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Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Competition for Recent PhDs


The program description below is for the 2015-16 competition for which the application deadline has passed. Information about the 2016-17 Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows competition for recent PhDs will be provided on the website in January 2017.

Fellowship Details

  • Stipend: $65,000 per year, with health insurance coverage for the fellow, and up to $3,000 in professional development funds over the course of the fellowship
  • Tenure: Two years; start date on August 1 or September 1, 2016, depending on the position
  • Applications will be accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org). The system will open on January 14, 2016. Please do not contact any of the organizations directly.
  • Application deadline: March 24, 2016, 8 pm EDT
  • Notification of application status will occur by email starting late-May 2016.

ACLS invites applications for the sixth competition of the Public Fellows program. This year, the program will place up to 21 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, with individual health insurance and up to $3,000 to be used toward professional development activities over the course of the fellowship term.

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 Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program allows PhDs to gain valuable, career-building experience in fields such as public policy, development, 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 US citizenship or permanent resident status; 
  2. have a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences (see note on eligible fields below) conferred between January 1, 2013 and June 12, 2016; 
  3. have defended and deposited their dissertations no later than the application deadline of March 24, 2016; and 
  4. not have applied to any other ACLS fellowship programs in the 2015-16 competition year (excluding the ACLS Digital Extension Grant program). 

Prospective applicants should read through all the positions listed below and choose the one position that best fits their career goals. (Applicants may apply to only one position.) 

The deadline for submitted applications is Thursday, March 24, 2016, 8 pm EDT.

Applications must include:

  • completed application form, 
  • 1-2-page cover letter tailored to a specific position,
  • 1-2-page resume,
  • 1-page candidate statement, and
  • 2 reference letters

Please note that finalists may be asked to provide 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 have been completed and confirming the degree conferral date).

Only complete applications, submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system by the deadline, will be considered.

Selection Criteria

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.

Notification of application status will occur by email in late-May 2016.

Participating Agencies and Positions

Click on the below 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.

  1. American Friends Service Committee – Communications Analyst
  2. American Public Media Group – Senior Research Analyst, Engagement & Inclusion
  3. Center for Genetics and Society – Project Director on Race, Genetics, and Society
  4. Center for Investigative Reporting – Membership Engagement Manager
  5. City of Atlanta, City Auditor’s Office – Senior Performance Auditor
  6. Chicago Humanities Festival – Digital Programming Strategist
  7. Grand St. Settlement – Community Engagement & Policy Advocate
  8. International Rescue Committee – Impact Evaluation Advisor
  9. Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Digital Content Specialist
  10. Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Executive Communications Specialist
  11. National Park Service – Cultural Resources Public Outreach Coordinator
  12. National Partnership for Women & Families – Workplace Programs Federal Policy Analyst
  13. Philanthropy Northwest – Communities of Practice Manager
  14. Ploughshares Fund – Political Engagement Strategist
  15. Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting – Education Specialist
  16. Rare – Global Philanthropy Specialist
  17. Reinvestment Fund – Policy Analyst
  18. Smithsonian Enterprises – Business Development Associate
  19. Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative – Program Manager, Scholarly and Public Engagement
  20. Southern Poverty Law Center – Research and Investigations Specialist
  21. The Texas Tribune – Research Analyst

Applications for these positions are accepted solely through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program. Only complete applications, submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org) by Thursday, March 24, 8 pm EDT, will be considered. 

Do not contact any of the hosting organizations with questions. Questions about the fellowship program can be directed in writing to publicfellows@acls.org (no calls please), though we will not field questions about the positions or the organizations. Please carefully review the program information, the positions, and the sample application before contacting ACLS. 

Note: The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program does not accept applications from students receiving a PhD in pre-professional or applied fields of study, such as business, public policy or public administration, education, clinical or counseling psychology, journalism, library and information sciences, law, social work, social welfare, urban planning, public health, filmmaking, or performing arts. Students completing master’s degrees are not eligible, even if they are the terminal degree in the field. 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; ethnic studies; film; gender studies; 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. PhD 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). PhDs in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary humanistic studies are welcome, as are dissertations focused on any geographic region or on any cultural or linguistic group. 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.[Back to text]


Related Links

"What Can You Do With a PhD?" The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website features the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program.

2015 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.”