ACLS Leading Edge Fellows: Information for Potential Host Organizations

The ACLS Leading Edge Fellowship program places talented, socially engaged humanities PhDs in nonprofit and government organizations to advance projects that contribute to a more just and equitable society. The program demonstrates the capacity of those with advanced training in the humanities to contribute to timely and meaningful social justice work in communities across the country. The Leading Edge Fellowship is administered by the American Council of Learned Societies and is made possible by the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

What kind of organization is eligible to host a Leading Edge Fellow?
Nonprofit and government agencies are eligible to host fellows. ACLS does not accept applications from ACLS’s member organizations or from foundations. Since the program aims to demonstrate the value of humanities training beyond the academy, and to provide fellows with a wide array of publicly engaged professionalization opportunities, it does not place fellows in organizations that are located on college or university campuses.

ACLS will partner with a diverse group of organizations in each competition. Host organizations are selected according to the following criteria:

  • Their ability to define substantive projects for fellows that meet the program’s goals of providing support to organizations working for social and economic justice in their communities and fostering meaningful work and professional development opportunities for recent PhDs;
  • Their demonstrated capacity to provide mentorship, networking opportunities, and other career advancement support for the fellow, particularly in the context of a fully remote fellowship;
  • Their standing in the sector(s) in which they operate; and
  • Their contribution to the diversity of organizations represented in the year's roster of partner organizations.

How are Leading Edge Fellows selected to join my organization? Applications to the Leading Edge Fellows program are subject to a multi-stage review process. Applications are reviewed first by a peer review committee of humanities PhDs working in a variety of professional contexts outside of the academy. Finalists identified by this process are forwarded to the host organization for a second round of review and interviews before an offer is made by ACLS. Fellows selected in the 2021 competition will join host organizations in one-year, full-time remote positions starting in September 2021.

What types of projects could a Fellow lead at my organization?
Advanced training in the humanities imparts a diverse array of skills and competencies that entrepreneurial PhDs have successfully deployed in a variety of career fields. These skills include writing and research, project management, information management, interviewing, diverse cultural competencies, digital media production and more. In the first two rounds of this fellowship competition, ACLS has paired fellows and organizations for projects related to arts policy advocacy, youth empowerment, policy research to benefit low-income families, the movement to abolish immigration detention, and the role of religious communities in ensuring ethical vaccine trials. Please review the listings of our current fellows selected in 2020 here.

How does my organization apply?
Application packets for host organizations are available by request from The purpose of the application is both to acquaint ACLS with your organization and to provide you with detailed information about the responsibilities of hosting a Leading Edge Fellow. If you have questions about the program or your organization’s suitability as a host, please contact us at

DEADLINE EXTENDED - Please submit your completed application no later than Wednesday, January 20, 2021 to