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Mellon Courses

In 2015, the Mellon Foundation provided generous support to expand and reimagine doctoral training in the humanities. It recognized the rapidly changing horizon of employment, the opportunities and need for humanities scholars to translate their advanced knowledge and skills into all areas of public life, and the importance of a graduate curriculum responsive to this landscape.

Created with funding from that grant, these Mellon Public Humanities courses are designed and taught by U-M faculty members with the intention of providing students with the skills and experiences necessary to be publicly active scholars and professionals. The courses also aim to promote curricular reform across humanities disciplines, with an eye toward preparing students for diverse career opportunities inside and outside the academy.


Fall 2018: Slavic 590
Reimagining Public Engagement
Taught by Benjamin Paloff


How can scholarship and other intellectual activities more effectively contribute to, enlist, and shape public discourses? This one-week seminar for graduate students in the Humanities examines the non-scholarly applications of academic knowledge, both theoretically and practically. We will begin by assessing the very notion of the academy as a separate sphere for contemplation. We will then consider:

  • the predominant forms of academic contribution to public discourse and how they answer fundamental questions about the public role of scholarship, and
  • the potential uses of activities unevenly or ambiguously valued within Academe, such as blogging, creative writing, consulting, and popular journalism.

Most importantly, participants will direct their own engagement toward conceptualizing and planning just such a text, whether individually or as part of a group, whether a work of journalism, creative project, website, or prototype of a design concept.

Please Note

This seminar meets in daily three-hour sessions for one week. Short reading assignments are available from the website specified or from Canvas and should be completed before the session in which they will be discussed. Meeting days and times are subject to change in response to student needs. If you are interested in the course please write to Professor Paloff.

Winter 2019: Asian 506: Seminar in Asian Studies – Writing
Scholarly Writing in Theory and Practice
Taught by Christi Merrill


This is a course designed to help you generate writing for a broad range of career paths, and to develop a keener sense of the stakes of your own rhetorical moves in the scholarly traditions you work from and in, so that you might appeal to multiple constituents (including beyond academia.) The course will combine a seminar-style investigation of the versatile forms scholarly writing takes across languages, disciplines, and time periods, with workshop-style experimentation drafting, editing, and giving feedback on your own writing. We will read a range of academic, quasi-academic, and public-facing work translated from a number of non-English languages—including Arabic, Chinese, German, French, Hindi, Japanese, and Marathi—to ask how each specific writing style conveys a unique theoretical intervention, and how their theoretical insights dictate form. Those who can read the source text directly will be encouraged to. There will be weekly in-class writing exercises related to the assigned readings, except on days (three times in the semester) when revised versions of the student-generated writings will be discussed in workshop. At the end of the semester students are required to present on one stylist of interest and to revise one of the short exercises discussed in workshop. This course is intended to create more versatility for those who work across languages, and is appropriate for candidates writing dissertations, in addition to pre-candidates still doing regular coursework. For more information visit

Winter 2019: English 630

Decentering the Public Humanities: Public Scholarship, Cultural Projects, Dream States

Taught by Julie Ellison


Our approach will be at once intersectional, multidisciplinary, and applied. The course will be a success if it is intellectually generative for early-career professionals exploring careers in any sector. Prior experience is valued but not required. All career aspirations are welcomed. We will put pressure on the term “public humanities” as students stress-test frameworks and models for socially responsive knowledge projects that culturally engage “wicked problems.” We will track the diverse genealogies of what we now construe as public humanities practices to specific earlier moments and sites. Many people with experience of projects that operate under a public humanities umbrella stress the plural, heterogeneous, hybrid, and even prodigal qualities of their experience.

Consequently this course introduces students to practices and skills common to cultural work in educational, nonprofit, and public-sector settings at different scales. The course also looks at challenges to business as usual in higher education, including legitimation debates in specific fields, as broached by sociologist Patricia Hill Collins in “Going Public.” We will maintain a particular focus on publicly active graduate education, connecting periodically with two or three peer clusters around the country. For more information visit

Contact the Program in Public Scholarship

1530 Rackham Building
915 E. Washington St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1070


The Program in Public Scholarship is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The office is closed Saturdays and Sundays and on the following holidays: Thanksgiving (Thursday and the following Friday), Christmas through New Year's, Memorial Day, Independence Day (July 4), and Labor Day.