ACLS President Joy Connolly statements monthly messages to the ACLS Community and official statements on urgent matters in higher education and humanistic scholarship.

  • September 2022
    “As we leap into the new academic year, I want to salute the editors of the recent issue of Daedalus, who have gathered a valuable series of essays: “The Humanities in American Life: Transforming the Relationship with the Public.” These inspired works advocate for a generous understanding of the humanities and for closing the distance between academics and the public. I found myself energized by these essays, and I hope you do as well. Considering the contributors’ wisdom and breadth of experience, I’m glad to see they share many of the interests that shaped the Strategic Priorities for ACLS published in 2020. First on this list is our work to expand the definition of humanistic scholarship.”
  • August 2022
    “When it comes to students, colleges and universities have come a long way in opening up the hidden curriculum and changing the culture so that it’s easier to ask for advice. Once students finish the PhD and join the faculty, though, there’s typically neither a handbook (at least no readable one) nor an office of faculty administrative support. Faculty members who take on roles of department chair or dean face this challenge tenfold.”
  • June 2022
    “After a break of nearly a decade, a fourth season of Borgen, a Danish fictional series about the first woman to serve as Prime Minister, was released on Netflix last week. The show makes no reference to the pandemic and Americans are marginal. But I found myself thinking about COVID’s exposure and exacerbation of these challenges in academia and in American society at large. At ACLS we believe that collaboration and cooperation are our best responses to these conditions. This belief applies to our internal operations as well as our work with scholars, funders, and other partners.”
  • May 2022
    “Greetings from New York City, where we are invigorated by the warm weather and the experience of seeing many colleagues at our Annual Meeting in Philadelphia two weeks ago: the Delegates who constitute the Council along with our dedicated Board, members of the Conference of Executive Officers (also known as the directors of our member societies), winners of ACLS fellowships and grants, representatives from our Consortium and Associate member institutions, and scholars assembled to hear our brilliant 2022 Haskins Prize lecturer, Professor Nell Painter of Princeton University.”
  • April 2022
    “April may be the cruelest month thanks to tax preparation, teasing flashes of warm spring weather, and the labor of wrapping up the academic year, but at ACLS it’s also a month of celebration and congratulations. Most of our fellowship programs have wrapped up their selection processes and notified the successful applicants to our competitions. If you want to experience mudita (a lovely Sanskrit term conveying “pure delight in the success of others”), check out most recent awardees.”
  • March 2022
    “ACLS was founded in 1919 in the wake of the First World War and a global pandemic as part of an international movement that sought to improve humanistic scholarship by fostering communities and strengthening networks of communication around the world. I am vividly reminded of that ambitious purpose as I see how energetically scholars are responding to Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. This includes actions by our member societies.”
  • February 2022
    “It’s graduate admissions season! For those in the ACLS community who work in departments with graduate programs, you are wrapping up recruiting calls, managing wait lists, and preparing orientations. Beyond these initial steps, of course, we all know that scholarship isn’t pursued in a vacuum and there are many factors that can make or break an emerging scholar’s career. During my time as provost of the Graduate Center at CUNY, and today at ACLS working with the Mellon Intention Foundry, the Luce Design Workshop, and our Emerging Voices Fellowship convenings, I’ve enjoyed many wide-ranging conversations with graduate students about their experiences. Drawing on them, I’ve identified three positive signs that a graduate program is intellectually exciting, inclusive, and self-reflective in a way that keeps it open to new methods and perspectives.”
  • January 2022
    “This year, I celebrated New Year’s Eve by watching Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay’s funny/not-funny satire about climate crisis, and New Year’s Day with Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age, one of my favorite books of 2021. The chance pairing usefully reminded me that different in scope and impact as they are, climate crisis and the decline of the humanities both demand change in habits and values that is so sweeping it can feel close to unthinkable.”
  • December 2021
    “All of us at ACLS are grateful to the hundreds of community members who choose to give in support of our work each year. Many of these donors are past fellows and grantees, appreciative of the support they received for their dissertation, their first book, or travel to visit archives or complete fieldwork. I’m grateful to have met many awardees who have told me about the impact that their ACLS grant or fellowship has had on their life and career, often changing their trajectory in important ways.”
  • November 2021
    “My recent talk at the Charleston Conference, a gathering of librarians, publishers, and consultants, was entitled “Think Different.” It focused on how libraries and publishers, particularly at university presses, could contribute to the conversations many research universities and selective liberal arts colleges are having about broadening the scope, form, and impact of humanistic scholarship today. In it, I was able to highlight the need for flexible approaches in defining what counts in the production and circulation of knowledge, so that we can welcome and reward work that appears in a variety of formats and that speaks to a variety of audiences.”
  • October 2021
    “The Sustaining Public Engagement Grants, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, will support programs based in accredited US colleges and universities that are devoted bringing academics together with people beyond academia for the co-creation of knowledge…What do we mean by the term “co-creation”? For us, its use signals that we do not define “public engagement” as scholars sharing their expertise with non-academics.
  • September 2021
    “As the fall 2021 semester gets underway, here at ACLS we are hearing that students, faculty, and staff are excited but weighed down by Zoom exhaustion, confusion regarding policies on vaccines and masks, and other challenges resulting from the pandemic. This burden of extra worry is likely to impede practical thinking about how to deal with COVID’s longer-term consequences. For this reason, my mind turns to everyday tactics.”
It is the function of the humanities and social sciences to make the heritage of human creativity past and present meaningful today and for the future. The humanities and social sciences will not thrive unless they reflect the diversity of the experiences they seek to interpret. ACLS President Joy Connolly, September 2019

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