The Stanford fellowship where free lunch is far more than a perk


Complimentary lunches are far more than a perk for those who are named to a Stanford Humanities Center (SHC) fellowship.

“A chance to eat together and have conversations” bridges the gap between older and younger scholars, said Kelda Jamison, director of SHC’s fellowship program. It also allows graduate students to “see older people as colleagues and mentors,” rather than a more hierarchical professor-student relationship, she said.

This year, on June 1, the Stanford Humanities Center (SHC) announced the appointment of 37 fellows for the 2022-2023 academic year.

SHC offers numerous scholarships with specific programs for faculty, graduate students and undergraduates. In addition to having their dissertations advised by other fellows and affiliated faculty, award winners receive a stipend that has historically ranged from $1,500 for undergraduates to over $35,000 for some graduate students, based primarily on career level and research needs. 20 of this year’s grantees are affiliated with Stanford, ranging from graduate students to tenured faculty members.

While many Stanford scholarships include similar benefits, the SHC program is distinguished by its community, the music Ph.D. in the fifth year. Student and prospective SHC Dissertation Prize recipient Gabriel Ellis told The Daily. The fellowship and free lunches cemented the community as Ellis’ number one choice.

Many scholars describe humanities research as an isolating endeavor. According to Ellis, “I enjoy doing research, but most of the time it’s a very lonely activity.” It “can feel kind of exhausting” to talk to others and teach your favorite parts of the process.

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Paul G. Nauert, a Ph.D. in history in the seventh year. A student and recipient of the 2022-2023 Career Launch Fellowship, Ellis agreed. The solitary nature of his historical research, such as taking notes while sifting through boxes of historical documents, is why Nauert most looks forward to the intellectual community at SHC.

Nauert also stressed the importance of a strong community in creating a strong science. “No scientific work is ever an entirely individual undertaking,” said Nauert. “It always reflects community, social support, friends and family, and feedback, guidance, and mentoring from other scholars.”

Jamison said fostering an intellectual community is the primary purpose of the SHC grants.

The center encourages grantees to live on campus and attend weekly seminars where grantees present their work for feedback and discussion, Jamison said. If there is space, they can get an office in the center.

SHC seeks intellectual diversity among scholars with many different specialties to inspire meaningful conversations and creative approaches, Jamison said. She hopes that research questions relevant to all intellectual disciplines can stimulate conversations between different academic disciplines and generate breakthroughs and sparks of inspiration.

Ellis expressed his deep appreciation for the diversity of academic backgrounds.

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“When you study music, it’s easy to talk to another musicologist about research. But it’s a lot harder to do that with someone studying medieval sculpture or Indian literature,” Ellis said. “I think if you’re trying to contribute beyond your disciplinary bubble, you have to learn to do it – it’s a really exciting challenge.”

The SHC’s efforts aim to create a stimulating intellectual environment and “to give people a place to go deep into the work they want to do … to really focus on their own research projects,” Jamison said .

During his fellowship, Nauert hopes to complete and refine his dissertation. Nauert combined his background in environmental history and US foreign relations in his current research, which examines post-war US foreign policy decisions and their impact on the Great Acceleration and the current climate crisis.

The dissertation highlights the role of human agency in global environmental change and will focus on the transition from resource redistribution policies to mass reindustrialization in West Germany and Japan, Nauert said.

Nauert hopes to eventually turn his dissertation into a book accessible to an audience beyond historical specialists, including policymakers, activists, and scholars from other fields. The opportunity to connect with scientists from other fields at the SHC will allow him to gain more experience in communicating his research in a more understandable way.

Nauert also hopes to explore digital humanities methods such as sentiment analysis through the relationship between the SHC and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA).

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Like Nauert, Ellis wants to refine his dissertation, which deals with the topic of “non-feeling” in contemporary pop music using the example of Frank Ocean’s “Novacane”, including the causes, effects and aesthetics of this phenomenon.

While Ellis is grateful for the fellowship and his support, it does not resolve his concerns about the humanities prospects.

“It’s hard to think about the future right now just because things are so uncertain,” Ellis said. “The job market for professors is currently not very good.”

Ultimately, Ellis is “excited to work in a group of people who work on such different things and come from such different stages in their careers.” He also hopes to bring his research to a wider audience, and believes that talking to fellow grantees who aren’t music specialists will “definitely help” and “will be an exciting challenge.”

As for one artist a music PhD student recommends — Drain Gang, a Swedish music collective that makes what Ellis describes as “bizarre, futuristic, space-age hip-hop,” Ellis is currently obsessed.

Ellis, Nauert and the other grantees will be joined by about 10 Stanford recipients of the Undergraduate Hume Honors Fellowship, to be announced in the fall.



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