Fellowship Program Assists Professors at a Crucial Point in their Careers

November 06, 2012
Academic men and women work at a large meeting table.

As any Assistant Professor will tell you, the early years of an academic career are hectic. Newly appointed faculty must balance teaching and departmental responsibilities with their research, which often includes the writing and publication of their first major monograph. The Townsend Fellowships for Assistant Professors program, one of the oldest at the Townsend Center for the Humanities, has helped generations of young academics at this crucial point in their careers. 

The fellowship provides two important benefits for its participants. First, by providing a leave from teaching, it allows them to focus on their research and writing. Second, the fellowship involves attending the weekly Townsend Fellows meetings, where fellows share their work with scholars at all levels of expertise in a variety of fields. Since the program began, the Townsend Center has awarded over 80 Assistant Professor Fellowships to UC Berkeley faculty.

For Professor James Davies (Music), the time away from teaching was invaluable as he worked on his forthcoming book, Romantic Anatomies of Performance. The fellowship allowed him, in his words, “to do some ‘big picture’ thinking.”  Professor Davies also notes how the discussions with other fellows were helpful: “The point was to test the relevance of this work to thinkers in disciplines outside of my own. Helping me to reformulate my thoughts in ways that would make them accessible to a wider readership, the Townsend group assisted in framing an overall argument. I found the mix of opinion, from both senior and junior colleagues, hugely stimulating.”

Professor Leigh Raiford (African American Studies) also emphasizes the value of the fellowship in allowing for research and writing: “My year at the Townsend Center gave me time and space to work on my book manuscript, since published as Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle […] my presentation helped me clarify some of the basic assumptions and choices of the project.” And the collaborations Professor Raiford started in the fellowship group continued on well past her fellowship year. She notes “I became friends with two other scholars working in the general field of visual culture, colleagues I might not have met otherwise (given the size of this campus). I have since collaborated with both of them on a number of occasions.”

In its 25th year, the Townsend Center is pleased to continue offering support to young professors through the Townsend Fellowships for Assistant Professors program. Applications for 2013-2014 are due next Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm. Visit the application page for more information.