IPRH—Andrew W. Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in Public Humanities, 2020–2021

The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, supported by a grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, invites applications for a Pre-Doctoral Fellow in Public Humanities for the 2020–2021 academic year.

The Public Humanities is an interdisciplinary approach to engaging audiences beyond the walls of the university. Combining methods, theories and practices from humanities disciplines in projects with a public-facing stance, public humanities work models the value and relevance of history, philosophy, literature and the visual arts in action. That work can serve as a form of community knowledge-building and public engagement that make manifest the role of humanistic inquiry in civic life and culture. At the center of the IPRH-Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship is a one-year residency with the Odyssey Project, a free college-credit earning program for income-eligible adults seeking access to higher education outside traditional pathways. While in residence, the Public Humanities Fellow will participate in The Odyssey Project’s activities, co-thinking and co-learning with the Odyssey Project staff to develop the public humanities dimensions of her/his/their research. The fellow will undertake a research project that explores themes connecting the fellow’s field of study, the public humanities, and the Odyssey Project as an example of community-oriented public engagement. Advanced PhD students from all humanities disciplines, including the humanities-inflected social sciences, whose research and teaching lie in the area of the public humanities, are encouraged to apply.


Only PhD students from the Urbana-Champaign campus are eligible to apply. Applicants must be “ABD” (i.e. have completed all requirements for their doctoral studies, save the dissertation) in a humanities or arts discipline, including the humanities-inflected social sciences, and should be ready to work on their dissertation projects during the span of the fellowship year.

Terms of Fellowship

The IPRH-Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Public Humanities will receive a nine-month $20,000 stipend with tuition and partial fee waiver as well as a $1,500 research fund.

The Public Humanities Fellow is required to maintain residency on the Illinois campus (residing within a 20-mile radius) during the award year and to arrange an independent study with a designated faculty mentor that focuses on the fellow’s public humanities research project. The fellow will also be in residence for the Odyssey Project’s evening classes and regular meetings with IPRH and the Odyssey Project’s staff to discuss the work of the program. Applicants should make certain that their teaching and research obligations do not prevent them from participating fully in the Odyssey Project experience and should identify in their narrative statement any applications being made for other campus or external grants and fellowships. By June 1st, 2021, the Public Humanities Fellow will submit a one-page report to the Assistant Director for Education and Outreach on his/her/their activities during the fellowship period.

Faculty mentors (tenure-line or specialized) will be expected to meet monthly with the student to guide the final project and quarterly with the IPRH Assistant Director for Education and Outreach. Faculty mentors will also submit a one-page report on the fellow’s activities and the mentor’s advising work to the Assistant Director for Education and Outreach by June 1st, 2021. In exchange for their service, faculty mentors will receive $1000 in research funds.

Application Guidelines

Applicants must submit the following materials as a single attached PDF document to IPRH@illinois.edu. Documents should be double-spaced and in 12-pt. Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins; materials that exceed the required length will not be considered. The letters of recommendation should be submitted separately by the recommending faculty:

  • A 100-word abstract with project title.
  • A statement of no more than 1,000 words describing the applicant’s research on the proposed project, including preparation to undertake this research and all progress on the project to date and discussion of the choice and suitability of the designated faculty mentor.
  • A PDF of the student’s official transcript. This should be requested through the registrar.
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation to be uploaded by the applicant’s referees, one of which must come from the faculty member supervising the student’s dissertation. The faculty mentor may, but is not required to be, one of the letter-writers. Recommendation letters should speak to the applicant’s readiness and commitment to engaging in a public humanities research project. The dissertation advisor’s letter should also address how the project articulates with the applicant’s larger job and career development plans.
  • A signed agreement indicating the faculty mentor’s willingness to oversee the applicant’s research project. The applicant is responsible for submitting the signed mentorship agreement as part of the application materials. Faculty Mentor Agreement Form (PDF)

In the narrative statement, the applicant should describe her/their/his research in reasonable detail, explaining its significance to the work of the Odyssey Project and the public humanities, as well as addressing the applicant’s readiness to undertake the project. The statement should also indicate the applicant’s willingness to be in residence with the Odyssey Project and attend the regularly scheduled meetings described under the “Terms” section. Finally, the statement should include any specific past experience or future ambitions that the applicant brings to the study of the public humanities.

Selection Criteria

The applications will be reviewed by the IPRH Director, the Assistant Director for Education and Outreach, and the Odyssey Project Student Experience Coordinator.

Submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • The relationship of the project to the public humanities
  • The relationship of the project to the Odyssey Project and/or community-oriented work
  • The viability of the research project
  • The applicant’s preparation to undertake the proposed research
  • The quality of the narrative proposal, and
  • The letters of support.

Application Deadline

Applications must be submitted to IPRH@illinois as one PDF (letters of recommendation should be submitted separately, directly to IPRH, by the recommending faculty) by 5:00 PM on February 10, 2020, after which applications will no longer be accepted.

Deadline extensions will not be granted. The review committee will consider only complete applications. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all documentation is complete, and that referees submit their letters before the deadline.


All applications will be acknowledged via e-mail, and all applicants will be notified in the latter part of the spring 2020 semester, when the search has concluded. Please do not contact IPRH about the status of an application. Because of the volume of applications IPRH receives, we are unable to answer questions about individual applications.

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Questions about this fellowship may be addressed to Alaina Pincus, apincus2@illinois.edu.

Application Deadline: Friday, February 10, 2020 by 5 p.m.