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Public Humanities Fellows

Are you an undergraduate student with an interest in the humanities who cares about social issues? 

Do you wonder how you can connect the study of history, philosophy, literature or other humanities subjects to real world situations?

Fellows will:

* Take two courses specifically designed for real-world application of skills post-graduation

* Participate in community-based work

* Gather with humanities scholars actively working in the field

* Receive a $1000 stipend upon completion of Fellowship requirements

Public Humanities work aims to translate traditional humanities disciplines into formats accessible for non-academic audiences. This can take multiple forms, such as museum and digital exhibitions; public lectures and discussions; historic site interpretation; musical and theatrical performance; podcasts; and documentary film and video. 

A Public Humanities Fellowship at the Humanities Institute will provide students with experience working with public audiences and community groups to incorporate the academic study of history, philosophy, literature or other humanities subjects into real-life situations.

From a 2019-2020 Fellow:

Public Humanities showed me that there's a space in the world where my studies and personal passions can intersect, and be honored. I've learned that creativity and social justice go hand in hand, and there are so many ways to tell meaningful stories that positively impact people's lives. The support I've received through the Institute has given me direction far beyond school, and really embodies the wholesomeness of the humanities.

~Sara Jacques, Penn State University '20 | Public Relations, African American Studies
Public Humanities Fellow


At the core of the Humanities Institute’s mission is the recognition that the work of the humanities is directly relevant to pressing social issues in culture and civic life today. The Public Humanities Fellowship takes this one step further, with a commitment to equipping undergraduates with tools useful for real-world application. Students will learn aspects of translating humanities work for diverse populations and engaging a range of communities in conversations that address and affect social concerns. This experience will allow students to explore building a career in the humanities, including how to incorporate public humanities’ methods into post-graduation employment.

Successful Public Humanities Fellows will gain narrative story-telling skills for communicating with non-academic audiences, gain technical and video-production skills for reaching wide audiences, and work with local community members at public outreach events. Fellows will have special opportunities to connect with visiting scholars doing important work in the humanities in the U.S. and around the world, and will participate in discussion of ideas and pertinent topics happening in the humanities today. Fellows will also have the opportunity to develop and disseminate their own projects of importance to them.

Students will receive a stipend of $1000 upon completion of the coursework requirements.


The Public Humanities Fellowship program is open to any Undergraduate Student with an interest in the Humanities.

Program Requirements and Description:

A Public Humanities Fellowship will be awarded to students upon successful completion of the following:

1. Fall Course: Introduction to Public Humanities, LA297 (with grade of C or higher)

2. Spring Course: Public Humanities Capstone Course, LA397 (with grade of C or higher)

Application Requirements:

  1. Cover page: Name, contact information, degree and department/program, and expected date of graduation
  2. Statement of Intent: Briefly describe why you are interested in the Fellows program, what your topics of importance are, and when you plan to take the course Introduction to Public Humanities (offered every fall). *Please note: you should plan to take the Capstone Course in the spring directly following the Introduction course.
Please note: There is no application deadline to participate in this program. Declaration of intent can be made at any time. Email application materials to to declare intention of participation in the Fellows program. All applicants will receive an email receipt; please email if you do not hear back within one week.

Course Information:

PHF v2

Introduction to Public Humanities, LA 297-001
Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9:05AM-10:20AM, Fall 2020

This course will introduce students to the ideas and skills that comprise the public humanities. Students will learn how to communicate the humanities’ analytical perspectives and bodies of knowledge to diverse audiences outside academia. Through readings, field trips, group work, and skills training, students will explore how public humanities can address real-world issues by building bridges between people and fostering empathy within and between communities. Students will gain experience with multimedia platforms (such as documentary film, podcasts, etc.) as tools for public dissemination and will plan an independent project (to be completed by enrolling in by enrolling in the Public Humanities Capstone Course for Spring 2021).

Check out these student examples from previous semesters: 

Indigenous Roots/Routes

Wage Justice Coalition

Sky is No Limit


Public Humanities Capstone Experience
Time/Day TBD, Spring 2021
Prerequisite: Introduction to Public Humanities

This course is the Capstone Experience for Public Humanities Fellows in the Humanities Institute. The course provides students with hands-on experience applying skills and insight gained during the prerequisite course, Introduction to Public Humanities. Students will gain substantive experience in research, digital media production, and community engagement. The centerpiece of the course is an individual digital public humanities project on a topic of the student’s choosing. Students will also participate in public outreach events in conjunction with the Humanities Institute, actively participating in a community engagement plan in coordination with the Institute’s documentary film series, HumIn Focus.

Our first cohort gave us three timely and meaningful films:

Whiteness, by Sara Jacques

Being Vulnerable, as a Man, by Yebo Chen

Juana's, by Carolina Navarro


Lauren Kooistra, Associate Director and Research AssociateLauren Kooistra, Program Coordinator

The Public Humanities Fellows program will provide students with more than class experience. Students will be a part of a cohort, and have special opportunities to connect with scholars doing important work in the humanities. They will participate in discussion of ideas and pertinent topics happening in the humanities today and will develop and disseminate their own projects of importance to them. Lauren Kooistra, HI Associate Director, will oversee each cohort and work with them to arrange meaningful engagement with the many opportunities and contact points the HI can provide. 


Richard Anderson, Course Coordinator
Public Humanities Postdoctoral Scholar

Richard Anderson is a public historian and scholar of 20th-century American politics, labor, and cities. He completed a Ph.D. at Princeton University in 2018 and is currently working on a book manuscript titled, Windy City Spoils: Machine Politics and Liberalism in Richard J. Daley’s Chicago. Richard is also an editor for the National Council on Public History’s blog, History@Work, and the co-founder of two ongoing community oral history projects in Princeton, NJ. He co-edited a themed issue of Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas on “Public Histories of Labor” that will appear in 2020. 



Vertna WestVertna West, Course Coordinator
Assistant Teaching Professor of Humanities and Communication

Vertna West holds a Ph.D. in Media & Communication Studies with an emphasis on Film & Philosophy, an MFA in Film & Video Production with a Complementary Study in Mass Communication, and a BFA in Film & Video Production. Her interest in expressing herself through diverse representations in film/books is a culmination of over 25 years of working as a multi award winning visual artist/filmmaker and professor creating in forms ranging from handmade/cameraless films, to 16mm and super 8 films, to multimedia, and broadcast television. She’s interested in deconstructing preconceived media influences and assigned identities in an effort to peel back layers to reveal elements of universality. She believes in the idea and practice that we are one; we are all connected.


This program is generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.