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Johns Hopkins UniversityArts and Sciences Magazine

A Transformative Opportunity
for Humanities PhDs

In the face of a dismal academic job market comes welcome news for newly minted PhDs in the humanities. Last year, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) launched the New Faculty Fellows Program, awarding 50 two-year fellowships to the nation’s most promising humanities scholars.

Four of the coveted fellowships went to recent doctoral graduates of the School of Arts and Sciences, while two other fellowships will make it possible for new PhDs to launch their academic careers at Hopkins. Johns Hopkins had the second highest number of graduates placed. (The University of California, Berkeley, placed five.) Nominees were limited to recent graduates of the 60 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). The fellows were selected based on a review process managed by the ACLS, with reviewers recruited from AAU member universities.

Gregory F. Ball, vice dean for science and research infrastructure in Arts and Sciences, served as the university’s liaison for the program. He says the fellowship program came at a crucial time.

“We’re in danger of losing a generation of top-notch scholars because the usual mechanism by which they would transfer from graduate programs to university positions has become dysfunctional,” says Ball, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “The job market had just dried up for some, and a program like this can give someone the opportunity to teach and do research at a place they love. Their whole outlook is transformed.”

Mary Ashburn Miller, who defended her doctoral thesis in history at Johns Hopkins, was able to remain at Reed College, where she has been a visiting assistant professor of history since earning her PhD. Alison Calhoun, who earned both her bachelor’s and doctorate in French at Johns Hopkins, headed to the Department of French and Italian at Indiana University, Bloomington. Molly Warnock, who earned a joint PhD in intellectual history and art history through both the Humanities Center and the History of Art Department, was appointed to the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. Jacquelyn Williamson, who defended her doctoral thesis in Egyptology through the Department of Near Eastern Studies, joined the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

The New Faculty Fellows Program, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, allows the fellows to teach three semester-length courses each year in exchange for a $50,000 stipend, $5,000 annual research and travel allowance, health insurance, and a one-time $1,500 moving allowance. A senior scholar at the host school has been selected to mentor each fellow.

At Hopkins, Arts and Sciences welcomes Christopher Lakey, who earned his doctorate at Berkeley and has joined the History of Art faculty here. The Department of English has appointed Ashley Marshall, who earned her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

Stephen Campbell, Henry M. and Elizabeth P. Wiesenfeld Professor and chairman of the History of Art Department, says Lakey, trained as a medievalist, brings an expertise in the application of optical theory to the making of works of art.

“Chris will examine philosophical and medical ideas of how the eye works, and how, for example, medieval masons took into account the position of the observer in the place where the work of art was installed,” Campbell says. “He will draw on the history of science and optics in pursuing his work.” Lakey’s courses include Sculpture and Ideology in the Middle Ages and the History of Medieval Art.

Campbell says his department had its pick of some outstanding applicants. “This is a great program,” he says. “There has been an erosion of postdoctoral support over the past couple of years, and this program allows departments like ours to complement areas where we have interest and expertise.”

English Department chairman Douglas Mao describes Marshall as a gifted and exceptionally prolific student of 18th-century literature. “Ashley describes her ambitious project as nothing less than a rewriting of the history of satire in that period,” he says. Marshall’s courses include the Literature of Crisis, Restoration to French Revolution; and Narrative and Dramatic Writing by Women.


graphic Newly minted PhDs Christopher Lakey (left) and Ashley Marshall have launched their academic careers here at Hopkins, thanks to the New Faculty Fellows Program.
Photo: Will kirk/