Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Competition for Recent PhDs

After ten competitions, and supporting nearly 200 emerging scholars, ACLS is conducting outcomes research geared toward promoting innovations in doctoral training and professional development support for diverse PhD careers.

If you are now completing or have recently earned a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences, and are interested in opportunities to contribute to the public good while gaining career-building experience, you may be eligible for the ACLS Leading Edge Fellowship, which succeeds and builds upon the Public Fellows program.  Pending renewal of funding, our next call for applications will be available in January 2021. To learn more about the program, visit the Leading Edge Fellowship program webpage. The description below is for information purposes only.

The description below is for information purposes only. ACLS is not accepting applications for this program.

Fellowship Details

  • Stipend: $70,000 per year, employer-based health insurance, a relocation allowance, and up to $3,000 in professional development funds over the course of the fellowship
  • Tenure: Two years; start date on August 3 or September 1, 2020, depending on the fellowship position
  • Applications will be accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system ( Please do not contact any of the organizations directly.
  • Application deadline: March 18, 2020, 9pm EDT
  • Notification of application status will occur by email starting late-May 2020.

ACLS is pleased to announce the tenth annual competition of the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program. The program promotes the visibility and value of the humanities PhD beyond the academy by offering opportunities for PhDs to contribute to the public good while gaining career-building experience in the fields of policy, community development, conservation, arts and culture, and media. This initiative is made possible through the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

In 2020, the program is offering 21 two-year term positions at organizations in government and nonprofit sectors for recent PhDs from the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Fellows will participate in the substantive work of these organizations and will have opportunities for networking, mentoring, and career development programming, both in-person and virtually. Fellows receive a stipend of $70,000 per year and have access to employer-based health insurance through the host organization. In addition, ACLS provides funds for relocation and professional development.

As the tenth anniversary Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows cohort, the 2020 fellows will join a robust network of fellows and program alumni working across the nonprofit, public, and private sectors. Please see listings of current and past fellows here. The diverse experience of the Public Fellows community is a shared resource that fellows are encouraged to draw on during and after their fellowship terms.

Applicants must:

  1. have a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences (see note on eligible fields below) conferred between September 1, 2016 and June 19, 2020
  2. defend and file/deposit their completed dissertations no later than April 6, 2020, and be prepared to verify this with official university documentation during the review and selection process
  3. be authorized to work legally in the United States. Neither ACLS nor the host organization will sponsor fellows for work visas.

Prospective applicants should read through all the fellowship positions listed below and identify the positions that best fit their career goals. Each applicant may apply to up to two positions.

The deadline for submitted applications is Wednesday, March 18, 2020, 9pm EDT.

Applications must include:

  • A completed application form
  • A cover letter tailored to each selected position and addressed to the host organization (1-2 pages). Applicants applying for two positions will submit two distinct cover letters.
  • A résumé (1-2 pages). Applicants applying for two positions will submit two résumés.
  • Two reference letters for each selected position.

Please note that finalists may be asked to provide institutional documentation of PhD conferral (or, if the degree has not yet been conferred, an institutional statement from the registrar attesting that the dissertation defense and deposit have been completed and confirming the degree conferral date).

Only complete applications, submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system by the deadline, will be considered.

Review Process and Selection Criteria

After screening applications for eligibility, ACLS transmits eligible applications to external peer reviewers. Applicants who advance to the final round of review will participate in interviews with staff from the host organization and, in some cases, with ACLS staff. The review process takes place throughout April and May, and the exact timeline varies by organization. Notification of application status will occur by email by late-May 2020.

Reviewers will evaluate applications based on:

  1. Demonstrated relations between past experience—both within the academy and beyond—and the qualifications and responsibilities of the position
  2. Demonstrated interest in and commitment to pursuing a career with the relevant field
  3. Applicant's academic and extra-academic accomplishments

Participating Organizations and Positions

Click on the below positions to view the PDF of the full description, which includes detailed information on the host organization, the position, and requisite qualifications. Read each description carefully and ensure that your application materials address the position’s requirements as well as the host organization’s mission and priorities.

  1. Alliance for Higher Education in Prison (Denver, CO) – Community Engagement Director
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (Washington, DC) – Government Relations Project Manager
  3. American Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY) – Research Associate
  4. Asian Cultural Council (New York, NY) – Manager of Strategic Research
  5. Children’s Defense Fund (Washington, DC) – Senior Research Associate
  6. City of Seattle Innovation & Performance Team (Seattle, WA) – Outreach & Engagement Research Analyst
  7. Humanities Action Lab (Newark, NJ) – Public Programming and Exhibitions Manager
  8. Institute for Study Abroad (Indianapolis, IN) – Assistant Director of Global Learning and Assessment
  9. National Book Foundation (New York, NY) – Education Programs Manager
  10. New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (Newark, NJ) – Policy Analyst
  11. ONE Archives Foundation (Los Angeles, CA) – Communications Manager
  12. Oxfam America (Washington, DC) – Research and Policy Advisor
  13. Partnership for Public Service (Washington, DC) – Writer and Editor, Communications Team
  14. Partnership for Working Families (Oakland, CA) – Public Goods Policy Strategist
  15. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (Pittsburgh, PA) – Government Relations Specialist
  16. Refugees International (Washington, DC) – Program Manager
  17. San Francisco Arts Commission (San Francisco, CA) – Community Impact Analyst
  18. Solutions Journalism Network (New York, NY) – Higher Education Program Specialist
  19. Twin Cities Public Television (St Paul, MN) – Audience Development Project Manager
  20. University Settlement Society of New York (New York, NY) – Advocacy Director
  21. Washington Center for Equitable Growth (Washington, DC) – Engagement Project Manager

Applications for these positions are accepted solely through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program. Only complete applications, submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system ( by Wednesday, March 18, 2020 9pm EDT, will be considered.

Do not contact any of the host organizations with questions. Questions about the fellowship program should be directed in writing to (no calls please), though we will not field questions about the particulars of specific positions or the organizations. Please carefully review the program information, the positions, the sample application, and the FAQ before contacting ACLS.

Note: For the purpose of this competition, the humanities and related social sciences include but are not limited to American studies; anthropology; archaeology; art and architectural history; classics; economics; ethnic studies; film; gender studies; geography; history; languages and literatures; legal studies; linguistics; musicology; philosophy; political science; psychology (excluding clinical or counseling psychology); religious studies; rhetoric, communication, and media studies; sociology; and theater, dance, and performance studies. PhDs in social science fields are eligible only if they employ predominantly humanistic approaches (e.g., economic history, law and literature, political philosophy, history of psychology). PhDs in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary humanistic studies are welcome. The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program does not accept applications from candidates holding PhDs in business, public policy or public administration, education, clinical or counseling psychology, journalism, creative writing, library and/or information sciences, law, social work, social welfare, urban planning, public health, filmmaking, performing arts, or any field of pre-professional or applied study. While the pursuit of degrees in such fields often involves engagement with the humanities, this program aims to promote the value of humanities disciplines that have not traditionally been recognized as preparatory for careers beyond the academy. Master’s degrees, even if they are the terminal degree in the field, will not be accepted as substitutes for the PhD. If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact For more information about eligibility, visit the FAQ page. Back to text.