MacArthur Fellows

Celebrating and inspiring the creative potential of individuals through no-strings-attached fellowships.

Awarding unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

Selection Criteria

There are three criteria for selection of Fellows:
  • Exceptional creativity
  • Promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments
  • Potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work

At the heart of the MacArthur Fellows Program is its aim to identify extraordinarily creative individuals with a track record of excellence in a field of scholarship or area of practice, who demonstrate the ability to impact society in significant and beneficial ways through their pioneering work or the rigor of their contributions.

In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or individuals in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations.

By providing these individuals with unfettered support in pursuit of creative activities, the Fellows Program seeks to:
  • Cultivate the next generation of innovators;
  • Highlight the importance of imaginative thinking in creating objects of beauty that inspire;
  • Spotlight the value of risk-taking in addressing deep-rooted societal problems; and
  • Influence how people think about creativity.

While individuals will have a track record of significant achievement, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award – it is an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. The Fellows Program is proactively working to foster and enable innovative, imaginative, and ground-breaking ideas, thinking, and strategies.

The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no-strings-attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with an award of $800,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.

A woman with shoulder length brown hair writing on a white board in a lab.
Meet Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Bioengineer, Class of 2016

How Fellows are Chosen

Nominees are brought to the program's attention through a constantly changing pool of invited external nominators. Nominators come from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible. They are encouraged to draw on their expertise, accomplishments, and breadth of experience to nominate the most creative and transformative people they know within their field and beyond.

Nominations are evaluated by an independent Selection Committee composed of a rotating roster of leaders in the arts, sciences, and humanities professions and in the for-profit and nonprofit communities. Selectors consider each nominee with respect to the program's selection criteria and based on the nomination letter(s), evaluations from other experts collected by the program Staff, and examples of the nominee’s work.

The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.

A man with brown hair in a blue and white shirt plays the piano.
Meet Matthew Aucoin, Composer and Conductor, Class of 2018

After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and MacArthur Board of Directors. Announcement of the annual class is usually made in late September or early October. While there are no quotas or limits, typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. Since 1981, 1,131 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously, and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions, independent of outside influence.


There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States and cannot hold elective office or advanced positions in government as defined by statute.

A woman sits on a tree stump with books beside her.
Meet Jacqueline Woodson, Writer, Class of 2020

Additional Information

Members of the media seeking comment or to interview a MacArthur Fellow or Staff person should call 312.516.1547 or email Ambar Mentor-Truppa, Director, Communications.

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