Humanities Scholars Program

Program Overview

Students viewing art on a Japanese screen

The Humanities Scholars Program fosters independent, interdisciplinary undergraduate research in the humanities, and provides a supportive community, through a series of curated courses, structured mentorship, special programming, and research opportunities and funding. 

Faculty director Durba Ghosh leads the cohort of sixty juniors and seniors in 2021-22. She is joined by the Humanities Scholars Program Faculty Advisory Board: Laura Brown, John Wendell Anderson Professor of English; Paul Fleming, Taylor Family Director of the Society for the Humanities; Lori Khatchadourian, Associate Professor, Near Eastern Studies; Karen Pinkus, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, interim chair of Romance Studies, editor of Diacritics; and Verity Platt, chair of Classics and chair of the provost’s Radical Collaborations Initiative for Critical Inquiry into Values, Imagination and Culture (CIVIC).

Program Structure

Accepted students must declare a major, or a minor, in the humanities; take a minimum of five approved courses as described below; produce an honors thesis or capstone project (which could be in their major outside the humanities); and present at the annual Humanities Scholars Conference. Students who fulfill program requirements will receive a certificate to recognize them as a College of Arts & Sciences Humanities Scholar.

  1. HSP Core Courses: SHUM 2750SHUM 3750, and SHUM 4750 (or their equivalents) are required for completion of the Humanities Scholars Program. 
  • SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities is offered each fall on a rotating theme. HSP students should complete this course ideally in the fall of their junior or senior years. Students may also complete this gateway seminar during their freshmen or sophomore years in preparation for applying to HSP. 
  • SHUM 3750 Humanities Research Methods is offered each spring and should be taken before the semester students complete their capstone projects (ideally junior year).
  • SHUM 4750 Senior Capstone Seminar provides a structured setting for independent work, peer feedback, and faculty mentorship on the student's capstone project or honors thesis. 
  • Note: Some Humanities Scholars may substitute one or more of the above courses with departmental equivalents with permission from the director.

2. HSP Elective Courses: Choose two electives from our approved list. These courses help students discover research material unique to Cornell, work with research librarians and collection specialists, and cultivate research and oral presentation skills.

  • Electives may be taken at any time before or during participation in the Humanities Scholars Program.
  • HSP courses can count toward both the Program and the students’ major(s). Students may also petition the Program to count additional courses in their home departments.

3. Capstone Project and Conference Presentation: Humanities Scholars must complete a capstone project or departmental honors thesis and present their projects at the annual Humanities Scholars Conference in May.

Along the way, Humanities Scholars Program will regularly host: 

  • Brown bag lunch workshops featuring faculty presenting their work in progress
  • Coffee and study hours
  • Peer-to-peer feedback structures
  • Additional faculty and post-doctoral mentoring of research projects
  • Workshops for career development inside and outside humanities
  • Summer research and internship competitions – media, non-profits, journalism, presses, etc.

    Student Research and Internship Funding

    The Humanities Scholars Program offers competitive funding for undergraduate research projects, as well as summer stipends to support HSP participants who wish to complete unpaid or minimally paid summer internships in the humanities. HSP's research grant applications are available year-round and summer experience grant applications are typically due mid-April. Summer experience grants are only open to the rising seniors in the HSP cohort. 

    How to Apply

    Eligible students are Cornell undergraduates who declare a major or minor in the humanities. Students do not need to be in Arts & Sciences; we welcome students with humanities minors from all colleges. Students should be in their sophomore year at the time of application (or have two years of study left to complete the program).

    The Humanities Scholars Program will begin accepting applications for the 2022-23 cohort in fall 2021. To apply, students will need to submit the following:

    1. An electronic transcript or eTranscript (PDF).  These can take one business day to process, so plan ahead.
    2. A short essay (700 words maximum) in response to one of the following prompts:
      • Choose a historical moment or artwork (novel, film, poem, play, painting, installation, comic, etc.) and explain why it stuck with you and/or why it is important for you.
      • Pick a big problem (climate change, artificial intelligence, migration, democracy and media, etc.) and explain why you think it requires humanistic research and responses.

    Questions? Contact Julie McLean, Humanities Scholars Program Coordinator,

    Call for Postdoctoral Fellows

    The Humanities Scholars Program invites applications on an annual basis from Cornell PhD candidates for one-year postdoctoral fellowship positions beginning each August. The fellowship offers a stipend of $58,000. Two postdoctoral fellows will be appointed. The next application deadline will be February 1, 2022.

    The Postdoctoral Fellows will be selected based on their research’s promise for cultivating interdisciplinary exchange, nurturing collaboration across academic disciplines, and building upon existing disciplinary contributions to the humanities, broadly conceived.  We seek candidates who are eager to develop their skills in undergraduate pedagogy, focusing in particular on guiding and mentoring undergraduates through the process of developing and researching humanistic questions. The Postdoctoral Fellows will teach one course per year.  They will organize and support a regular schedule of events such as peer-to-peer workshopping of work-in-progress, workshops in oral presentation skills, careers in humanities, and other professional training, and regular coffee hours, lunches, and informal gatherings with faculty and graduate students.

    Applicants eligible for the Humanities Scholars Program Postdoctoral Fellowships for the 2022-23 academic year include scholars holding PhDs from Cornell and Cornell PhD candidates who complete(d) the PhD degree between January 1, 2020 and July 31, 2022. Applicants who do not have the PhD in hand at the time of application must include a letter from the committee chair stating that all degree requirements for the PhD will be completed by July 31, 2022. Candidates with a doctorate or equivalent in any field are eligible, and they may propose research projects in any discipline. International applicants are welcome to apply, contingent upon visa eligibility.


    Durba Ghosh

    Faculty Director, Humanities Scholars Program, Professor of History

    Maddie Reynolds and Kaja Tally-Schumacher, Humanities Scholars Program Postdoctoral Associates,

    Emily Parsons

    Program Manager, Humanities Scholars Program and Society for the Humanities

    Julie McLean

    Program Coordinator, Humanities Scholars Program