U.Va. Scholars Earn Record Number of ACLS Fellowships

May 31, 2012 — What do scholars from across the University of Virginia's departments of Anthropology, Art, Philosophy, and English  in the College of Arts & Sciences, plus a professor from the School of Law, all have in common?

They are all winners of 2012 American Council of Learned Societies fellowships.

This year, a record seven members of the U.Va. academic community received fellowships through the ACLS, a private, nonprofit federation of 71 national scholarly organizations.

ACLS both provides and hosts a variety of fellowships and grants. ACLS spokesperson Stephanie Feldman said that fellows are nominated, evaluated and selected by their peers across the country in a self-governing system within each discipline. In 2012, the council will award more than $15 million to more than 320 scholars of the humanities and related social sciences worldwide.

In the ACLS New Faculty Fellows program, universities work together to nominate their own recent Ph.D. graduates to fill faculty positions for up to two years, based on offers from other participating schools. Feldman noted that U.Va. has participated in the New Faculty Fellows program since the inaugural 2009-10 competition.

Carolyn Heitman, who earned her Ph.D. in August, was nominated by the U.Va. Anthropology department for the New Faculty Fellows program and will be joining the faculty at Northwestern University.

She said she looks forward to taking on a position that not only places her in a stimulating intellectual environment, but is also in a community where the cost of living is not beyond the means of her husband and daughter in a tough employment landscape.

"When you're on the job market, you're not only up against all the other shiny newly minted Ph.D.s from fantastic schools, but you're competing against all the people who have received their Ph.D.s in recent years," Heitman said. "That's why a program like this is a lifeline to so many people who are very qualified, capable, smart Ph.D.s, but who just can't stack up to people who have been at it that much longer than you."

Risa Goluboff, a law professor, will use funding from the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars to work on her book. Her manuscript examines the role of vagrancy laws in keeping marginal people in place and the importance of these laws' undoing as part of the 1960s social revolution in the United States.

"I'm really looking forward to having concentrated time in which I can really delve into the primary sources and really write," Goluboff said. She hopes to have finished a draft of the book by the end of the one-year fellowship.

Associate English professor Anna Brickhouse will use her ACLS fellowship to finish her next book, "The Unsettlement of America: The Story of Don Luis de Velasco,"about Native American responses to an early Spanish encounter and other problems with conquest of the New World. The fellowship provides salary replacement to help scholars devote six to 12 continuous months to full-time research and writing. The ultimate goal of the project should be a major piece of scholarly work by the recipient. Brickhouse already has a contract with Oxford University Press. (Note: Brickhouse's research will be featured in afuture article.)

Charles Rathkopf, a doctoral candidate in philosophy, will couple the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion 12-month fellowship with a three-month fellowship at the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science in Holland to go deeper in his research into epidemiology.

"The big question is an old question: What is the difference between merely giving a description of something and giving an explanation?" Rathkopf posed. "Science is in the business of doing both; philosophy is in the business of trying to tell the difference between the two."

The McIntire Department of Art produced two winners of the Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art – doctoral candidates Jill Baskin and Chris Oliver.

"It's super exciting that two of us got it," Baskin said. "Two coming from U.Va. is really great for our department."

"It's one of the few fellowships that is dedicated solely to the study of American art and provides a full year of funding to dissertation students," Oliver said.

Baskin will use the fellowship, which includes a travel stipend, to research how the American expatriate community in Liberia used art and architecture to participate in antebellum U.S. debates about slavery. During the next nine to 12 months, she will examine archives in Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Indiana and England, but she most greatly anticipates her trip to Liberia.

"Nobody's been back to do any research on this since the civil wars," she said. "It's going to be really an adventure to find out what's still there."

Oliver will plant in Boston for the duration of his fellowship to deepen his study of art and popular amusement in American urban centers in the dozen or so years prior to the Civil War. His dissertation specifically concentrates on the appeal of moving panoramas on canvasses 10 to 20 feet high and 500 to 1,000 feet long, which were scrolled in front of audiences.

In addition to U.Va. students, alumni and faculty going to other schools, Princeton University Ph.D. Poitr Kosicki will join U.Va.'s Corcoran Department of History [link: ] this fall for a two-year fellowship during which he hopes to teach courses in French and European history. He has also been appointed associate director of U.Va.'s Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies and has already begun to help plan events for the fall.

Kosicki said he sees this position as a nice way to integrate himself into U.Va. community and have direct input in shaping how U.Va. sees European history.

"It really is a chance to do a lot more for U.Va. as opposed to just teaching a couple of classes and sitting there writing my book," Kosicki said.

The full list of winners of fellows and grantees for 2012 is available online at the ACLS website.

— by Kate Colwell