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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Summer Fellowships for New Graduate Seminars in the Humanities

With the support of a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Simpson Center for the Humanities invites proposals from two-person teams of faculty in the core humanities disciplines of English, History, and Philosophy to work together as they develop new graduate seminars that embody the ethos of collaboration while building capacities for publicly engaged scholarship. Recipients of this fellowship will each receive $7,500 in salary (benefits are included) and an additional research award of $2,000.


Tenured or tenure-track UW faculty whose departmental home is in English, Philosophy, or History.

Background and Description

Doctoral education is a crucial site for instilling the values and modelling the practices of public-facing scholarship and collaborative work. In the academic humanities it remains the case that single-author critical articles and books for academic audiences continue to be widely considered the only forms of scholarship that “count.” At the same time many are convinced that public scholarship is both meaningful in and of itself and has the potential to establish new scholarly traditions and trajectories in the humanities. 

We invite proposals from two-person teams of faculty to develop new graduate seminars—with a focus on public-facing projects—in conversation with each other. We can imagine, for example, two faculty members creating topically resonating individual courses featuring collaborations with different kinds of community organizations (museums, libraries, K-12 schools, Seattle city offices)—or with the same partner organization. We can imagine two courses that focus on different forms of dissemination to audiences beyond the academy, from print publications to podcasts to Op-Eds. We can imagine courses that scaffold the development of a collaborative, public-facing class project, such as a website or a film festival. By creating these courses in tandem with each other, colleagues from the same department will, we hope, deepen their commitment to a range of new practices of scholarship in the humanities.

We encourage proposals from faculty whose approach to research and teaching is defined by collaboration or public engagement.  We also encourage proposals from faculty who wish to emphasize these forms of scholarship in their classrooms for the first time.

Public Scholarship in Graduate Education

We view collaboration as integral to the pursuit of the public humanities—and to publicly engaged graduate education. In the core humanities disciplines at the University of Washington, the public-facing scholarship of Jim Gregory (History) and Gillian Harkins (English) exemplifies collaboration with community partners as a public good; both have been awarded the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public. In the course of developing the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project, Gregory has worked together with countless community groups, activists, faculty, and students, and has served as a mentor to a new generation of public scholars, including doctoral students who worked on the project as editors and contributors. Harkins has advanced educational access and opportunity inside prisons together with incarcerated persons and community members who are most impacted by incarceration. Her Mellon-funded graduate seminar, “Collaboration Across Walls: Public Scholarship as Means or Ends,” which she taught for the first time in Fall 2018, also integrates public scholarship into graduate student learning. At the Center for Philosophy for Children at the University of Washington, the collective pursuit of a common vision for programming in public schools has involved graduate students’ work in Seattle  K-12 classrooms. Such projects make significant intellectual contributions to the public good; they rely upon sustained collaboration, and, at the same time, they transform doctoral education.

The first cohort of Mellon summer faculty fellows has continued this exciting work through the development of the following seminars:

  • In English, Stephanie Clare and Jesse Oak Taylor worked together to develop Clare’s course, “Feminist and Queer Publics,” and Taylor’s course, “Ecocriticism.” While topically distinct, these seminars overlap insofar as they task students with various modes of public-facing writing, the scaffolding of which was a key topic during our summer conversations.
  • In History, Arbella Bet-Shliman and Liora Halperin worked together to develop Bet-Shliman’s course, “Writing Histories of Middle Eastern Immigration to the Puget Sound,” and Halperin’s course, “Writing Histories of the Israeli Diaspora in the Puget Sound.” While standing as individual courses, these seminars are deeply resonant in their concerns with Middle Eastern migration and the specific experiences of members of different diasporic communities in the Pacific Northwest.
  • In Philosophy, Colin Marshall and Ian Schnee worked together to develop Marshall’s course, “Respect, Rhetoric, and the Psychology of Reason,” and Schnee’s course, “Conspiracy Theories, Propaganda, and Epistemic Vice: The Philosophy of Misinformation.” This faculty team choose to approach a common philosophical problem from different angles in developing their seminars.

All of these courses will be scheduled during  the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. We were impressed by these graduate seminars and the collaborative work that advanced their development, and consider them a model for future applicants.

Terms of the Award

Two-person faculty teams—one from each of the three participating departments—will be selected. Each faculty member will receive $7,500 in salary (benefits are included) for course development along with a research fund award of $2,000. During the summer of 2021, faculty fellows, as well as doctoral students awarded support for the development of collaborative public projects, will meet as a cohort.

The intent of this summer support is to allow fellows to devote themselves full-time to project development. Thus, this fellowship is not appropriate for those whose projects require time away from the university in the summer. Fellows are required to be in residence and are expected to attend eight weekly meetings during the months of July and August. Fellows must devote themselves during this period to focused work on their public projects, with no competing demands, including teaching or other paid work.

The workshops will include discussion of works-in progress, common readings, reflective writing, panel discussions, site visits, and other practices established by the group. Fellows will have a well-developed draft of the syllabus for their graduate seminar by the end of the summer.

Application Materials

  • Proposal (maximum 5 pages double-spaced). Proposals should include:
    • A brief description of each seminar, its learning objectives, and a list of possible course readings, activities, and assignments, as applicable or envisioned at this time.
    • An account, in the seminar descriptions, of how public scholarship and collaborative work might be incorporated into student learning.
    • An explanation of how the two faculty members plan to work together on the development of their seminars over the course of the summer and beyond.
  • Departmental Acknowledgement Forms
  • V. for each applicant (3 pages maximum)

Full application instructions:  

The Simpson Center will form an Advisory and Selection Committee to determine funding awards. 

For questions, please contact Annie Dwyer, Assistant Program Director, at or 206.919.3767. We encourage applicants to meet with us to discuss their proposals prior to submission.

The Simpson Center gratefully acknowledges The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its support of Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics: Catalyzing Collaboration.


Acknowledgement Form

For all applicants: Please complete the Course Development Acknowledgement Form with the signature of your department chair and return it via email to or in hard copy (Communications 206/Box 353710). 

Example Syllabi

Example syllabi for graduate seminars with strong public scholarship components: