The workshop provides valuable instruction on story crafting, writing for the ear, ethical interview practices, and audio production basics. Throughout the research period, student collaborators will receive one-on-one support from the Lab’s editor and senior producer, guidance from a faculty mentor of the student’s choosing, and access to the Lab’s state-of-the-art recording studio, located in Gibson Hall.

Student collaborators are expected to follow a production schedule and submit a final documentary by May 23, 2022.

The ultimate goal is to publish a final project on the Lab’s website, however, the Lab retains the right to publish or not publish any student-produced content. To see samples of student documentaries, visit:


Applicants must:

  • be a first-generation undergraduate or graduate student
  • be enrolled at UVA throughout the spring 2022 semester
  • participate in an online training workshop, January 10–12, 2022

Students who have received Lab funding in the past are welcome to apply again, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements.



Applications are due Monday, December 6, 2021, and consist of:



Does my faculty mentor have to be an existing advisor or someone who’s taught a course I’ve taken?

  • You may select any UVA faculty member to be your mentor. We recommend finding a faculty member who has knowledge of your topic.

What are the obligations for a faculty mentor?

  • We recommend a monthly meeting between the faculty mentor and student mentee throughout the project timeline. Faculty mentors can be especially helpful in recommending research sources and providing feedback on written materials. All faculty mentors are given $500 in research funds in recognition of their time and efforts.

What does a research contributor do?

  • Typically a research contributor is an interviewee for your documentary, but it might also include a librarian, archivist, or anyone who can provide access to key research materials on your topic.

Is travel allowed?

Are their rules for how the stipend must be spent? Must the stipend cover any project-related expenses, like travel and equipment?

  • The Lab does not place any restrictions on how student collaborators use their stipend. The Lab has recording kits and a recording studio that can be used by students. However, travel and any equipment that a student wants to own must be purchased by the student.

Can I collaborate with a fellow student on a story pitch/project?

  • Yes, up to two students can collaborate on a project. Only one research award will be given to the team and must be split evenly. Both students must meet the eligibility criteria.
Have questions? Contact us at

SEG Family Fund at Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the Genan Foundation generously supports the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab’s documentary research program for first-generation students.