In operation since 1973, the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies promotes John Steinbeck’s goals of empathy and mutual understanding through public programming, free curriculum for teachers, and fellowships for emerging writers.

The Steinbeck / Gentlemen of the Road Service Fellowship brings together a cohort of students from San José State University and Stanford University to complete a summer of community service in Steinbeck Country. The overall mission is to respect Steinbeck’s legacy by combining public service and creative writing, and to encourage engaged collaboration between students from the two great universities of “Steinbeck Country."

In its initial year (summer 2020), the program will sponsor six undergraduate students: three from Stanford and three from San José State. Students will choose from a variety of prearranged opportunities with partner organizations serving the communities where Steinbeck set his fiction. For example, participants might tutor the children of farmworkers at a Castroville high school; conduct a creative writing workshop for teenagers in Salinas; or introduce young people to marine biology at the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. The Fellowship also has a creative aspect as students will produce a piece of writing that reflects on their experience and service.

Each Fellow receives a base stipend of $5,500 to cover most of the essential costs associated with an unpaid service experience. Supplemental funding is available to students who qualify, according to the determination of the SJSU Financial Aid & Scholarship Office.

The Fellowship is funded by “Gentlemen of the Road” (the community engagement organization of the folk-rock band Mumford & Sons) from the proceeds of a concert the band played at Stanford University in September 2019, where they received the John Steinbeck Award. Despite having the word “Gentlemen” in its name, the Fellowship is open to open to students from any race, color, religion or creed, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, marital or domestic partner status, political affiliation, HIV or AIDS status, or disability.

This application form is for San José State students. Stanford students must apply through Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service.

For additional information, contact Professor Nick Taylor, Director of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies.


Eligibility: Three Steinbeck/Gentlemen of the Road Fellowships will be awarded to SJSU undergraduates from any academic discipline. Applicants may vary in academic interests, public service involvement, and experience. 

Requirements: Selected Fellows are expected to begin service after the conclusion of the spring semester and no later than July 6, 2020. All summer fellows are required to work with their community partners at least 35 hours/week for nine consecutive weeks at their placements. Fellows are expected to work on-site with their host organization, and have a designated full-time professional staff member on-site as their supervisor/mentor. Other commitments include the following:

Spring Semester

  • Meet several times as a program cohort (to be arranged by faculty director overseeing the program)
  • Participate in placement identification process, and secure summer internship experience
  • Complete the program orientation.
  • Design a personal learning plan for the summer.


  • Share learning plan with site supervisor and update accordingly.
  • Submit a brief preliminary report.
  • Submit a final report, complete a program evaluation, and correspond with fellowship donor(s) as requested by fellowships program staff.
  • Complete a creative writing piece (or other creative project).

Fall Semester

  • Meet with academic mentor and cohort for debrief and reflection activities. 
  • Participate in outreach activities to share your experiences and help publicize the program.

Selection Process: This fellowship is intended for individuals whose application, references, and interview demonstrate:

  • an ability to undertake intensive, full-time work over the summer
  • a high level of motivation and initiative
  • an interest in public service
  • the ability to interact comfortably and effectively with diverse populations and professionals

Complete applications are screened, finalists interviewed, and fellows selected by the program’s faculty directors with the intention to award fellowships prior to spring break. Applicants should respond promptly (within 48 hours) via email to a fellowship offer, or the offer will be rescinded. Once an applicant accepts a fellowship offer, the student should promptly notify all other programs to which they have applied that they have accepted another offer and to withdraw their candidacy.

Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies