Heyman Center Public Humanities Fellowship

2020-2021 Humanities New York Public Humanities Fellowship

Humanities New York (HNY) and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities announce the call for applicants for the HNY 2020-2021 Public Humanities Fellowship. Developed by HNY in partnership with nine New York university-based humanities centers, this public humanities fellowship aims to bring humanities scholarship into the public realm and to strengthen the public humanities community by supporting emerging scholars.

The year-long fellowship provides workshops in the methods and approaches of the public humanities, mentorship and advice, networking opportunities, and financial support, all aimed at helping the Fellow to develop a public project in partnership with a community organization or non-profit. The skills and experiences afforded by the fellowship are intended to serve scholars who have a record of working with the public as well as those who are starting to explore the public humanities. It is equally valuable for scholars who plan to pursue careers within the academy and those who plan to pursue other paths. 

Humanities New York expects to award fellowships of $8,000 apiece to two current Columbia University graduate students for 2020-2021. In addition, the SOF/Heyman will support, with $5,000 research allowances, the development of up to five additional projects proposed by Columbia graduate students for the HNY Fellowship competition.  Applications to the HNY Public Humanities Fellowship will automatically be considered for SOF/Heyman Public Humanities Graduate Student Fellowships. 


  • The Fellow is required to attend a two-day orientation run by Humanities New York at their New York City office on Monday, August 17 and Tuesday, August 18, 2020.
  • During the Fellowship year, the Fellow will develop a plan to implement a public humanities project and work with community partners on that project.
  • The Fellow will participate in workshops scheduled for December 2020 and June 2021. 
  • The Fellow will present the outcomes of their planning and public work to their university community in coordination with their humanities center and submit reports to Humanities New York.
  • Individual university humanities centers may have their own requirements; please contact your university’s humanities center for details.
  • During the course of the Fellowship, Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in events sponsored by Humanities New York. Fellows are also eligible for funds from HNY to support the project developed during the course of their Fellowship. Throughout the Fellowship, Fellows should work collaboratively with HNY to identify community partners, explore public humanities methods and programs, and share findings as their project progresses.

DURATION & STIPEND: Duration of the Fellowship is August 2020 to June 2021, including mandatory attendance at a two-day orientation on August 17-18, 2020 in New York City and subsequent workshops. The Fellowship stipend is $8,000, plus a $500 professional development fund. It also reimburses expenses for travel to Fellowship workshops, as well as providing the possibility for up to $2,000 in seed funding for Fellows’ projects. The Fellowship is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


  • Fellows are required to attend bi-weekly workshops and public events throughout the academic year aimed at providing them with methodological skills, professional connections, and feedback for the development of their civically-engaged and/or public-facing projects.
  • Under the guidance of workshop leaders, Fellows will develop their projects and work with community partners to implement them.
  • Fellows will present their projects-in-progress at workshop meetings and submit progress reports to be published on the SoF/Heyman website.

DURATION & STIPEND: Fellows are appointed SOF/Heyman Public Humanities Graduate Student Fellows for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Fellowship offers a $5,000 research allowance, as well as the opportunity to organize public humanities programming under the auspices and guidance of the SOF/Heyman Center.

  • SOF/Heyman Public Humanities Graduate Student Fellows have access to working space in the Heyman Center building

ELIGIBILITY: Applicants must be PhD students at Columbia University.

TO APPLY: Interested applicants should submit an online application, which includes a proposal statement, CV, and contact information for two references, by Monday, February 17, 2020. The online application can be accessed through Humanities New York’s grants management platform, found here: https://humanitiesny.fluxx.io. Applicants will need to create an account in the system in advance of applying.

Applicants will be notified of final decisions by Friday, April 17, 2020.

CONTACT: Humanities New York Program Officer Adam Capitanio (212-233-1131 / [email protected])

LEARN MORE: By visiting the Public Humanities Fellowship website, http://publichumanitiesfellows.org

ABOUT HUMANITIES NEW YORK: The mission of Humanities New York is to strengthen civil society and the bonds of community, using the humanities to foster engaged inquiry and dialogue around social and cultural concerns. Founded in 1975, Humanities New York is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is the sole statewide proponent of public access to the humanities. HNY is a private 501(c)3 that receives Federal, State, and private funding.

ABOUT THE SOF/HEYMAN:  The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities provides the intellectual and physical space for interdisciplinary discussions among members of the Columbia community and the New York City public. It brings together faculty and students from across the university—from the humanities, social and natural sciences, law, medicine, journalism, and the arts—to share thinking, debate ideas, and collectively consider methodological, conceptual, and ethical issues of common interest and concern.  It sponsors public programming—lectures, poetry and fiction reading, workshops, conferences, symposia, seminars, and performances—and fosters scholarly and artistic collaborations.

The 2019-2020 SoF/Heyman Public Humanities Graduate Student Fellows are:

Scot McFarlane is a PhD candidate in history at Columbia University. Scot's dissertation on the Texas' Trinity River extends from the antebellum period in the middle of the 19th century to the emergence of the environmental movement in the middle of the 20th century because of the ways the river changed in response to the legacy of slavery and urbanization.  His research shows how rivers have uniquely heightened and transcended divisions of race, gender, and space to shape our democracy. Scot is currently teaching his own course, "Rivers, Politics and Power in the US" in the History department. Prior to arriving at Columbia, Scot taught writing and history at high schools in Oregon and Massachusetts. He has published in the leading journals of his field, including an article on Maine's Androscoggin River and its influence on the environmental movement and passage of the Clean Water Act.  In 2005 Scot produced and directed a documentary on the culture and ecology of Texas' Neches River that played a key role in the movement to prevent Dallas from damming another portion of the river.   He also produced a website on the history of a racist massacre in Texas that continues to engage and educate a wide audience.  "Confluence" brings together Scot's experience in the digital humanities and environmental humanities by encouraging collaboration between river historians and community activists to present the historical value of rivers throughout North America. 

