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ACLS Public Fellows Competition for Recent PhDs


The program description below is for information purposes only. Information about the next set of fellowship placement opportunities will be available in January 2016. ACLS will accept online applications from recent PhDs at that time.

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 2015, depending on the position
  • Applications accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org). The system will open on January 14, 2015. Please do not contact any of the organizations directly.
  • Application deadline: March 17, 2015, 6 pm EDT
  • Notification of application status will occur by email starting May 2015.

ACLS invites applications for the fifth competition of the Public Fellows program. This year, the program will place up to 22 recent PhDs from the humanities and humanistic social sciences in two-year 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 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 June 1, 2012 and May 31, 2015; 
  3. have defended and deposited their dissertations no later than the application deadline of March 17, 2015; and
  4. not have applied to any other ACLS fellowship programs in the 2014-2015 competition year. 

The deadline for submitted applications is Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 6 pm 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 up to one page); (5) two reference letters; and, for applicants with PhDs conferred between September 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015, (6) 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). 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 Alliance of Museums - Museum Futurist
  2. American Bar Association, Rule of Law Initiative - Program Analyst, Monitoring & Evaluation
  3. American Civil Liberties Union - Policy Research Manager
  4. Ashoka - Innovation Manager
  5. Bay Area Video Coalition - Program Impact Analyst, Independent Media
  6. Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh - Program Manager, Nexus Projects
  7. Center for Law & Social Policy - Policy Analyst, Job Quality
  8. Central Park Conservancy - Strategic Outreach Manager
  9. Chicago Council on Global Affairs - Fellow, Global Cities
  10. Clinton Global Initiative - Partnerships Manager, CGI University
  11. Forum on Education Abroad - Assistant Director, Digital Resources
  12. Harmony Institute - Partnerships and Engagement Manager
  13. Los Angeles County Arts Commission - Research Analyst
  14. National Audubon Society - Conservation Program Analyst
  15. National Immigration Law Center - Content and Research Manager
  16. PolicyLink - Policy Analyst, Equitable Economic Growth
  17. Public Books - Digital Strategist
  18. Public Radio International - Senior Manager, Audience Development
  19. Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Enterprises - Business Development Associate
  20. Tenement Museum - Development Communications Manager
  21. Vienna Museum - Education Specialist
  22. World Monuments Fund - Development 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).


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; 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.

The 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. 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

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.”