Case Studies


In anticipation of our discussion in Salt Lake City, we ask Working Group members to read these brief descriptions of our program. During our discussion time, rather than “reporting,” we will be energetically engaging in small and full group discussions of the best practices we are discovering through these programs. 

Antoinette Burton, Director, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Jonathan Elmer, Director, College Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana University, and Artistic Director, Chicago Humanities Festival

Through generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Illinois Program for Research from the Humanities partners with the Chicago Humanities Festival to offer a summer workshop for pre-doctoral candidates in humanities disciplines seeking opportunities for thinking about career diversity beyond the PhD. The project is part of Humanities without Walls, a 15-partner consortium of universities mainly in the Midwest. The annual summer workshops bring together cohorts of thirty graduate students engage in intensive discussions with organizers of public humanities projects, leaders of university presses and learned societies, experts in the various domains of the digital humanities, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, and holders of important non-faculty positions in colleges and universities (academic administrators, student services professionals, librarians and archivists, development officers, and so forth). In addition, the students have met with figures in the design and marketing worlds, as well as a full range of non-profit foundations.

Two iterations of the workshop have revealed clear networking benefits, resulting in some cases in employment at museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as clarifying experiences that lead some students to decide to pursue non-academic employment upon the completion of the Ph.D., while it sends others back to their academic fields with renewed focus. To hear what students who have participated have to say about the program, please visit their blog.

John Paul Christy, Director of Public Programs, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)

Launched in 2010, the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program aims to expand the reach of doctoral education in the US by demonstrating that the capacities developed in the advanced study of the humanities have wide application, both within and beyond the academy. Each year, the Public Fellows program places recent PhDs from the humanities and humanistic social sciences in two-year staff positions at partnering organizations in government and the nonprofit sector. Fellows participate in the substantive work of these organizations and receive professional mentoring. The fellowship provides a stipend of $65,000 per year as well as health insurance and additional funds for  professional development activities. Since its launch, the program has grown from placing eight fellows in its first year, to 13 in the second, to an average of 20 fellows in the each of the last four competitions, for over 100 Public Fellows program-wide. Among the program’s 85 institutional partners are the Smithsonian, the U.S. Department of State, the Digital Public Library of America, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program is made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Further information about the program, our fellows, and their accomplishments is available at

Mona Frederick, Executive Director, Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) is an open-access community of more than 13,000 individuals and more than 400 member-organizations. The association is dedicated to innovative modes of learning and research across the broad spectrum of educational initiatives. HASTAC network members contribute through the HASTAC website, through programs such as conferences and workshops, or by working collaboratively with others in the HASTAC network. The HASTAC Scholars Program, founded in 2008, is a student-driven community made up of primarily graduate students (about 10% are undergraduates) who are interested in technology and the arts, humanities, and sciences. These scholars are engaging with new forms of scholarship and teaching for the digital age.

The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities established the inaugural Vanderbilt HASTAC Scholars Program in 2011-2012.  Over the years, the program has grown as we have continued to add institutional sponsors and mentors.  For the upcoming academic year, we have nine graduate student HASTAC Scholars affiliated with various programs on and off campus. Programs and mentors include the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning (Ole Molvig); the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy (Jay Clayton); Humanities Tennessee (Tim Henderson); the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries (Cliff Anderson); the American Studies Program (Ifeoma Nwankwo); the Center for Second Language Studies (Todd Hughes); Center for Digital Humanities (Mickey Casad); the Center for Teaching (Derek Bruff); and the Warren Center (Mona Frederick). Vanderbilt HASTAC scholars receive a $500 honorarium and travel funds to attend the annual HASTAC conference. We organize two formal meetings each semester for the entire cohort (Vanderbilt HASTAC Scholars and their mentors).  Individual scholars and mentors meet on a regular basis. Our program not only provides sustained opportunities for graduate students to become proficient in the digital humanities, it also exposes them to various centers and programs outside of their home departments with which they might otherwise not be familiar.

Stacy Hartman, Project Manager, Connected Academics Project, Modern Language Association 

The Modern Language Association has received generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to undertake a major project, Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers. The project will run through August 2019 and will support initiatives aimed at demonstrating how doctoral education can develop students’ capacities to bring the expertise they acquire in advanced humanistic study to a wide range of fulfilling, secure, and well-compensated professional situations. In addition to programs at three partner institutions – Georgetown, Arizona State University, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute – the MLA has undertaken local efforts in New York City. Specifically, we have organized yearlong proseminars for doctoral students, recent graduates, and PhD-holding adjuncts from universities in the area.

Proseminar syllabus:

Transferable Skills and Résumé Guide for humanities PhDs:

Primer and Resource Guide for Life Outside the Academy:

Teresa Mangum, Professor and Director, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, University of Iowa

For 10 years, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa     has held the Obermann Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy. Each January, in this one-week interdisciplinary institute, UI graduate students from across campus and at any point in their graduate studies explore how public engagement can enhance teaching, research, and creative work. In the Institute 15-18 competitivelychosen graduate students learn about theories of engagement and meet with experts, including former Obermann Graduate Fellows, faculty members, UI administrators, and potential community partners. They participate in a site visit—usually a community space that collaborates with UI partners—to learn best practices in collaboration from public partners’ perspectives. Students develop their own engaged project, which they present in draft form at the end of the Institute and then again in a public forum of their choice. Graduates of the program tell us that the Institute helped them to develop a cohort of like-minded colleagues and mentors while at the University of Iowa. Many have reported that the experience and familiarity with public engagement helped them to secure job interviews, some of which translated into positions that include strong engagement components. A number of our alumni shared snapshots of their experiences in the Institute and in their later careers as part of our 10th anniversary celebration

Aaron Fai, Assistant Director of Public Humanities, Center for the Humanities, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Center for the Humanities, University of Wisconsin—Madison
From its founding, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for the Humanities has championed collaboration between scholars and the community through our public humanties programs:

Great World Texts: this state-wide initiative, begun in 2005, connects UW faculty with high school teachers through the reading of a classic world text over the course of an academic year. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, and Rousseau’s Confessions are just a few of the great literary works taken up by the Great World Texts program.

Public Humanities Exchange: Since 2004, the Center has supported a select number of graduate student projects featuring collaboration with a community partner. In 2016, the Center began supporting undergraduate projects as well.

Mellon Public Humanities Fellowship: Our fellowship program provides graduate students in the humanities with professional experience outside of academia. Recipients are paired with an established cultural institution in Madison for a nine-month residency.

Other Professional Development: In addition to these opportunities for engagement, the Center for the Humanities offers a Public Humanities Graduate Certificate for students intending to explore careers outside of academia and also for those who wish to remain within academia to articulate new horizons for their research. Our Public Works Seminars are informal talks and workshops featuring guest speakers who embody the ideals and skills of public humanities.

Christa Williford, Director of Research and Assessment, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)

DISSERTATION FELLOWSHIPS CLIR offers about 15 fellowships of up to $25,000 thanks to generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for dissertation research in the humanities or related social sciences in original sources. Each provides a stipend of $2,000 per month for periods ranging from 9-12 months. Each fellow receives an additional $1,000 upon participating in a symposium on research in original sources and submitting a report acceptable to CLIR on the research experience. The purposes of this fellowship program are to: help junior scholars in the humanities and related social science fields gain skill and creativity in developing knowledge from original sources; enable dissertation writers to do research wherever relevant sources may be, rather than just where financial support is available; encourage more extensive and innovative uses of original sources in libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and related repositories in the U.S. and abroad; and provide insight from the viewpoint of doctoral candidates into how scholarly resources can be developed for access most helpfully in the future.

A new report online, Terra Cognita: Graduate Students in the Archives, surveys the current landscape of archival research and the experiences of emerging scholars seeking to navigate it. Drawing on data from CLIR’s Mellon Fellowships for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, the report takes an in-depth look at how the conditions and practices of original source research have changed in recent decades and what communities invested in cultural heritage research can do to better support new scholarship in this evolving context. Throughout the volume are brief reflections by past fellows about their research experiences and how the fellowship has influenced their careers.

CLIR POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS work on projects that forge and strengthen connections among library collections, educational technologies, and current research. The program offers recent PhD graduates the chance to help develop research tools, resources, and services while exploring new career opportunities. Host institutions benefit from fellows’ field-specific expertise by gaining insights into their collections’ potential uses and users, scholarly information behaviors, and current teaching and learning practices within particular disciplines. Visit this VIMEO site to hear a former CLIR Fellow discuss her experience.

Miriam Bartha, Director, Graduate Programs, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington-Bothell, and Co-Director, University of Washington Certificate in Public Scholarship and Bruce Burgett, Professor and Dean, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington-Bothell.

A partnership of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at UW Bothell, The Graduate School, and the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Certificate in Public Scholarship (2010-present) seeks to “foster equitable and reciprocal forms of public engagement, scholarly production, pedagogical practice, and community building.  Through collaborations among graduate students, faculty members, and campus and community partners, we re-envision the ends and means of higher education as a public good; create spaces within the university where publicly-engaged scholarship is valued and critically assessed; diversify professional development opportunities for all participants; and generate forms of culture, knowledge, and expression capable of responding to the practical challenges of the world today.”

