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

  • September 2023
    “At ACLS, we aim not to “admire the problem,” as we sometimes say, but to develop concrete resources that meet people where they are. This year you will see us sharing models of what works to raise enrollments and public consciousness of the value of our fields; circulating blueprints of change for doctoral education and scholarly norms that make academia more responsive and welcoming; rewarding the publishing of books free and open to all; and building alliances across fields, transcending the borders of arts and science to embrace law, public health, architecture, environmental science, and other areas.”
  • June 2023
    “ACLS proudly supports a broad range of scholarship across fields, disciplines, and modes of production. We say “yes” to collaborative research and individual scholarship, publications that are digital and made of paper, textual commentaries and podcasts. We do all we can to stoke discussion of what counts in departments, divisions, and institutions, through our work with our member institutions and societies, and the programs I mentioned above. We see this as practical advocacy that rewards what scholars are doing and seek to do.”
  • May 2023
    “When I think of what form ACLS might take if it were an artwork, I find myself thinking once again of Anthony Caro. As a federation of societies and a host of networks, we comprise many different elements and initiatives, both bold and grounded, and we seek to find the right balance among them. A Caro sculpture also captures the dynamic tensions that characterize higher education today—and that we feel at ACLS as we go about our work. A more prosaic way of putting it is that we walk a number of different tightropes.”
  • April 2023
    “Here at ACLS we continue to talk about the ripple of responses generated by Nathan Heller’s February New Yorker article “The End of the English Major,” the most compelling of which, in my opinion, is Nathan Greenfield’s piece in University World News, featuring comments from Arizona State University Humanities Dean Jeffrey Cohen and Modern Language Association Executive Director Paula Krebs that highlight what Heller didn’t document. If you read or heard about the New Yorker essay, and even if you didn’t, this piece is worth your time. Cohen and Krebs would agree, I think, that the humanities and social sciences have a public relations problem.”
  • March 2023
    “ACLS advocates for the free exchange of knowledge about history and culture in places where it is under attack. We are committed to avoiding the defensive stance. Right now, we are developing a survey of success stories – examples of sustainable approaches to undergraduate teaching and research that enable humanistic study to flourish. These stories make the strongest arguments for the value of humanistic knowledge – and stand as the best reminders of why a college education should be an opportunity to experiment, reflect, and think critically. They resist the simple binary of career readiness versus passion/curiosity and show the necessity of humanistic study for understanding our rapidly evolving world.”
  • February 2023
    “In the very first State of the Union address in 1790, George Washington argued that knowledge is “the surest basis of public happiness” in a representative democracy, because “the sense of the community” drives the laws and policies of government. It is part of the tragedy and shame that is woven into American history that Washington did not recognize, let alone celebrate, the Black people who worked, as Margaret Burroughs says, “to build this country.” Our responsibility is to understand his failings so that we don’t repeat them in the name of false patriotism. To choose ignorance is to damage ourselves and the nation we want to build.”
  • January 2023
    “The start of the new year is the perfect time to trumpet the ACLS mission from the rooftops: to advance humanistic knowledge. That means securing funding for and managing our fellowship and grant programs, which support stellar scholars across dozens of fields, and advancing our assemblage of strategic initiatives: to help our member societies make the interpretive humanities and social sciences more equitable and welcoming to all; to accelerate progressive change in doctoral education and faculty advancement; to build lasting infrastructure for digital scholarship by and about underrepresented communities; and to prepare humanists to take leadership roles in their colleges and universities.”
  • December 2022
    “The festive gatherings of the holiday season are the perfect time to express gratitude. Now in my fourth year at ACLS, I want to acknowledge the generosity and collaborative spirit of so many in the ACLS community, and thank you for considering supporting our work on this Giving Tuesday. We value your belief in our mission and our values, and we are grateful for your partnership.”
  • November 2022
    “I was recently reminded of the support the members of our Conference of Executive Officers – the directors of our 79 scholarly societies – provide to one another every day. That support helps fuel the directors’ work on behalf of their members: in total, tens of thousands of scholars and supporters of scholarship around the world. They rarely stumble – they are a highly professional group! – but at a time of continued unpredictability and challenge, they share problems and solutions, offer advice and patient ears”
  • October 2022
    “With a new academic year in full swing, ACLS International Programs continue to evolve and grow, supporting humanistic scholarship in Buddhist Studies, China Studies, and East Central and Southeastern Europe, through fellowships, grants, and scholarly convenings.”
  • 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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