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Post-doctoral Fellows Bring Diverse Academic Expertise to ACM Campuses

Post-doctoral Fellows Bring Diverse Academic Expertise to ACM Campuses August 17, 2011

Nine recent PhDs with expertise in a wide range of humanities fields and degrees from some of the nation’s top graduate programs will begin their two-year ACM-Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowships on ACM campuses this fall.

They will be joined by two other Post-doctoral Fellows on one-year appointments and five returning Fellows who began the program in fall 2010, for a total of 16 current participants spread out over ten ACM campuses (see the list below).

Post-doc Fellows and mentorsACM-Mellon Post-doctoral Fellows and mentors at the program workshop in spring 2011.

Now in its third year, the fellowship program is designed to introduce new PhD recipients from research universities to the challenges and rewards of teaching, scholarship, and professional development at residential liberal arts colleges.

At the same time, the Fellows’ backgrounds in new specializations and fresh approaches to teaching and learning help to strengthen curricular offerings at ACM colleges. The Fellows in this year’s cohort, for example, have expertise in subjects such as ethnomusicology, gender studies, Asian art history, and African American rhetoric and communication. Three of them received their Bachelor’s degrees from international universities and two graduated from ACM colleges.

With generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program provides mentoring by veteran professors and other campus-based instruction and support for the Fellows, and specifies a one-half teaching load to give them time to continue their scholarly research. Three consortial workshops each year have included activities such as “micro-teaching” sessions, orientation to the liberal arts campus climate, and sessions on job searches in academia.

“[B]eing able to sit regularly with faculty from mathematics, foreign languages, English, and biology (to give just a few examples) was a scintillating intellectual experience.”
– ACM-Mellon Post-doctoral fellow

The ACM-Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowship Program has been fruitful for both participants and their host colleges. In a recent survey of Fellows, faculty mentors, and ACM academic deans, respondents agreed that their experiences in the program were positive. Fellows have gained opportunities to develop their teaching and scholarly work, and have, in turn, brought new courses and perspectives to the colleges.

One departing Fellow wrote that his colleagues were “always welcoming, collegial, and served as wonderful role models of the liberal arts in action. I was seamlessly assimilated into the formal and informal activities of the community, ranging from research colloquia to spontaneous gatherings around the cafeteria table. Indeed, as opposed to the far narrower discipline-specific course of my doctoral study, being able to sit regularly with faculty from mathematics, foreign languages, English, and biology (to give just a few examples) was a scintillating intellectual experience. The interdisciplinary pedagogical advice I received through these conversations greatly enriched my approach to teaching in the liberal arts.”

All six of the Fellows in the original cohort of ACM-Mellon Post-docs who began the program two years ago are now in tenure-track positions. One of them, anthropologist Julie Fairbanks, moves this fall from her two-year fellowship at Coe College into a tenure-track position in Coe’s department of sociology.

Each year, ACM colleges submit proposals for post-doc positions on their campuses, and the ones selected for the program conduct the searches and hire the Fellows. Five new fellowships were recently awarded for fall 2012, and the positions will be advertised this fall. The colleges and positions are:

  • Beloit College: Arabic & Islamic Studies
  • Coe College: Environmental Ethics
  • Lawrence University: Psychology & Human Creativity
  • Luther College: Indigenous Religious Traditions
  • Ripon College: Sociology/Gender Studies

    Vincent Tomasso teachingVincent Tomasso, a Post-doctoral Fellow at Ripon College, presenting a “micro-teaching” session at a program workshop.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invested $4 million in the ACM Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program, and continues to see such fellowships as an important emphasis for the Foundation.

In a recent letter to college presidents, Mellon Foundation officers Phillip Lewis and Gene Tobin wrote, “we recognize that postdoctoral fellowships (with an appropriate emphasis on teaching) have emerged as a prominent multipurpose agent for revitalizing the humanities curriculum, rejuvenating faculty ranks with fresh thinking, and providing young scholars with opportunities to strengthen their preparation for assuming tenure-track appointments at liberal arts colleges.”

The Foundation’s support of the fellowship program has already had a significant impact on ACM colleges, and the effects of the program will continue as the Fellows enter tenure-track positions, building on their experiences as scholar-teachers in ACM colleges.

Current ACM-Mellon Post-doctoral Fellows

Fellows are listed with their departmental/disciplinary affiliation and academic year(s) in the program.

Beloit College

  • Dennis Hanlon (PhD, University of Iowa), Film studies, 2010-12

Coe College

  • Evangeline M. Heiliger (PhD, UCLA), Gender studies, 2011-13
  • Claire Kovacs (PhD, University of Iowa), Art history, 2010-12

Colorado College

  • Jennifer Clare (PhD, University of California-Berkeley), Comparative literature, 2011-13
  • Dan Fahey (PhD, University of California-Berkeley), Political science, 2011-12

Cornell College

  • Anton Daughters (PhD, University of Arizona), Cultural anthropology, 2010-12
  • Nilay Ozok-Gundogan (PhD, Binghamton University), Modern Middle Eastern history, 2011-13

Lake Forest College

  • Aurelia Campbell (PhD, University of Pennsylvania), Asian art history, 2011-13

Lawrence University

  • Burcu Bakioglu (PhD, Indiana University), New media studies, 2011-13

Luther College

  • Andrew Hageman (PhD, University of California-Davis), English, 2011-12
  • Michael O’Brien (PhD, University of Texas, Austin), Ethnomusicology, 2011-13

Monmouth College

  • Michael Laughy, Jr. (PhD, University of California-Berkeley), Classical archaeology, 2011-13
  • Jeremy Pool (PhD, Emory University), African History, 2011-13

Ripon College

  • VaNatta Ford (PhD, Howard University), African American rhetoric and communication, 2011-13
  • Vincent Tomasso (PhD, Stanford University), Classics, 2010-12

St. Olaf College

  • Amy Borden (PhD, University of Pittsburgh), Film studies, 2010-12


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