Humanities Scholars Program


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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).

Undergraduate 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 and spring on rotating themes. HSP students should complete this course ideally in the fall of their junior year. 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, the Humanities Scholars Program will regularly host: 

  • Brown bag lunch workshops featuring faculty, alums, and professionals
  • 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 funding competitions 

4. Recommended Plan of Study (Timeline)

  • Junior Year in HSP
    • Students should enroll in SHUM 2750 (fall or spring) and SHUM 3750 (spring) or their equivalents.
    • Near the end of junior year, students should articulate a research question that can be developed into a senior capstone project.
    • Identify a faculty member to advise the project by the end of junior year. We recommend choosing a faculty member (that you've taken a class with) from a humanities department. If the advisor will be on sabbatical, a plan for substitution should be discussed.
  • Senior Year in HSP
    • ​​​​​​​Students should enroll in SHUM 4750 (fall and spring).
    • Spend the fall semester fleshing out and researching the capstone project. We recommend checking in with your advisor bi-weekly in the fall to receive feedback.
    • Set up an Independent Study for spring semester with your advisor to work on the project (recommended, but not required).
    • Spring semester should focus on writing/completing the project and preparing to present it at the Humanities Scholars Research Conference in May.  

Student Research & 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

Learn more at our Winter Open House, 2/15/21 at the A.D. White House.

Eligible students are Cornell sophomores 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).

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.

Click here to apply: applications due March 1, 2022. 

Questions? Contact Julie McLean, HSP Coordinator,

Call for Postdoctoral Associates

The Humanities Scholars Program invites applications on an annual basis from Cornell PhD candidates for one-year postdoctoral fellowship positions beginning each August. The positions offer annual salaries of $58,000 each. Two postdoctoral associates will be appointed. 

The next application deadline will be February 1, 2022. Click here to learn more about HSP postdoctoral fellowships and for the application link.


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