Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows: Information for Potential Host Organizations

ACLS is not offering the Public Fellows program in 2020-21. Organizations that are interested in partnering with ACLS to support recent PhDs should contact ACLS for more information about the Leading Edge Fellowship program. The description below is for information purposes only.

The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program demonstrates the dynamic potential of the humanities PhD by placing recent PhDs in professional roles with nonprofit and government organizations in the fields of arts management, development, communications, public administration, policy, and digital media. The program is administered by the American Council of Learned Societies with generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

What kind of organization is eligible to host a Public Fellow? Nonprofit (501(c)3) and governmental agencies are eligible to host fellows. ACLS does not accept applications from ACLS’s member organizations or from foundations. Since the program aims to demonstrate the wide applicability of the PhD outside academia, it does not place fellows in quasi-academic positions that are located on university campuses or that include academic research.

ACLS partners with a diverse group of organizations each competition. Host organizations are selected according to the following criteria:

  • Their ability to offer a substantive portfolio of assignments that will foster the fellow's professional development;
  • Their demonstrated capacity to provide mentorship, networking opportunities, and other career advancement support for the fellow;
  • Their standing in the sector(s) in which they operate; and
  • Their contribution to the diversity of organizations represented in the year's roster of partner organizations.

How are Public Fellows selected to join my organization? Applications to the Public Fellows program are subject to a multi-stage review process. Applications are reviewed first by a peer review committee of humanities PhDs working in a variety of professional contexts outside of the academy. Finalists identified by this process are forwarded to the host organization for a second round of review and interviews before an offer is made by ACLS. Fellows selected in the 2020 competition will join host organizations in two-year, full-time staff positions on August 3 or September 1, 2020.

What types of roles could a Public Fellow fill in my organization? Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows have overseen digital initiatives; managed major reports on national and international policy issues; and created and administered institutional outreach and development campaigns. Please review the listings of prior fellows, whose diverse backgrounds and advanced training have made them integral to their host organization’s operations. A full list of fellows and host organizations can be found at

How does my organization apply? Application packets for new and returning host organizations are available at the links below. The purpose of the application questionnaire is both to acquaint ACLS with your organization and to provide you with detailed information about the responsibilities of hosting a Public Fellow. If you have questions about the program or your organization’s suitability as a host, ACLS welcomes inquiries via e-mail to through October 15. Inquiries received after that date may not receive answers before the application deadline.

Please submit your completed application no later than October 21 to publicfellows@acls.orgOnly complete applications will be considered.

Application for organizations that are new to the Public Fellows program.

Application for organizations that have already hosted a Public Fellow.