Erin Petrella is a PhD candidate in the Classics department at Columbia University. Her research involves the possibility of semantic value for silent propositions in ancient Greek literature and philosophy, and the development of botanical and scientific Latin from antiquity to the Renaissance. Erin has a prior master's in Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarianship, and a professional background in academic libraries. For several years, she has volunteered with the New York Public Library's Correctional Services program, providing library services to incarcerated individuals in city jails, including MDC and Rikers. Her project will combine all of these experiences into a months-long intensive reading and discussion of a classical text with a group of individuals at Rikers, the outcome of which will hopefully include an alternative "edition" of the text, along with an online exhibition.

Alexandra Méndez is a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American and Iberian Cultures (LAIC) and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) at Columbia University. She received her B.A. from Harvard in the History and Literature of Latin America. Her research focuses on narratives about the New World and their circulation and publication between the Americas, Spain, and Venice in the sixteenth century. She was a 2018-2019 Graduate Fellow with the Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Global Language Justice through ICLS, and her book reviews have appeared in Public Books and the Harvard Review Online. 

The 2019-2020 Humanities New York and SoF/Heyman Public Humanities Fellows from Columbia University are:

Akua Banful is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her dissertation, "The Hostile Tropics: Towards a Postcolonial Discourse of Climate," explores the interaction between imperialism and the representations of tropical nature and life in tropical climates in examples from anglophone, francophone, and lusophone literatures. Her Public Humanities project, "Climate Arts: Reading, Recycling, Making," will create a mixed curriculum of climate-oriented fiction and recycled and otherwise environmentally engaged art that she will work through with public high school students. Through reading and discussing literature, contemplating recycled art, and completing a project of their own, this project aims to give young students a sense of the ways in which the arts can engage with, and respond to our current climate predicament.


Meadhbh McHugh is an Irish playwright and PhD candidate at Columbia University. Her plays include Helen and I (Druid Theatre Company), nominated for the Stewart Parker Award 2016, and the stage adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s novel Asking for It for Landmark Productions with the Everyman Theatre and Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Asking for It won the Audience Choice Award at the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2018. Meadhbh’s dissertation focuses on trauma and lyricism in contemporary Irish drama, and she has taught university writing for the past three years. As part of the NY Public Humanities Fellowship, Meadhbh will develop playwriting and creative writing workshops with incarcerated students at Rikers Island prison facility, in association with Columbia’s Heyman Center and the Justice-in-Education Initiative. 

The 2018-2019 Humanities New York and SoF/Heyman Public Humanities Fellows from Columbia University are:

Therese Cox will curate a project called You Are Here: Girls Map New York City. Together with local teaching artists and community partners, young women from New York City’s public schools will explore histories of the city, the politics of map-making and zoning, and issues of public space, race, and gender. The project will explore art, storytelling, poetry, and creative cartography as empowering practices, culminating in an exhibition and a reading.


Katryn Evinson will engage senior citizens in Ithaca, NY to explore new ways of creative coexistence with technology. In the first part of the project, she will invite them to share their stories in order to reshape our narratives about technology and old age. In the second part, in collaboration with a reuse center in Tompkins County, they will develop unusual uses of machinery through broken and obsolete devices, producing artistic pieces that challenge our ideas of instrumentality. 




The 2017-2018 Humanities New York and SoF/Heyman Public Humanities Fellows from Columbia University are:

Leah Pires' research centers on questions of power, institutions, and critique as they have been engaged by artists since the 1960s, and her dissertation focuses on New York artist Louise Lawler and her collaborators. As a 2017-18 Public Humanities Fellow at the Heyman Center, Leah is continuing her work with the Center for Justice's Justice-in-Education Initiative by developing a workshop that shares exhibitions from New York museums with young women at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island.


Elliot Ross is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His dissertation examines narratives of the Kenyan War of Independence and its afterlives, and considers questions of historical reparation, anti-colonialism and human rights. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, and many other publications. He worked for five years as senior editor of the website Africa is a Country. As a  Public Humanities Fellow, Elliot will facilitate a series of podcasts in which New York public high school students interview scholars on a politically meaningful topic of their expertise.


The 2016-2017 Humanities New York and SoF/Heyman Public Humanities Fellows from Columbia University are:

Natacha Nsabimana will engage young women at the Rose M. Singer Center for Women on Rikers Island to produce a literary journal discussing social justice issues such as racism, slavery, incarceration and sexual violence through the prism of art.




Sahar Ullah will curate an interactive public arts project that includes the works of Muslim storytellers, poets, and visual artists with a special attention to North American minorities and immigrants with roots from regions largely portrayed as conflict zones in U.S. media outlets. Sahar is the recipient of the 2017 Presidential Teaching Award for Graduate Student Instructors. Three graduate student instructor (teaching assistant) recipients are recognized each year during the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Convocation ceremony in May. Winners receive a certificate signed by President Bollinger, a formal citation written by their department, and an honorarium of $8,000. Additionally, the winners may also be recognized in university-wide and departmental publications.





The 2015-16 Humanities New York and SoF/Heyman Public Humanities Fellows from Columbia University are:

Liane Carlson, who will create a philosophy curriculum for GED students.

Nicole Gervasio (Columbia University, English & Comparative Literature), who will bring together high school students from diverse backgrounds for reading and writing workshops aimed at bridging divides between them.






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