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PhD grants remain available (letter)

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To the editor:

Article by Colin Flaherty on September 20, 2022 «The Ford Foundation is ending the scholarship program,” on the termination of the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program, provided important context about the effectiveness of this long-term program in diversifying the ranks of top-level PhD scholars and the growing challenges of funding this work.

Flaherty rightly emphasizes the need for new thinking and action in terms of funding models, while recognizing the potential of academics and science to facilitate positive social transformation.

However, her description of the completion of the Dissertation Fellowship Program, funded by Mellon and administered by the American Council of Learned Societies, overlooks the support that Mellon and ACLS continue to provide to doctoral students and early-career scholars, including those who represents diverse backgrounds, fields of study, and institutions in the humanities and interpretive social sciences.

For sixteen years (2006-2022), the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship program has provided more than 1,000 doctoral students with resources and a support network designed to help them complete their dissertations, giving them time to focus solely on their research, freeing them from ongoing training and administrative duties. We are proud of the achievements of this program, which provided important lessons and insights that we have applied to our ongoing commitment to diversifying the academy and supporting scholars who have traditionally been underserved by it.

ACLS is also pleased to continue our partnership with Mellon. Earlier this year we introduced Mellon/ACLS Innovation Dissertation Program, which particularly welcomes applications from PhD candidates whose perspectives and/or research projects cultivate greater openness to new sources of knowledge, innovation in scholarly communication, and above all, sensitivity to the interests and histories of people of color and other historically marginalized communities. The program aims to reward doctoral students who show promise to lead their field in important new directions. By providing early intervention at the formative stage of the dissertation, before the writing is far advanced, the program will enable fellows to develop innovative approaches to dissertation research – societal, trans- or interdisciplinary, collaborative, critical or methodological. They will join a network of like-minded scholars and receive expert mentoring and professional development.

News of the end of longstanding doctoral resources will disappoint many, as there is no shortage of support, especially among communities of color who have long been marginalized in higher education. At the same time, we look forward to offering ACLS fellowships and grants programs designed to usher in what we see as a new academy that welcomes a more diverse faculty and a wide range of fields of study and approaches to scholarship—key elements to the continued development of humanistic knowledge. .

Joy Connolly
President
American Council of Science Societies

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