(New York, NY – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) – The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) proudly announces the launch of the Leading Edge Fellowship program, made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

This $1.6 million rapid-response fellowship aims to put the power of humanities scholarship and training to work in addressing urgent challenges facing communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Leading Edge Fellowship program provides year-long posts to recent humanities PhDs as they pursue publicly engaged projects that document and interpret the damage of this pandemic and advance collective understanding of the societal fault lines that helped worsen its impact such as inequality, increasing precarity, divisive media, and racism.

The fellowship program will launch in two phases, the first placing up to six art history and visual culture scholars with partner organizations for projects starting in September and October 2020. Participating nonprofits include Arts Alliance Illinois (Chicago, IL), the Center for Craft (Asheville, NC), Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas (Seattle, WA), the Educational Video Center (New York, NY), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (North Adams, MA), and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage (Washington, DC).

ACLS will begin accepting fellowship applications for the first cycle this week, with applications due by 9pm EDT on Friday, July 31, 2020. Learn more about the Leading Edge Fellowship Program, eligibility requirements, and application process here.

The second cycle will place scholars in religion, theology, and ethics with organizations to be named for work starting in early 2021.

Part of a larger Luce grant, the Leading Edge Fellowship program will be complemented by a series of innovative workshops designing new practices and structures for academia in the wake of the pandemic.

“The work of humanists is crucial to understanding the challenges we face as a nation now,” said Mariko Silver, President of the Luce Foundation. “We are pleased to support young scholars documenting this moment of fracture and dislocation; we hope that, working with communities affected by the pandemic, they will help point the way toward a more just and equitable future.”

“The Leading Edge Fellowship will be mutually beneficial both to community organizations disrupted by the pandemic’s impact on public health, economic security, and social cohesion, and to early career PhDs facing the most difficult academic job market seen in a generation,” explained Joy Connolly, ACLS President. “We were inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which put Americans into public service documenting and interpreting social changes in the wake of the Great Depression. Our new program, though smaller in scale, will support community rebuilding efforts, complementing public health research with human-centered perspectives. Humanistic skills and perspectives are urgently needed to gain complete understanding of the toll that COVID-19 has taken.”

Each Leading Edge Fellow will receive a $60,000 stipend, health insurance, and professional development funding. Fellows will lead high-profile, community-centered projects for their host organizations and participate in a variety of professional development and networking activities that can help fellows apply the experiences of their 12-month placements to future work in academics and beyond.

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.

Formed in 1919, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is a nonprofit federation of 75 scholarly organizations.  As the preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences, ACLS holds a core belief that knowledge is a public good. As such, ACLS strives to promote the circulation of humanistic knowledge throughout society. In addition to stewarding and representing its member organizations, ACLS employs its $140 million endowment and $35 million annual operating budget to support scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and to advocate for the centrality of the humanities in the modern world.