By: Nick Santangelo

Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) believes it’s important for PhD students to gain practical experiences to help launch their careers while using the liberal arts to address everyday issues.

To that end, CLA is proud to reveal that two of our PhD students were awarded Mellon/ACLS fellowships in 2019! History PhD alumna Jess Bird was appointed Communications Project Manager at the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) and political science PhD alumna Caroline Tynan was appointed Research Manager at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Jess Bird

A Philadelphia area native, Bird was living in Montana when she decided to pursue her PhD. She wanted to return to the Northeast and was drawn to Temple after learning about her advisor, History Professor Bryant Simon, specializing in American history. As a student, she took advantage of some of the many opportunities available to CLA PhDs, such as traveling to American studies seminars in Kyoto, Japan and Heidelberg, Germany. She also gained some teaching experience working as a TA, which she believes helped her land the Mellon/ACLS fellowship.

Realizing that it was smart to broaden her career options beyond just the possibility of becoming a tenure-track professor, Bird applied to the fellowship after a fellow CLA student told her about it.

“I knew that this was something that I was interested in,” she says, “and that it would be a good way to demonstrate to an organization that sense that the skills I learned in a PhD program are actually really useful in a ‘real-world job,’ while at the same time building my resume.”

After going through two interviews with the Center for Court Innovation, Bird was excited when she got the good news that she’d been awarded the fellowship, which began this month. As Communications Project Manager, she’s now visiting different project sites around New York.

“CCI has two main “arms”, one that is focused on the court system and one that is focused on community-based projects,” explains Bird. “I'll think about some of the projects that I'm particularly interested in helping tell their stories via communications and promoting their work writ large. Then, I’ll develop a manual for the individual site projects to use to do their own mini communications.”

Caroline Tynan

While attending college at nearby Bryn Mawr, Tynan knew she wanted to pursue her political science PhD, and she knew she wanted to do so at Temple’s big-city campus in Philadelphia. Like Bird, she was also drawn here in part because of a particular professor. In this case, it was Political Science Associate Professor Sean Yom, who has a focus on Middle East politics and authoritarian regimes, which Tynan wanted to study.

Also like Bird, Tynan quickly realized there were many other viable options for PhDs other than teaching. She was able to get plenty of teaching experience as a CLA student, which helped her to realize she wanted to branch out of academia to allow her research to have a more direct impact on the world. She further solidified this while working on her dissertation on state repression in Saudi Arabia and in her time as a fellow at Temple’s Digital Scholarship Center. The fellowship gave her the chance to collaborate with fellow grad students on research on political propaganda.

Upon hearing about the Mellon/ACLS Fellowship, Tynan found even greater motivation to finish her dissertation to apply what she learned to the role of Research Manager at the Committee to Protect Journalists, which she’s begun this week.

“I'll be working to help streamline their research from their different regional teams to illustrate and better understand global trends in threats to the press coordinating their research there when it comes to threats,” she explains. “This includes the use of ‘fake news laws’ and ‘counter-terrorism laws’  to imprison, intimidate and harm journalists, trends that have become increasingly prominent in states that have historically been democratic like the U.S. and India as well as in closed autocracies like Saudi Arabia and China.”

Tynan initially thought the fellowship was too good to be true because it was exactly what she was looking for right as she reached the end of her PhD. But now that she has, she’s got a few words of wisdom for PhD students pursuing fellowships of their own.

“Make sure it's something that sounds like it’s lined up with either your academic interests or your general world views and your passion, any type of passion,” she says. ”If it's lined up with either or both of those, you should definitely go for it. It never hurts to try.”

CLA congratulates Jessica Bird and Caroline Tynan on their fellowships!

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