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Joan Cogswell Donner Field School Scholarship

Field school is a crucial step in the journey to becoming a scientist or research assistant. However, tuition can be unaffordable for students from the countries where field schools are located.

The Joan Cogswell Donner Field School Scholarship can help you access the hands-on training you need to start your career in research related to human origins.

Field school students at Boomplaas Cave in South Africa in 2023.

Information for Applicants

This scholarship was created through a generous gift from Leakey Foundation Life Trustee Joan Cogswell Donner. The purpose of the program is to encourage and support scholars who may not otherwise be able to pursue professional human origins research training at a qualified field school or field site.

When to apply

  • Application open year-round


  • Up to $2,000 per student

Who can apply

  • Open to students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in a country where there are limited resources to support training in fieldwork related to human origins research. 
  • Priority is given to students from regions where primates and fossils are found.
  • Applications must be submitted by the field school director, not the student.
  • The scholarship is typically offered to two students per field school.

Field School Qualification

A qualified field school is a program established and affiliated with a university to offer hands-on training and education in the techniques of archaeology, paleoanthropology, and primatology. Examples of training include but are not limited to:

  • Field methods in primatology
  • Field methods in archaeology and paleoanthropology

Allowable costs

Up to $2,000 per student for one field school season per recipient. If field school expenses are less than $2,000 per student, the Foundation will consider increasing the number of awards per school. Funds may be used to cover travel expenses to and from the field school as well as other expenses related to the attendance of a field school. All funds must be administered by the field school.

Excluded costs

No funds shall be provided from this fund for salary or wages for the applicant, director of field school or other field school participants, or for travel to conferences or professional meetings.

  • The grant can only be used for expenses directly related to your research and essential to the project such as travel, living expenses during fieldwork, supplies, and research expenses.
  • The grant will not cover institutional overhead, salary, benefits, tuition, or publication costs.

How to apply

The application must be submitted by the director of the field school. It is not submitted by the student.

To apply, please send an initial inquiry email to If your field school is appropriate for this fund, we will supply a link to complete the application. The application will require field school directors to include the following information on letterhead in PDF format:

  • Describe the training program for the Donner Scholar. This should include information about opportunities for Donner Scholars to engage with international participants.
  • Describe why this student would be a good choice for attending the field school, including current studies, future plans, etc.
  • If you are requesting funds for more than one student, you may include all students in this document.
  • Provide the total cost of tuition and what it covers.
  • List any additional expenses related to attending the field school.
  • Identify other sources of financial support.
  • Include a brief description of the budget for your request. 

About Joan Cogswell Donner

Joan Cogswell Donner was elected to The Leakey Foundation Board of Trustees in 1979 and received the honorary title of Life Trustee in 2007.

As an Alumna of Stephens College and Colorado College, Mrs. Cogswell Donner has been an active member of many prominent boards and committees including the Smithsonian Institutional National Board. Currently, she serves as an Emeritus Board Member of the Smithsonian Institution, and on the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Mrs. Cogswell Donner also serves as a Trustee of the Draper National History Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

“From early childhood, I was fascinated by Katharine Elizabeth Dopp’s books published around 1904: The Tree–Dwellers; The Early Cave Men; The Later Cave Men; and The Early Sea People. My fascination expanded into cave art, rock art, and questions about how early humans lived, survived, and migrated throughout the world. My interest deepened after meeting Richard Leakey through Gil Grosvenor, then president of the National Geographic Society. The Leakeys later became my dear friends. My first trip to Africa with my husband, Bob Donner, gave us the opportunity to visit fossil sites at Lake Turkana with Richard Leakey. This experience had a major impact on me, and combined with my early interest in this subject, kindled a lifelong passion. These experiences inspired me to focus on a program that would enable young people from developing countries to pursue paleoanthropology and primatology. My wish is that the Joan Cogswell Donner Field School Scholarship will assist in achieving this vision. My hope is that ultimately all mankind will benefit from the opportunities made available to these young people.”

I [name], of [city, state ZIP], bequeath the sum of $[ ] or [ ] percent of my estate to L.S.B. Leakey Foundation for Research Related to Man’s Origins, Behavior & Survival, (dba The Leakey Foundation), a nonprofit organization with a business address of 1003B O’Reilly Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129 and a tax identification number 95-2536475 for its unrestricted use and purpose.

If you have questions, please contact Sharal Camisa Smith sharal at 

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