I am very much a strategic optimist. This phrase may be well-worn these days, but to me it speaks to making bold, creative moves to tackle urgent needs, with an eye toward building toward a better future. This is exactly what ACLS is being called to do in this moment.

Early career and non-tenured scholars are facing the most difficult academic job market in a generation, as well as extraordinary obstacles to conducting research. At many institutions, plans for teaching in the fall remain uncertain; research and conference funding for the year is already frozen; and long-term planning for initiatives in the humanities and related social sciences is being put on hold.

With insight gained through countless conversations with faculty, department heads, administrators, past fellows, and partners, it became clear to us that in order to remain true to our mission to support the advancement of humanistic scholarship and advocate for the centrality of the humanities and social sciences in the academy, we need to focus on the future. To us, this means supporting those with the shortest employment history and thinnest structural support in our community, whose voices will be crucial to the next generation of scholars and students: newly minted PhDs without tenured positions.

So this year and next, we are limiting eligibility for the ACLS Fellowship – our oldest and most popular competition – to non-tenured scholars who have earned their PhD within the past eight years (October 2012 onward). This includes faculty on the tenure track and scholars without faculty appointments, as well as scholars serving as adjuncts, contingent faculty, and in other non-tenured roles.

We also introduced two new programs this summer – the Emerging Voices and Leading Edge fellowships – that pair early-career scholars with important professional development opportunities inside and outside the academy. Our aim is to ensure that outstanding scholars receive a strong boost at the start of their professional careers and, wherever their place of work, that they can increase public knowledge and inform the decisions that will shape our future.

At the same time, in the coming year we expect to award $25 million to nearly 350 fellows and grantees at all career stages, including tenured faculty and long-time independent scholars. We continue to look closely at our extensive portfolio of competitions for ways to better serve everyone in our global community of humanistic scholars.

While we forge ahead enthusiastic about this new direction and committed to the foundational values and strategic priorities that drive all of our work, we ask you join us in supporting the most vulnerable in our community weather this current storm so that we can all contribute to building a strong future that benefits all humanistic scholarship. Learn more about becoming a reviewer for upcoming competitions and becoming a regular supporter of our work.