As a learning community of advisors, students, campus and community partners, participants in the Certificate in Public Scholarship develop their capacity to:

·         Recognize and address institutional and historical relations of inequity and marginalization in campus-community partnerships and practices, while promoting access, equity, and inclusion. (Access, equity, inclusion)

·         Facilitate collaboration and build partnerships that promote effective and creative problem-solving for social change. (Cross-sectoral collaboration/ problem-solving)

·         Situate their research, teaching, and engagement practices in public or community contexts, while documenting and reflecting critically on those practices. (Critically engaged practice)

·         Demonstrate and communicate the significance of their scholarly practice for diverse professional and community publics and audiences. (Demonstration and communication.)

In alignment with recommendations of the 2008 Imagining America report, Scholarship in Action: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University, the Certificate in Public Scholarship is a portfolio-based program: its learning objectives and curriculum are structured to support the development a rich archive of diverse public and scholarly artifacts, and to develop skills in articulating and evidencing the significance and value of public scholarly work.  The Certificate’s portfolio- and project-based curriculum enables fellows to integrate their intellectual and political commitments in the context of their scholarly and professional development.

The Certificate currently enrolls 23 students from 13 departments. An extensive faculty advising network that draws from 18 units supports project and portfolio development. Upon admission, fellows are assigned a portfolio advisor, and pursue a self-directed 15-credit course of study that includes a practicum project.

On “Why Public Scholarship Matters for Graduate Education,” see the article by that name by Miriam Bartha and Bruce Burgett,  Pedagogy 15.1 (2015) ;31-43.

 Leah Nahmias, Director of Programs and Community Engagement, Indiana Humanities

Leah Nahmias has been part of two experiments in training graduate students for non-academic careers. The first was with the New York Council for the Humanities, where as Program Officer she designed and launched the Humanities Centers Initiative, an innovative partnership between seven university-based humanities centers and a state humanities council. HCI was designed to support and spark public engagement among New York State humanities scholars and graduate students. A key part was the creation of a new Public Humanities Fellowship for graduate students. Each center had one (later two) members of the statewide cohort, all advanced PhD students who used the fellowship to explore the public dimension of their own scholarship in collaboration with a community partner. Some students came into the project with projects and partners in mind; others had nascent ideas and a general commitment and used the Fellowship time to find partners (sometimes with the Council’s help) and create a plan for future work. As part of the Fellowship, students participated in a two-day workshop focused on skill-building, as well as periodic webinars and calls. Fellows had to design a logic-model for their proposed project as part of their interim report and were required to share out their findings during the spring semester at their humanities center. Several fellows were additionally invited into their local center’s regular meetings of fellows. This project received funding from Mellon and the Whiting Foundation.

Leah Nahmias with Keira Amstuz, President and CEO, Indiana Humanities

At Indiana Humanities, Leah Nahmias has been part of a partnership between the IUPUI Public History graduate program, which places its students at different community jobs for an intensive year-long internship (typically 20 hours week for 9 or 11 months). The host organization contributes about 40% of the student’s hourly wages for the duration of the internship; the remainder is covered by IUPUI. The internships are a long-running feature of the IUPUI graduate program. Students learn practical skills to complement more theoretical concerns of their coursework. Students gain valuable work and project management experience, preparing them to be competitive and skilled upon graduation. Host organizations have an affordable source of labor, a long-term placement, and a connection to the field as it develops in the academy. As with many community/academy collaborations, there is much to learn from internship programs. How can we avoid asking host organizations to provide burdensome professionalization training for students? How do we meet the needs of the university (the student must earn credits by completing the internship to graduate) while also meeting the needs of the community partner (having a high-performing team member)?

Molly McCarthy, Associate Director, University of California Davis, Mellon Public Scholars Program

The Mellon Public Scholars Program at the University of California Davis invites 12 graduate students in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to design and execute a community-engaged research project over the summer months. The students enroll in a spring seminar on public humanities scholarship taught by a faculty member who has experience doing this kind of work. They meet weekly to read and discuss the intellectual foundation of public scholarship as well as the skills needed to do this work. Part of the appeal of the Mellon Public Scholars Program is the integration of faculty into the program as research partners/mentors as well as its ability to straddle academic and non-academic professional training. Indeed, the Mellon Public Scholars Program reflects the current thinking among higher-education faculty and administrators that students attaining graduate degrees should take a holistic rather than strictly disciplinary approach to their scholarly training.

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