The Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship is a two-year research program that is housed in and administered by the Center for the Humanities. Between five and seven Arts and Sciences sophomores are selected each spring to pursue independent research projects of their choosing in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. Fellows receive guidance through faculty mentorship and participation in a weekly research seminar throughout their junior and senior years. In addition, Fellows conduct independent research each summer and work together to publish an annual newsletter, invite speakers to campus, and participate in campus-wide undergraduate research events. Each Fellow is eligible to receive up to $2000 in research funding over the course of the two-year fellowship, contingent on the writing of separate funding proposals and mentor and program approval. The program culminates with the publication of the senior Fellows’ final papers in the Kling research journal, Slideshow.
A three-credit, writing-intensive Kling Fellowship seminar (L56 CFH 400W) meets once a week throughout the academic year and is required for all junior and senior Kling Fellows on campus (second-semester juniors may elect to study abroad). Jean Allman, the center’s director, and Wendy Love Anderson, the assistant director of academic programs, co-teach this class and direct discussion of the Fellows' research goals, papers, and argument structure. (Shefali Chandra, associate professor of history and the humanities center’s associate director, is directing the Kling Fellowship during fall 2019 and spring 2020.) Fellows engage the work of their peers through presentations and peer review, discuss the status of the humanities in public life, and the potential advantages and drawbacks of graduate study, and engage with the center’s faculty and graduate-student fellows in discussions about research methods and careers in the humanities.
To provide subject expertise and discipline-specific advice on the wide range of topics pursued by Kling Fellows, each Fellow works closely with a WU faculty mentor (typically but not always in the Fellow’s major department) throughout the two-year program to plan and carry out a mutually agreeable research project. A few Fellows with highly interdisciplinary programs wind up with two faculty mentors; a few Fellows whose projects shift significantly will also wind up changing mentors as a result. In all cases, however, the Kling Fellowship seeks to actively engage its Fellows and their mentors in a successful research partnership. During the academic year and the summer, mentors and Fellows communicate regularly to discuss research progress, challenges, and ideas. Mentor approval is also required for Kling Fellows to apply for research funding. In this way, Fellows learn from their faculty mentors, get advice, evaluate their own progress, and experience what working with a mentor in graduate school is like.
Fellows must submit monthly updates on their research progress to their mentors and program faculty during each of their two summers in the program. Many Fellows use their summers for intensive language study, fieldwork, or archival research, often with full or partial support from Kling funding. Fellows are also encouraged to apply for funds from their major departments/programs and from the Office of Undergraduate Research.
During their two years, Kling Fellows engage with the Washington University and St. Louis community in a variety of ways. Every semester, Fellows go on an outing to public humanities sites around the city, such as the Missouri History Museum and the Moolah Theater & Lounge. In the spring, the Fellowship has occasionally hosted a speaker or speakers for a public event. Finally, the culmination of the Kling Fellowship Program is the publication of each Fellow’s work in the journal Slideshow. Just before the seniors are sent off, a dinner is held in their honor, attended by Fellowship coordinators, mentors and three generations of Kling Fellows.
Here’s what your time as a Kling Fellow might look like:
- Spring Semester, Sophomore Year – Beginning after Spring Break, the newly admitted Kling sophomores will attend a weekly orientation seminar, sometimes meeting together with junior and senior Kling Fellows and sometimes meeting separately. Sophomores should also finalize their choice of faculty mentor and begin meeting regularly with him or her. The major responsibility of this semester is for each student to identify and articulate summer research goals.
- Summer after Sophomore Year – Rising junior Kling Fellows will conduct independent research, sending monthly updates to both their faculty mentor and the Kling program leaders. Language study and intensive immersion in existing scholarship are typical goals for the first summer of the Kling program.
- Fall Semester, Junior Year – Become a full-fledged Kling Fellow! Junior Kling Fellows will attend weekly seminar meetings, learn about humanities research and careers, and expand on their summer research. They will workshop other Fellows' research papers and refine their own proposals, including a literature review. They will learn how to present their research in everything from one-minute elevator speeches to ten- or fifteen-minute formal talks.
- Spring Semester, Junior Year – Some juniors will study abroad this semester, submitting periodic updates on their Kling research progress. The remaining juniors will continue with the seminar, writing a research paper. They will organize and host the Kling speaker(s), if one is planned, or perhaps participate in a different type of public humanities project. They will also help welcome incoming sophomores and bid farewell to outgoing seniors.
- Summer after Junior Year – Rising senior Kling Fellows will often conduct the bulk of their original research in this summer, whether that research involves ethnographic interviews, textual analysis, archival immersion, or another form of research. They will send monthly updates and otherwise remain in contact with their faculty mentor and Kling program leaders.
- Fall Semester, Senior Year – Senior Kling Fellows will continue to attend weekly seminar meetings, giving and receiving peer feedback on written work and presentations, and ending the semester with a complete (but not final) draft of an article for Slideshow. Seniors are also encouraged to draw on their Kling research for honors work in their major department or program, and most Kling seniors do so. (By this point in the Kling Fellowship program, most seniors have “too much” research to fit in a single article anyway!)
- Spring Semester, Senior Year – Kling seniors must submit their Slideshow articles before Spring Break and respond to a variety of edits and revision suggestions during March and early April. One senior will serve as Slideshow’s student editor, writing an editor’s note and making decisions about journal layout and presentation together with the Kling program leaders. At the end of the semester, all Kling seniors will formally present their research, often in conjunction with the spring Undergraduate Research Symposium. (In some years we have enjoyed presenting together with seniors from either the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship or the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities.) A group of faculty evaluators awards a prize to the best Kling presentation. This prize is awarded as part of the Kling Senior Dinner, where three years of Kling Fellows and their mentors come together to celebrate the Fellowship.