2017 Mellon-ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows Prepare for the Academic Job Search


Former ACLS fellow Susie Woo (center), an assistant professor of American studies at California State University, Fullerton, discusses the challenges of defining one's identity as a scholar alongside her fellow faculty facilitators Emily Wilcox (left) and Natalie Porter (right).

ACLS hosted 30 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows in Dallas, Texas, from August 31 to September 2, for the annual Preparing for the Academic Job Market seminar. Early career faculty members are brought in to facilitate small working groups of fellows and help them to best present themselves as scholars seeking academic employment, in letters and curricula vitae as well as through in-person interviews and job talks.

“The opportunity to learn about interview skills, but also to practice them in our small groups was incredibly helpful,” noted William Lempert, one of the attendees, “This provided a rare and empathetic insight into the experience of interviewing from the other side of the table that radically shifted the way in which I have come to think about it.”

The search for faculty positions is highly competitive and can be “a painfully complex process” for those who are new to the academic job market, stated Natalie Porter, a facilitator and assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who attended the same seminar when she was a fellow. “It was so rewarding to be able to provide some insights,” she added, “and to know from my own experience that the participants will come away from the seminar so much more confident and prepared to tackle the academic job market.”

ACLS developed the seminar in 2011 in recognition that Dissertation Completion Fellows—promising graduate students selected through a rigorous peer-review process—might benefit from additional opportunities for professionalization, especially those that explicitly aim to help build relationships among early career scholars that cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries.


Fellow Jian Ming Chris Chang discusses how to convey his research in a cover letter to Paola Cépeda.

This year’s facilitators included Woo, Porter, and Wilcox, assistant professor of Asian languages and cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pictured above, as well as Alan Shane Dillingham, assistant professor of history at Spring Hill College, and Elias Muhanna, assistant professor of comparative literature at Brown University.

The seminar “reminded me why I devoted myself to the academy,” said Anne Gray Fischer. “I am grateful to ACLS for making this rigorous—but fun—weekend of camaraderie and mutual support possible. I feel ready for whatever the job market sends my way.”

ACLS is currently accepting applications for 2018 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships. The deadline to apply is October 25. More information is available at www.acls.org/programs/dcf.