American Council of Learned Societies: 2021 Leading Edge Fellowship Competition

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is proud to announce a call for applications for its Leading Edge Fellowship program. This current competition round is made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Leading Edge Fellowship program provides one-year fellowships to recent humanities PhDs in the humanities and humanistic social sciences as they pursue substantive, community-focused projects that advance social justice and equity in communities across the United States. Their work will draw on the distinct skills, capacities, and frameworks developed in the course of earning their PhD, while directly supporting important initiatives in criminal justice reform, racial and economic inequality, access to childcare, food security, voting rights, and other urgent issues.

For this latest round, ACLS will place up to 41 recent PhDs with participating nonprofit organizations across the country. Partnering organizations include:

  • ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) (Dearborn, MI) - Leading Edge Fellow will address public health issues in the Arab American community, such as substance use, domestic violence, environment, children and family, and other social determinants of health.
  • Common Justice (Brooklyn, NY) - Leading Edge Fellow will perform research analysis for use in a new report on the ways that New York’s victim compensation reporting law harms marginalized communities. 
  • Deep Center (Savannah, GA) - Leading Edge Fellow will conduct research and help develop policy recommendations for the organization’s third annual policy brief, which identifies specific community needs and concrete action steps based on year-long engagements with juvenile court workers, social workers, and other state and local officials, as well as the youth they work with and their families, to ensure lasting local and state change.
  • National Conference on Citizenship (Washington, DC) - Leading Edge Fellow will support the Black Girls Vote Research Network, which seeks to address a major gap in the political science literature around Black led voter mobilization efforts, as well as explore opportunities for scholars and Black led organizations to partner and begin building a more robust knowledge base about which voter turnout strategies best serve Black communities.
  • Petey Greene Program (Washington, DC) - Leading Edge Fellow will support the development and pilot launch of the HBCU Forward Initiative, which will prepare volunteers to tutor incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, with program evaluation, evaluation processes, and conducting focus groups with volunteers, as well as providing recommendations for refining and scaling the program.
  • Students Learn Students Vote Coalition (Washington, DC) - Leading Edge Fellow will help lead efforts to build partnerships with scholars to study the innovations and adaptations made by campuses around the country to help students vote during the pandemic, with particular focus on partnerships supporting its “Ask Every Student” initiative at 30+ colleges and universities, including many community colleges and minority-serving institutions.
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund (Washington, DC) - Leading Edge Fellow will produce high-quality research, reports, articles, and scholarship on social justice issues to inform the development of the new Center for Social Justice, established in 2020, which is creating a research platform for engaging scholars at HBCUs in identifying and evaluating programs that aim to bridge the equity gap for the Black community, and identifying and proposing changes to public policies that impede opportunities for Black Americans.
  • United Neighborhood Houses (New York, NY) - Leading Edge Fellow will create timely policy briefs, analysis, reports, and other materials supporting and advancing policies and practices for a strong and equitable early childhood education and care system as New York recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • All fellowships granted in this competition will be held remotely. The full roster of partnering organizations and projects is available here.

Each Leading Edge Fellow will receive a $60,000 stipend, as well as health insurance and professional development funding. Fellows also participate in a variety of professional development and networking activities designed to help translate the experiences of their 12-month placements into future work in academia and beyond.

ACLS is now accepting fellowship applications for the Leading Edge Fellowship program, with applications due Thursday, May 6, 2021. Learn more and apply at

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