The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) has been awarded a $3.6 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement a major expansion of its new Leading Edge Fellowship program.

The Mellon-sponsored Leading Edge fellowships will support some of the most promising emerging scholars in the country, recognized for their innovative humanities research and passion for social justice. Fellows will partner with local and national nonprofits to pursue year-long publicly engaged projects advancing initiatives focused on equity and inclusion, civic participation, and anti-racist policies and practices in communities.

The Mellon fellowships represent the third phase of the Leading Edge program and will award up to 40 fellowships to promising emerging scholars in a variety of humanities fields in 2021. The grant enables ACLS to double the reach and impact of these in-demand opportunities while focusing especially on advancing social and racial justice and aiding communities recovering and rebuilding from the pandemic.

The Mellon Foundation’s contribution also builds on the legacy of the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program, which supported humanities PhDs embarking on careers in the media, policy, and cultural sectors.

“Grounded in our core belief that knowledge is a public good, ACLS created Leading Edge as an important path for emerging scholars to utilize power of their humanities doctoral training in engaging in the active work outside the gates of campus.” said Joy Connolly, President of ACLS. “The program is also part of our rapid response efforts addressing the economic challenges that have resulted in the most daunting academic job market in decades. In addition to supporting work that aims to remedy the conditions of racial and social injustice in our society, the Mellon Leading Edge program will provide important career-building experience for multi-talented scholars and emerging academics that can be applied both within and beyond the classroom.”

All Leading Edge Fellows 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 wherever their careers take them, both within and beyond the classroom.

Leading Edge is currently accepting applications for the second phase of the program, funded as part of a $1.6 million grant by the Henry Luce Foundation. Recent PhDs pursuing research in religion, theology, and ethics are encouraged to apply for fellowship opportunities to work with nonprofit partners across the country on publicly engaged projects that document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities and advance collective understanding of the conditions that helped worsened that impact, such as inequality, increasing precarity, divisive media, and racism. The deadline for applications for the phase two fellowships is Monday, November 2, 2020, 9 pm EST.  The first phase, also made possible by the Luce Foundation, awarded five fellowships in September 2020 to emerging scholars in art history and visual culture to work on community focused programs documenting and interpreting the devastation of the pandemic in hard hit communities.