News from the President

Happy new year! 
The six months since I arrived at ACLS have been busy and rewarding in equal measure. We are in the thick of fellowship season, with our program directors, program officers, and review committees hard at work. Strategic planning is also taking up much of our brain space and calendar time.  ACLS occupies a distinctive place in the academic ecosystem, in the center of the flows of knowledge and action in several sectors: institutions of higher education, learned societies, our fellows, foundation partners, and supporters. The number and variety of our constituencies mean that consultation – the first priority for any group designing a good strategic plan – is both time-consuming and thought-provoking.  

To hear from as many constituencies as possible, I’ve spent a good deal of time on the road, meeting with scholars working inside and outside the academy, administrators, emeritx, and the boards and executive directors of our member societies. Of the many questions I ask, my favorite is: “What wakes you up at two in the morning, with worry or with exhilaration?” I’ve learned about exciting emerging fields of study and new methods of circulating knowledge. I’ve heard about exciting partnerships. For each person who is energized by public scholarship and public engagement, there are two people concerned that it is not properly evaluated at crucial moments of a scholar’s advancement – hiring, tenure, and promotion. The forces discouraging undergraduates from majoring in humanistic disciplines, and how we can recruit diverse students into our departments and programs, are urgent concerns for many. How can humanistic scholars work for justice while ensuring the exchange of ideas and clearing space for disagreement in our classrooms and in our journals?

I have had the pleasure of hosting seven Centennial Conversations and three meetings with learned society directors across the country. I’ve met with leaders in academia and related fields in our office in New York, in Budapest, and in the Netherlands. All of these conversations, and those with consortium representatives, foundations, and donors, have proven to be enormously informative and concretely useful for our strategic planning process.

I look forward to sharing our draft with you and the Board later this month and hearing your feedback via this portal.

I’m happy to say that our Centennial Campaign has raised $81.8 million toward its goal of raising $125 million by June 2021, thanks to the leadership of our Centennial Campaign Committee, Board of Directors and our generous funders and donors.

Lastly, a piece of good news: I am delighted to announce a new grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $2 million over three years, starting in 2020, to support the work of equity and inclusion across the academy.

As always, I encourage you to read about our programs and the people they support: I hope you will be as inspired as I am! 

Joy Connolly