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ACLS Public Fellows Competition for Recent Ph.D.s


The description below refers to the 2013-14 competition season and is for informational purposes only. This page will be updated in January with application instructions on the 2014-15 competition.

Fellowship Details

  • Stipend:  $65,000 per year, with health insurance coverage for the fellow
  • Tenure: Two years; start date in mid-July or early September 2014, depending on the position
  • Applications accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org). The system will open on January 22, 2014. Please do not contact any of the organizations directly.
  • Application deadline: March 19, 2014, 6pm EDT
  • Notification of application status will occur by email starting May 2014.

ACLS invites applications for the fourth competition of the Public Fellows program. This year, the program will place 20 recent PhDs from the humanities and humanistic social sciences in two-year staff positions at partnering organizations in government and the nonprofit sector. Fellows will participate in the substantive work of these organizations and receive professional mentoring. Fellows receive a stipend of $65,000 per year, as well as individual health insurance.

This initiative, made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to expand the role of doctoral education in the United States by demonstrating that the capacities developed in the advanced study of the humanities have wide application, both within and beyond the academy. The ACLS Public Fellows program allows PhDs to gain valuable, career-building experience in fields such as public policy, international aid, conservation, arts and culture, and digital media.

ACLS seeks applications from recent PhDs who aspire to careers in administration, management, and public service by choice rather than circumstance. Competitive applicants will have been successful in both academic and extra-academic experiences.

Applicants must:

  1. possess U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status*; 
  2. have a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences (see note on eligible fields below) conferred between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2014; 
  3. have defended and deposited their dissertations no later than the application deadline of March 19, 2014; and
  4. not have applied to any other ACLS fellowship programs in the 2013-2014 competition year. 

The deadline for submitted applications is Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 6pm EDT, and applications must include: (1) completed application form; (2) cover letter tailored to a specific position; (3) résumé; (4) candidate’s personal statement (of no more than 500 words); (5) institutional documentation of PhD conferral (or, if the degree has not yet been conferred, an institutional statement from the registrar attesting that the dissertation defense and deposit/filing have been completed and confirming the degree conferral date); and (6) 2 reference letters. Applications for these positions are accepted only through the ACLS Public Fellows program. Only complete applications, submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org) by the deadline, will be considered.

Submitted applications will undergo ACLS’s standard rigorous peer-review process, which may include interviews by ACLS and by the hosting organization. Reviewers will look for:

  1. applicant’s academic accomplishment and success;
  2. demonstrated relationship between past experience and specified position; and
  3. commitment to pursuing a career in the public and/or nonprofit sector.

Participating Agencies and Positions

  1. American Refugee Committee – Program Manager, Social Enterprise Projects 
  2. Association of Research Libraries – Program Officer for Scholarly Publishing
  3. Center for Public Integrity – Engagement Analyst 
  4. Council of Independent Colleges – Communications Officer
  5. Human Rights Campaign – Senior Content Manager
  6. Kiva – Partnerships Evaluation Manager 
  7. Lenox Hill Neighborhood House – Research and Partnerships Manager 
  8. Museum of Jewish Heritage – Manager of Strategic Initiatives
  9. National Constitution Center – Program Developer
  10. New America Foundation – Contributing Editor
  11. New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) – Public Policy Officer
  12. The Public Theater – Strategy and Planning Manager 
  13. San Francisco Arts Commission – Program Manager, Policy and Evaluation
  14. Smithsonian Institution, Grand Challenges Consortia – Public Outreach Manager 
  15. Smithsonian Institution, Office of International Relations – Program Officer 
  16. Trust for Public Land – Program Analyst, Conservation Research 
  17. United Negro College Fund – Policy Analyst 
  18. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Policy Analyst
  19. Wisconsin Public Radio – Digital Producer, To the Best of Our Knowledge 
  20. Zocalo Public Square – Program Manager 

Click on the positions to view the PDF of the full description, which includes detailed information on the hosting organization, the position, and requisite qualifications. Read the description carefully for any application instructions specific to the given position.

Do not contact any of these organizations with questions (on the position, benefits, etc.). ACLS will field only questions about the fellowship program itself and not on the positions or the organizations. Please carefully review the program description, the positions, and the sample application before contacting ACLS.

Questions about the fellowship program can be directed in writing to publicfellows@acls.org (no calls please).

*Applicants to the position within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must possess U.S. citizenship.

Note: For the purpose of this competition, the humanities and related social sciences include but are not limited to American studies; anthropology; archaeology; art and architectural history; classics; economics; film; geography; history; languages and literatures; legal studies; linguistics; musicology; philosophy; political science; psychology (excluding clinical or counseling psychology); religious studies; rhetoric, communication, and media studies; sociology; and theater, dance, and performance studies. Ph.D. dissertations in the social science fields listed above are eligible only if they employ predominantly humanistic approaches (e.g., economic history, law and literature, political philosophy, history of psychology). Ph.D.s in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary studies are welcome, as are proposals focused on any geographic region or on any cultural or linguistic group.

The ACLS Public Fellows program does not accept applications from students receiving a Ph.D. in pre-professional or applied fields of studies, such as business, public policy or administration, education, clinical or counseling psychology, law, social work, social welfare, public health, filmmaking, or performing arts. Students completing master’s degrees are not eligible, even if they are the terminal degree in the field. If your degree field is not listed above and you have questions about its eligibility, please contact publicfellows@acls.org. For more information, visit the FAQ page.


Related Links

2014 Public Fellows

Karen Shanton

Karen Shanton PF '12
Legislative Studies Specialist
National Conference of State Legislatures

“The fellowship has already exceeded any and every expectation I had for it. I’ve had the chance to work with experts ——— and develop some expertise of my own —— on issues ranging from the post-Citizens United campaign finance landscape to legislative supermajorities to voter ID. I’ve picked up new experience with state legislative research and project management.”


Barbara Ceptus

Barbara Ceptus PF '11
Leadership Development Officer
Council on Foundations

“Early in my graduate career, I knew I was interested in working in the public sector. It took me a couple of years to understand that earning PhD in the humanities was not antithetical to that career goal. The Public Fellows program helps to bridge that knowledge gap for new PhDs and organizations alike. By allowing employers and fellows to “try it on” and experience how valuable training in the humanities can be to public sector jobs, ACLS is helping to shift public perception about the value a doctorate in the humanities outside of the academy.”