At a moment in time when there's a lot of speculation about the viability of a doctoral degree in the humanities, Johns Hopkins is creating pathways toward new opportunities beyond the academy for PhD humanities students.
Through an annual competition, the Society of Fellows in the Humanities will award 12-month postdoctoral fellowships, which are renewable for one year, for cohorts of eight or nine fellows to combine research with hands-on experience. This new form of intellectual community will allow a select group of Krieger PhD and MFA recipients to pursue a range of meaningful careers available to scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, building on their doctoral training while they explore new ways to apply their academic expertise.
Mary Favret, vice dean for graduate education and centers and programs, oversaw the first cohort, announced this month, which comprises nine fellows. "This cohort is a stellar group of scholars, and I can't think of anyone better to forge a new path for doctoral students making their way in the world," Favret said.
In their fellowship applications, candidates must propose to follow one of three pathways: a teaching pathway with a one- or two-course load; a university administrative internship pathway, conducting research or developing programs in a Johns Hopkins office; or an external internship pathway, conducting research or developing programs with a government, nonprofit, or other partner outside of Hopkins.
Gabriella Fee just earned their MFA in The Writing Seminars and will spend next year as a fellow at the nonprofit Writers in Baltimore Schools, or WBS. Among other activities, Fee will design and adapt curricula to the elementary school level, compile data, and teach pedagogy to Hopkins undergrads.
Fee is very familiar with WBS, having spent the last year as an instructor working with fourth- and fifth-graders through the program. In fact, it was that experience that inspired Fee's proposal, after working to adapt the organization's curriculum—carefully designed for middle and high school learners—for younger students. At the same time, Fee was looking ahead toward their own future, which they hope will involve earning a PhD and teaching at the graduate level.
"I'm really passionate about education, about feeling as if my writing life is connected to a community of people who have similar values. And so to partner more formally with WBS felt like a natural extension of that desire," they said.
Fee is also looking forward to connecting with other writers and humanities scholars, as well as deepening the kind of teaching skills they hope to bring to their future classrooms.
"It's so important for the humanities to work in conjunction with one another. I want to feel as if I'm plugged into a community of thinkers and scholars and artists—to contribute to and benefit from that kind of interdisciplinary energy. I see the Society of Fellows as a stepping stone toward a lifetime of creative multidisciplinary work," they said.
The Society of Fellows is housed within the Krieger School's Alexander Grass Humanities Institute, a focal point of programming for the school's humanities departments, which will foster community among the fellows by coordinating roundtables and sharing information. The program's goals include providing recent graduates with opportunities to expand their areas of interest and expertise, increasing their hiring potential, and demonstrating the value of the humanities to Hopkins and beyond.
"I'm not sure who will benefit more—the students, or the people and programs they will work with," said Christopher S. Celenza, dean of the Krieger School. "But that exactly reflects what a humanities education means for the world—preparing scholars to bring their knowledge, skills, and, yes, their humanity to address a tremendous range of issues that arise in a tremendous range of settings."
Marc Alsina, who just earned his PhD in the Department of the History of Science and Technology, will spend next year as a fellow at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, where he will focus on curation and public history.
His dissertation examined aviation in Argentine culture and its role as the country developed a new national identity around technology. At the museum, he plans to continue his research on technology in Latin America, and also to tackle a comparative study of aircraft accident analysis as a field of knowledge.
There's a lot of crossover between academia and museum curation, Alsina noted, so the fellowship is a welcome opportunity to broaden his job opportunities. "This is really my chance to get my feet wet and see what a career in a museum would be like, and how I can transition my skills from being a historian to being a public historian or a curator," he said. "I think you can apply a lot of the same skills that we learn here at Hopkins, especially when it comes to teaching and explaining, and thinking about things."
In addition to Fee and Alsina, the first cohort of fellows and their projects are:
- Cara Cummings (philosophy), who will complete a university administrative fellowship at the Krieger School's Humanities Collaboratory with a focus on program design and student mentoring
- Jo Giardini (English), who will complete a public-facing fellowship at the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center and the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality with a focus on events, programming, and teaching
- Spencer Hupp (The Writing Seminars), who will complete a university administrative fellowship at the Sheridan Libraries with a focus on the collections for Writing Seminars undergraduates and MFA candidates
- Jacob Kripp (political science), who will complete a teaching fellowship in the Department of Political Science
- Sarah Ross (English), who will complete a university administrative fellowship at the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute with a focus on expanding Blast Courses in the Humanities and other public humanities initiatives
- Elisa Santucci (modern languages and literatures), who will complete a university administrative fellowship at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with a focus on programming
- Rachel Waxman (history), who will complete a university administrative fellowship with the Krieger School's vice dean for graduate education with a focus on the Future of the Doctorate initiative