Mellon-ACLS Public Fellows Seminar Builds Networks for Humanities PhDs beyond the Academy


The fourth annual Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows seminar, held September 7-9, 2017, in Philadelphia, brought together the 2016 cohort of fellows at the midpoint of their two-year fellowship tenure. The seminar includes career development sessions and networking opportunities for the recent humanities PhDs, whose fellowships allow them to gain experience in the nonprofit and public sectors.

The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program, now entering its eighth year, places recent humanities PhDs in two-year, full-time staff positions with host organizations in the nonprofit and government spheres. The program has partnered with over 100 host organizations to date—including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Park Service, and the International Rescue Committee.

Over the course of the seminar, the fellows shared stories of accomplishments and challenges over the first year of their fellowships, and engaged in group discussions about how best to apply the skills developed through doctoral education to their portfolios of responsibilities at their host organizations.  Since the Public Fellows award provides separate funding for professional development activities, the fellows also exchanged ideas with cohort members in similar fields about relevant opportunities, such as industry conferences and training.   

 “The Public Fellows seminar brings together in one room recent humanities PhDs from across the country who are working in fields as diverse as cultural heritage preservation, international humanitarian aid, and community advocacy and outreach,” said John Paul Christy, director of public programs at ACLS. “This convening and the fellows’ shared experiences are striking reminders of the broad value of advanced training in the humanities.” 

ACLS invited alumni of the program to share their experiences as Public Fellows in a panel discussion, which featured Emily Kane F’13 (Longwood University), Jennifer Moses F’14 (9/11 Memorial and Museum), Patrick O’Shea F’15 (National Immigration Law Center), Michael Tiboris F’15 (Chicago Council of Global Affairs), and Laurel Voloder F ’08, F’11 (US Department of State). With some alumni having only recently finished their fellowship tenure and others several years along their chosen career paths, the panel offered a range of insights on career planning, negotiation, and professional fulfillment.

The event concluded with fellows and alumni exchanging professional contact information before departing Philadelphia, further strengthening the program’s network across the country.
"I really enjoyed getting to know the other fellows and having the opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the next year,” said Johanna Best F’16 of the Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative. “I left feeling inspired, refreshed, and excited for what’s to come!”

ACLS is currently accepting applications from organizations wishing to host a 2018 Public Fellow. For more information, visit