Interdisciplinary scholar Dr. Ashley Cheyemi Rae McNeil has been appointed the 2019–2021 Postdoctoral Scholar for the Andrew W. Mellon–Funded Humanities for the Public Good (HPG) initiative.
McNeil earned her bi-national PhD in English from Georgia State University and in American Studies from the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany. As a manager for the Student Innovation Fellowship at Georgia State, she worked with cross-disciplinary teams of students, faculty, and community partners to imagine and implement public-facing projects that leveraged digital tools to display and disseminate stories and research. She focused her efforts on engaging the rich knowledge networks outside of academia, frequently partnering with minority groups in the Atlanta area. She notes, "My experiences and friendships with disenfranchised groups and my own non-traditional academic pathway drew me to the promising work and intention of the Humanities for the Public Good initiative. I believe that humanities graduate education should make available strategic, supported opportunities for grad students to explore the ways academic research can be geared toward, reflective of, and co-constituted with the communities it already inhabits."
McNeil's scholarly work is grounded in narrative expressions of empathetic humanisms, while her research agenda focuses on practice-based and community-engaged graduate training. Working out of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, McNeil will serve as HPG's lead project manager, collaborating closely with faculty, staff, and graduate student members of the HPG Advisory Committee and with the Obermann Center to design institutes and workshops, conduct research and interviews with stakeholders, and assess and document program activities. She will also provide project management support for the HPG program and participate in meetings with other Obermann Fellows-in-Residence to share work-in-progress.
The four-year, Andrew W. Mellon–Funded Humanities for the Public Good initiative builds on new approaches developing across the country and at the University of Iowa to create a cross-disciplinary PhD program for students seeking to translate the values, methods, and content of advanced studies in the humanities into careers that serve the public good. The program explores the benefits of campus-community partnerships, team-taught courses, and funded summer internships and externships with the goal of preparing students for diverse careers, specifically in the non-profit sector, public policy, government, libraries, cultural administration, technology, publishing, and institutional education and research.