What Counts: MacArthur Fellows Reflect on Academic Reward Structures

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) has received an X-Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s MacArthur Fellows Program to support a new public panel series examining promotion and tenure structures for humanities and interpretive social sciences faculty in higher education today.

The “What Counts: MacArthur Fellows Reflect on Academic Reward Structures” series will take place via Zoom at 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, September 12, and Monday, October 2, 2023, and feature six MacArthur Fellows discussing how their distinctive approaches to scholarship did or did not fit the “rules of the game” for career advancement in humanistic fields.

Despite advancements that have led to what is now seen as the modern campus, higher education departments and institutions have been slow to adapt reward systems for faculty working in humanistic fields of study and modes of scholarly work that were not envisioned when structures for promotion and tenure were set in place a century ago. 

The ACLS “What Counts” series spotlights the experiences of MacArthur Fellows, who had been selected for their outstanding efforts in forging innovative paths in their scholarly contributions. During each 90-minute session fellows will reflect on the impact that the academy’s reward structures have had on their work, discuss what they see as the optimal path forward, and share how they advise their students, the next generation of scholars, on building their own careers. Panel discussion topics will also cover how departments and institutions can better recognize the value of humanistic scholarship that reaches beyond the campus to engage in issues of public health, social justice, or climate change; and how scholarship that utilizes digital methods, engages creatively across disciplinary lines, or relies on collaboration rather than solitary scholarship, can be understood, gauged, and rewarded.  

Featured Panelists:

Tuesday, September 12 – Moderated by ACLS President Joy Connolly

  • Monica M. Martinez, The University of Texas at Austin, 2021 MacArthur Foundation Fellow
  • Natalia Molina, University of Southern California, 2020 MacArthur Foundation Fellow
  • Dimitri Nakassis, University of Colorado Boulder, 2015 MacArthur Foundation Fellow

Monday, October 2 – Moderated by ACLS Vice President James Shulman

  • P. Gabrielle Foreman, Pennsylvania State University, 2022 MacArthur Foundation Fellow
  • Kellie Jones, Columbia University, 2016 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, 1994 Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art
  • Peter Miller, American Academy in Rome, 1998 MacArthur Foundation Fellow

“ACLS is grateful to the MacArthur Fellows Program for supporting this exciting new public panel series on how best to reward increasingly innovative scholarship in humanistic fields,” said ACLS Vice President James Shulman. “The topic of ‘what counts’ in humanistic scholarship has become increasingly urgent with the welcome diversification of academe and the rapid advancement of new technologies and research methods being introduced in these fields. Highlighting the achievements of scholars who have bent or broken the rules in forging their own paths, particularly when they have gained global recognition through being named MacArthur Fellows, will encourage all of us to think about faculty advancement in more pluralistic ways.”

The ACLS “What Counts” series will be presented as free, live virtual events. Recordings will be made available on the ACLS website.

Learn more about other ACLS initiatives aiming to accelerate higher education systems change to best serve 21st-century scholars and scholarship.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago.