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ACLS Leading Edge Fellowships

Fellowships to USA, Canada, and International Individuals
Holding a PhD for Projects Promoting Social Justice

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Deadline Date:

05/06/21 9:00 PM EST


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Fellowships of $60,000 to USA, Canada, and International individuals holding recently awarded PhDs in the humanities or humanistic social sciences for projects promoting social justice. Fellows will receive funding for professional development. Focus areas include problem-solving, capacity building, and advancing justice and equity in society. It is expected that all fellowships granted in this competition will be held remotely​.

The American Council of Learned Societies is pleased to announce the third competition of the Leading Edge Fellowship program, which demonstrates the potential of humanistic knowledge and methods to solve problems, build capacity, and advance justice and equity in society. Leading Edge Fellowships place recent humanities PhDs with nonprofit organizations committed to promoting social justice in their communities. Fellows lead substantive projects that draw on the skills and capacities honed in the course of earning the humanities PhD, including advanced communication, research, project management, and creative problem solving. This initiative is made possible through the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Leading Edge Fellows

  • Take on substantive, intellectually meaningful work in a challenging job market
  • Receive annual stipends of $60,000 plus health insurance and professional development funding
  • Take the lead on defined portfolios of projects lasting up to 12 months
  • Undertake professional development activities with other fellows over the course of the fellowship
  • Begin annual fellowship terms in September 2021

Leading Edge Hosting Organizations

  • Benefit from fellows' scholarly perspectives and broad sets of skills and capacities, including strong writing, project management, cultural competencies, and problem-solving skills
  • Define substantive projects for fellows
  • Provide oversight and access to requisite resources to execute the project(s)
  • Offer opportunities for networking and mentorship throughout the fellowship year
  • Are prepared to bring on fellows and supervise projects remotely

First-round reviewers will evaluate applications based on:

  • Demonstrated ability to connect academic and non-academic skills and capacities to the qualifications and responsibilities of the applicant’s selected project(s) 
  • Demonstrated interest in and commitment to contributing to solutions to problems in society 
  • Willingness to partner, collaborate, listen, and learn from others
  • Applicant's academic and extra-academic accomplishments 

Leading Edge Fellows will join a robust community of practice in the publicly engaged humanities and will have the opportunity to draw on networks of related ACLS programs, including the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows and Scholars and Society Fellows. The diverse experience of the ACLS community is a shared resource that fellows are encouraged to draw on during and after their fellowship terms.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 191144

Estimated Size of Grant:

Stipend: $60,000 plus health insurance and professional development funding.

Term of Contract:

Tenure: Up to 12 months beginning in September 2021

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

- Applicants must have a PhD that was/will be formally conferred by their university between September 1, 2016, and October 1, 2021. Applicants scheduled to graduate in Summer or early Fall 2021 must be prepared to verify progress to degree with official university documentation during the review and selection process.
- Applicants' PhDs may be in any field in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. See FAQ in Pre-Application Information, below, for further information.
- Applicants must be authorized to work legally in the United States for the entire duration of the fellowship term. This includes Indigenous individuals residing in the United States through rights associated with the Jay Treaty of 1794, and those who hold DACA status, Temporary Protected Status, or political asylee or refugee status. Neither ACLS nor the host organization can sponsor fellows for visas.

Applicants' PhDs may come from a non-US institution, as long as the work eligibility requirements described above are met.

Geographic proximity is not a factor in the selection process.

Applicants who have held another ACLS fellowship may apply.

This program does not accept applications from students receiving a Ph.D. in the fields of business, public policy or public administration, education or arts education, clinical or counseling psychology, creative writing, journalism, 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. Master’s degrees, even if they are the terminal degree in the field, will not be accepted as substitutes for the Ph.D.

Pre-Application Information:

Application deadline: May 6, 2021, 9 PM EDT

Applications will be accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system. Please do not contact any of the organizations directly.

Each applicant may apply for up to two of the available Leading Edge Fellowship opportunities listed in Supporting Documents, below.

Review Process:
The selection and placement takes place over three stages: The first round of review is a peer review process conducted by PhDs holding positions in various sectors beyond the academy. Finalists emerging from this round will be interviewed by host organizations, who will send rankings and feedback to ACLS. Finally, ACLS interviews top-ranked candidates to offer the fellowship.

To view the PDFs of the full project descriptions, which include detailed information on the host organizations, the projects, and requisite applicant qualifications, see URL for Full Text (RFP).


Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Apply online:

For questions about eligibility, please contact

American Council of Learned Societies
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-6706

Telephone: 212-697-1505

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)

Canada: Alberta;   British Columbia;   Manitoba;   New Brunswick;   Newfoundland and Labrador;   Northwest Territories;   Nova Scotia;   Nunavut;   Ontario;   Prince Edward Island;   Quebec;   Saskatchewan;   Yukon;


International country outside of the USA, Israel and Canada.

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