The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce the launch of the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships, a new program designed to support emerging scholars as they advance bold and innovative research in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. The program is made possible by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

The Dissertation Innovation Fellowship program will make awards to doctoral students who show promise of leading their fields in important new directions. The fellowships are designed to intervene at the formative stage of dissertation development, before writing is advanced, and provide time and support for emerging scholars’ innovative approaches to dissertation research – practical, trans- or interdisciplinary, collaborative, critical, or methodological. The program seeks to expand the range of research methodologies, formats, and areas of inquiry traditionally considered suitable for the dissertation, with a particular focus on supporting scholars who can build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable academy.

“The energy, curiosity, and creativity of emerging scholars can make a dissertation project into scholarship that refreshes and helps transform our fields and disciplines,” said Joy Connolly, president of ACLS. “ACLS has long supported innovation in the scholarly humanities, including work that crosses traditional boundaries and opens new directions of inquiry. We are thrilled to partner with the Mellon Foundation to support graduate students and their advisors with this new initiative.”

The program will seek projects that push the traditional approaches to dissertation research in new directions. The strongest applications will show evidence of thoughtful plans for engaging the sources, resources, scholars, and communities necessary to advance their projects. Fellows might design a year that incorporates intensive digital methods training, a short-term practicum with a think-tank or social justice organization to develop experience with applied methods, and/or site-based research involving community-engaged or collaborative approaches.

Each awardee will receive a $40,000 stipend for the fellowship year, as well as access to funding for research, travel, training, and other professional development activities. The award also supports additional mentorship for fellows, offering a stipend for external mentors who can bring critical perspectives to fellows’ projects. ACLS will also facilitate cross-cohort networking among fellows and advisors.

ACLS is launching the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship as it winds down its long-running Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (DCF) program, which supported doctoral students in the final year of dissertation research and writing. Over the course of 16 competitions, the program provided funding to more than 1,000 promising scholars across a broad spectrum of disciplines in the humanities and interpretive social sciences and drew on the expertise of over 1,500 doctoral faculty as peer reviewers. ACLS looks forward to announcing a final cohort of 50 Dissertation Completion Fellows in the coming days. ACLS will build on the relationships established through the DCF program, as well as work on the future of doctoral education among our member societies, to support our ongoing advocacy for salutary systems change in higher education.

ACLS will begin accepting applications for the new Dissertation Innovation Fellowship in July 2022, with an application deadline in late October 2022. ACLS will host a series of webinars over the coming months and through September of this year.

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