ACLS Leading Edge Fellows: Information for Potential Host Organizations

ACLS invites proposals from organizations interested in hosting Leading Edge Fellows starting September 2022. Initial proposals are due November 5th.

The ACLS Leading Edge Fellowship program offers recent humanities PhDs two-year fellowship positions with organizations dedicated to advancing justice and equity. 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 program 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?

For this competition, ACLS is partnering exclusively with nonprofit organizations and government agencies whose mission and core work is dedicated to advancing social justice. 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, 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 mission and core work are dedicated to expanding equal access to education, economic resources, civic engagement, and/or civil rights across lines of racial, gender, and class difference;
  • Maintaining a workplace that respects and values colleagues from diverse backgrounds;
  • 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; 
  • 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 to the top candidate by ACLS. Fellows selected in this competition will join host organizations in two-year, full-time positions starting in September 2022.

What types of roles could a Fellow take 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, strategic planning, interviewing, diverse cultural competencies, digital media production and more. In the first three rounds of this fellowship competition, ACLS has paired fellows and organizations for projects to advance policing reform, housing access, services for the elder LGBT community, childcare access, expanded SNAP benefits, voting rights, and more. Please review the listings of our current fellows selected in 2021 here.

How does my organization apply?

Prospective hosts should submit a preliminary application to our online portal by November 5. We request a short position description, describing the work a fellow could undertake as a colleague in your work, and some information about your organization. After ACLS’s review, a select group of organizations will be invited to submit a full proposal later in the fall.

See our FAQ for more details. If you have questions about the program or your organization’s suitability as a host, please contact us at

Please submit your preliminary application no later than Friday November 5 to our portal:

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a successful position description look like?

Leading Edge Fellowships offer recent PhDs in the humanities and humanistic social sciences opportunities to devote their research, project management, writing, and expressive capacities to projects and initiatives advancing justice and equity in society. Fellows’ portfolios should contribute to the core social justice work of the organization, or a particular capacity-building initiative to advance the organization’s mission.
Host organizations are expected to provide substantive roles, requisite resources and support, supervision and guidance, opportunities for networking, and mentorship. Each two-year placement should allow fellows to develop a portfolio of concrete accomplishments that will help them embark on careers in their chosen fields after the fellowship.

On this page you can find examples of descriptions from the previous competition.
What is included in the preliminary host organization application?

Our system will accept an upload of up to two position descriptions, and the portal also requires a few shorter written answers. Please be prepared to enter your answers (max 500 words) to the following 4 questions:
  • The Leading Edge program seeks host organizations whose mission and core work are dedicated to advancing social justice. Please include your organization’s mission statement, if applicable, and explain how your core work advances social justice.
  • ACLS is committed to diversity and inclusion in our programs and to partnering with organizations whose workplaces maintain and enforce policies committed to safety, dignity, ethical conduct, and freedom from discrimination. Please describe your organization's policies and practices of inclusion and anti-discrimination.
  • How will your organization be able to support a fellow’s career development?
  • Please describe your organization’s plan for responsiveness to public health guidelines, including capacity to sustain remote work, if necessary.

When will we know whether we’ve been selected to submit a full proposal?

In mid-November, you will be notified if your organization has been selected to submit a full proposal.

What will be included in the full proposal?

You will be asked to prepare a more detailed version of the position description, a 990 form, benefits information, and a letter of endorsement from an organization leader with contracting authority. These full proposals will be due in early December. You may also be asked to participate in a “virtual site visit” with an ACLS program officer in the month of December.

How do I submit our application?

Preliminary applications will be accepted via our online portal until midnight ET on November 5, 2021. If you are invited to submit a full proposal, you will be notified and given instructions for submission by mid-November.

Will Leading Edge Fellows be working remotely or in-person at host organizations in 2022?

Leading Edge Fellowships in 2021 have been primarily remote. We expect that most fellows will be working in person in 2022. We understand that remote work may emerge given public health circumstances, and the program committee are willing to consider applications from organizations that operate remotely by default, but our preference is for the fellows to be onboarded and given the onsite resources that are customary for staff at a commensurate level of seniority in the host organization. If your organization’s work culture, regardless of pandemic circumstances, has already been primarily remote, please let us know in Question 4 of the application.