Maria Faini
Maria Faini, UC Berkeley Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies and Critical Theory.
Jason Rozumalski
Jason Rozumalski, UC Berkeley Ph.D. in History.

Two Berkeley graduate alumni — Maria Faini, a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies and Critical Theory, and Jason Rozumalski, a Ph.D. from the Department of History — were recently announced as winners of the prestigious Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Public Fellowship.

The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program, now in its eighth year, is a competitive fellowship for recent humanities Ph.D.s. Fellowship winners receive two-year staff appointments at government and nonprofit organizations, with a stipend of $67,500 per year, as well as professional development funds and mentoring opportunities. 24 organizations are hosting Public Fellows this year.

This month, Jason and Maria begin their two-year positions. Jason will be working as the Global Programs Manager at the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) in Madison, WI. Maria will be the Narrative Impact Analyst at Race Forward in Oakland, CA.

Taking the humanities public — and getting paid for it!

“Throughout my time as a graduate student, I strongly considered the many ways that work in the humanities expands beyond university projects and teaching alone,” said Maria. “The Mellon/ACLS Fellowship was one of my first applications.”

Jason was also interested in working at nonprofit or other public service organization after graduate school. What appealed to him about the fellowship? “Meaningful work, more public engagement, a generous salary, health care, a professional support system of mentors and fellows, and funding for professional development and academic association,” he said.

Beyond these welcome benefits, Jason and Maria also have strong affinities for the missions of the organizations where they will be working. Maria said, “My sense and hope is that there will be significant overlap between my experiences working at Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender and the Mellon/ACLS position.”

Jason also views his position at CHCI as a continuation of his experience at Berkeley: “One of the joys of teaching history is the diversity of thought and ways of seeing that students and specialists bring to the infinity of human experience,” Jason said. “My work at CHCI will be to engage in exactly that sort of dynamism and to find opportunities for collaboration, shared interest, and participation on a global scale.”

Academic expertise and administrative experience: a winning combination

Both Maria and Jason had recently completed their Ph.D.s when they applied to the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program. Through postgraduate employment on campus, they gained a winning combination of academic and administrative experience.

After graduating, Jason held a position as the Executive Director of Berkeley’s Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study, and also lectured in the history department. Maria was a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender, where she worked on the Third World Liberation Front 50th Anniversary commemoration alongside her book project.

“The interviews for the program emphasized collaboration, organizational habits and capabilities, management experiences, and communication skills, all of which I think the majority of humanities Ph.D.s have to a far greater degree than is recognized even — or actually especially — within the University,” said Jason.

New opportunities for travel, collaboration, and service

While noting that the transition to office life will require some adjustment, Jason is looking forward to his new role: “I was told that in the first year, I will be working on projects that would take me to Ethiopia, Ireland, Senegal, and Chile,” he said.

He is also looking forward to more opportunities to work collaboratively: “My experience as a graduate student has perhaps too much emphasized the myth of the lone academic, and so I am very much looking forward to work that consciously acknowledges how we help one another out in accomplishing goals.”

Maria is looking forward to diving into her work as well. “Race Forward will be a thrilling place to work. It is a long-standing and rapidly growing center for racial and social justice,” she said. “I feel immensely fortunate to have this opportunity.”

Advice for graduate students: “Treasure your talents”

Maria advises graduate students, “Follow your political and creative passions, even if they lead you toward less-predictable paths. Graduate school might expand your understanding of meaningful work.”

Jason has a powerful message for graduate students, lecturers, and adjuncts, who he says often feel undervalued in the university ecosystem: “I have known so many talented, passionate, and capable people who are increasingly made to feel inadequate,” he said. “My ‘advice’ is to treasure your talents and to remember that there is a whole world that needs your skill, your passion, and your compassion too.”

Congratulations to Maria and Jason!

Read more about applying to the ACLS/Mellon Public Fellows competition.