More than one-third of humanities PhDs pursue a career beyond the college classroom over their lifetime. Public Pathways: Lessons about PhD Careers from 10 Years of Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows provides insights into some of those career paths through the lens of the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program (2011–2022)—a postdoctoral fellowship that placed nearly 200 humanities and interpretive social sciences PhDs in two-year positions in a variety of government and nonprofit organizations across the United States.

The program sought to demonstrate the broad applicability of advanced humanistic training to work and careers beyond the academy. The fellowship positions were designed to draw on the broad skills and capacities of recent PhDs and to provide opportunities for career exploration and development. Fellows built capacity at hosting organizations while demonstrating the dynamic potential of humanities PhDs to make meaningful contributions to the core work of their host organizations.

This report explores the experiences of fellows in the program, their career paths, and their perspectives on opportunities and challenges for PhDs in the workplace. Interviews with fellows’ supervisors at their host organizations also offer insight into how humanities skills are valued beyond the university. It concludes with recommendations and advice for graduate students and recent PhDs, doctoral faculty and departments, and leadership at universities and scholarly associations.

In conjunction with the report, ACLS is sharing online resources for PhD career development from scholarly societies and sample job postings from Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows as windows for those interested in exploring the wide range of jobs outside of academia into some common roles, responsibilities, and skills.

The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program and this report were made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.

Having “somebody who brought in that humanities kind of thinking was invaluable,” in that the fellow was able to bring in “a more holistic view of knowledge creation, a real commitment to language, and they deeply considered the interconnectivity of their projects.”

– Bronwyn Mauldin
former host supervisor at the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture

Photo: Katie Sisneros F’17 leads a team exercise at her host organization, the Minneapolis Institute of Art.


Nana Kaneko F’18 shares her experience as a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow


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