UC Santa Cruz humanities alum named 2014 ACLS Public Fellow

Career-building two-year fellowship provides $65,000 annually for recent humanities Ph.D.s to gain work experience in their field

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Michael Ursell

UC Santa Cruz humanities alumnus Michael Ursell has been named a 2014 ACLS Public Fellow by the American Council of Learned Societies.

Ursell is one of 20 new ACLS Public Fellows nationwide who will take up two-year assignments in government agencies and non-profit organizations, including the Center for Public Integrity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Designed to expand the reach of doctoral education in the humanities, the career-building fellowship allows recent humanities Ph.D.s to gain significant experience in a variety of fields, including communications, public policy, arts management, and digital media.

“The Public Fellows program attracts talented, motivated Ph.D.s who seek to put their advanced education to productive use outside of the academy,” noted John Paul Christy, director of public programs at ACLS.

“The diversity of our institutional partnerships, from the American Refugee Committee to Kiva to the Smithsonian, demonstrates just how valuable a humanities Ph.D can be to a wide variety of careers beyond the classroom.”

Ursell—who graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2011 with a Ph.D in Literature—said he will be working as Program Manager for Zócalo Public Square in Los Angeles.

A project of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University, Zócalo Public Square is a not-for-profit organization that blends live events and humanities journalism. It partners with educational, cultural, and philanthropic institutions, as well as public agencies, to present free public events and conferences in cities across the U.S. and beyond.

It also publishes original daily journalism that is currently syndicated to 150 media outlets nationwide.

“I'm excited to advocate for the humanities through the ACLS program,” said Ursell. “Zócalo Public Square is a vibrant organization with national reach. This position will give me a chance to participate in conversations about big ideas, ranging from poetry to ecology, from California politics to food fads.”

“I have always thought that advocacy needed to go hand in hand with humanities research,” Ursell added. “Throughout my Ph.D studies in Literature, I worked with UC Santa Cruz research centers which were models for this. I am happy that a Ph.D in Literature gave me the right mix of flexibility and experience to make this opportunity possible.

Since completing his graduate work, Ursell has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature at UC Santa Cruz and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Emory University’s Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.

“ACLS launched the Public Fellows program in 2011 with a cohort of eight fellows,” Christy noted. “The great demand for the fellowships—among Ph.D.s and employers alike—encouraged us to expand this career-building initiative, and now four years in, the program has placed over 60 fellows with 50 partnering institutions.”

The two-year ACLS Public Fellows program provides an annual stipend of $65,000, plus health insurance.