The Center for the Humanities has worked with more than 200 community partners over the past fifteen years to bring humanities-based scholars, students, and ideas into our local and state communities, with the goal of creating meaningful collaborations that address pressing community needs and help our community members, students, and faculty to thrive.
See some of our projects in action
A New Avenue to Navigate the Humanities Job Market
Twice a week, Marta-Laura Suska visited the Dane County juvenile detention center and youth shelter, usually with a local artist in tow or ready to lead a Capoeira workshop. Her visits were part of The Bubbler at Madison Public Library’s Making Justice series which provides hands-on learning experiences for at-risk and court-involved youth. Suska, a 2018 PhD graduate in Cultural Anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, was placed at The Bubbler through a Mellon Public Humanities Graduate Fellowship from the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities. The fellowship aims to link graduate humanities scholars with professional, community-based roles outside of academia.
It's also helping these same scholars succeed in a job market that has been challenging since the 2008 financial recession.
Next up for Suska is a tenure-track appointment at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, her "dream job." While a student, Suska applied to over 70 mostly academic positons. “They were all interested in hearing about the fellowship,” Suska said. “They were interested in the collaboration between a community and a university…how I teach diverse students and how it informs my scholarship.”
Her fellowship with The Bubbler and Making Justice, “helped immensely to shape my social justice profile, to make it more clear and crisp.”
For Suska, working with at-risk youth in Dane County prepares her for the diverse students she'll teach at John Jay College. She’ll be teaching future generations of first responders, including members of the New York Police Department, fire fighters, and nurses. “I have a chance to change their views on crime policing,” Suska said. “They signed me up immediately to teach a course called youth and justice because of my experience with the fellowship at The Bubbler and with youth in our community.”
From Concept to Careers
The Mellon Public Humanities Fellows are part of Engaging the Humanities, a multiyear project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Since the inception of the fellowship in YEAR , 80 percent of graduates have secured tenure-track appointments while 20 percent have secured more nontraditional positions with organizations related to the humanities.
Andy Davey, a PhD candidate in Geography and Mellon Public Humanities Fellow, was placed at the Madison Community Foundation, a local organization that aims to enhance common good through philanthropy.
It’s been a great match. “It seemed like the kind of post where I could utilize my academic skills, including research…to articulate my understanding of complex phenomenon in a way that was understandable and could be used by others in an accessible way,” Davey said. In fact, it was such a great fit that the Foundation created a full-time, permanent role for Davey to stay on following the end of the fellowship.
“Most graduate students should be considering career alternatives. Not necessarily because things won’t work out, but more to know what life and work looks like outside of academia. It’s healthy,” Davey said.
A Fresh Lens on Humanities Scholarship
In addition to helping graduates navigate a squeezed job market, the fellowship facilitates the reciprocal sharing of resources and expertise that benefits employers, the local community, and humanities scholarship itself.
At Madison Community Foundation, Davey drew from his academic work to help the organization integrate big-picture data and statistics for better planning and impact. Humanities scholarship, “is more than just expertise about a particular topic,” Davey said. “We think carefully about social and cultural context…and how to facilitate rich and nuanced conversations…in a world that really needs those skills.”
At The Bubbler, Suska applied her background in criminal justice and program implementation, including time spent studying policing programs in Brazil. “I optimized their structure and curriculum and introduced accreditation so that kids that participated got high school credit,” Suska said. During her time at the Bubbler, 13 area youth were able to translate their arts-based workshop experiences to academic credits.
And not least, the fellowship illuminates the value and relevancy of public humanities in our lives today. “There is a need for those of us in the academy to take a more proactive role to make the case that what we do is important for the larger world,” Davey said. “The more folks that can do this, the better, both for the world and [because] it will generate more understanding and support for the great work that we as people in the humanities have to offer.”