ACLS Public Fellows & Humanities Graduate Education

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education both contain announcements about a new fellowship program sponsored by the ACLS. Called the ACLS Public Fellows program, it “will place eight recent Ph.D.s in staff positions at partnering agencies in government and the non-profit sector for two years.” Fellows must have received their Ph.D. in a humanities or humanistic social science field. One of the program’s stated goals is “to demonstrate that the capacities developed in the advanced study of the humanities have wide application, both within and beyond the academy.”

On the one hand, I think this is a great idea and one that I would love to see more of, so I hope other agencies and societies step up. On the other hand, providing 8 recent Ph.D.’s with jobs will do little to solve the current job crisis, which is deep and systemic (see this article, to cite just one example). Also, the announcement states that “competitive applicants will have been successful in both academic and extra-academic experiences.” While that makes sense, I wonder how many recent Ph.D.s have “extra-academic experience” given the way graduate education in the humanities is currently structured? I’ve written before about how useful the administrative experience I gained as a graduate student was for my current career path, but my experience remains the exception and not the rule. As programs like the one ACLS announced develop (and I truly hope we will see more), humanities graduate education has got to get serious about figuring out ways to help their students gain the “extra-academic experience” that will help them carve out meaningful careers outside of teaching positions.

On a personal note, I have to confess to being tempted to apply myself. I’m eligible, the pay’s good, and I would love to go work for Hillary 🙂

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