Gaining Perspective: The Mellon Fellowships at Rackham

Christina LaRose at the Arab American National Museum

Originally written for Rackham’s blog by Sheila Waterhouse, Development Generalist

Graduate students find different ways to make ends meet during the summer. With dissertations and job searches on their minds, summer can be fraught with the need for funding, experience, and time to conduct research and continue writing. Tough choices often lead to choosing the practical need to pay the rent over furthering graduate work. Not for the Mellon Fellows, however.

Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation, select doctoral students in the humanities had an opportunity this summer to increase their capacities as scholars while exploring expanded career opportunities. They worked in organizations like museums and archives, computing and the humanities, university development, and non-profit foundations in part-time paid positions designed specifically for graduate level projects that immerse students in a world of work to foster career options relevant to them.

The Charles S. Wright Museum of African American History hosted Marie Stango, who said, “I wish I had done this sooner. I wasn’t sure how to translate my academic work into writing that would be useful and exciting for broader audiences, but this experience gave me that opportunity. Now that I’m close to finishing my Ph.D., I’m glad I had this chance to practice applying my research and writing skills in spaces outside of the academy.”

While many Ph.D. students seek to pursue a tenure track faculty position, some find that role isn’t necessarily right for them. Fellowships like these offer the opportunity to explore viable career options, identify transferable skills, and think broadly in terms of their career potential.

Bonnie Applebeet worked with the Rackham Development and Alumni Relations team, taking time to explore career options outside academia that might intrigue her. Bonnie, who is passionate about teaching, learned a lot about herself over the course of the summer. She comments, “I’ve done a lot of reflecting and looking back over the course of my career in the context of this position. I found it is just as fulfilling working in the service of higher education even if I am not doing the educating.” Bonnie’s profile of five distinguished alumni can be found in Rackham’s Blog.

Christina LaRose had similar sentiments after her experience at the Arab American National Museum. She said, “This was very rewarding because I was able to put my research skills to use in a way that will be constructive for the community. Working at the museum on a small, collaborative team was very comfortable for me and I was able to be productive and contribute something that would be useful to them. It made me think about a role as a researcher for an arts and culture non-profit or a university administrative position. This job enabled me to see myself as some type of researcher.”

The Rackham Graduate School continually seeks opportunities like the Mellon Fellowships to offer students the chance to grow professionally, learn more about themselves, receive the best funding possible, and find new challenges.