blog-post blog-post

Uncommon Sense

By Karin Wulf · September 14, 2020

Change, COVID-Accelerated.

News/Announcements 5 min read

By Karin Wulf

For the last years the OI team—staff, Board, and Council, with feedback from the community—has been thinking about how to serve ever wider public and scholarly communities.  We have expanded short-term and longer-term fellowship offerings through partnerships.  We have expanded opportunities for students and early career scholars in particular to share their research.  And we have rethought some of our foundational fellowships and events.  This year the fruits of this redesign will come fully online, in both senses of the word.

The first major change is to the OI-NEH postdoctoral fellowship.  For decades we have welcomed fellows to Williamsburg for two intensive years in which they worked on a dissertation project that would be published by the OI and our press partners at UNC.  It has been an extraordinary fellowship, and it helped produce extraordinary scholarship.  Changes of all kinds, including in the academic job market, but also reconsiderations of how we might help support scholars early in their careers led us to apply to the NEH for funding a different kind of postdoctoral fellowship experience.  We are grateful to the NEH for supporting the OI with what will be a much more flexible fellowship.

The OI-NEH fellowship will still be residential.  But it may be for 6, 9, or 12 months of residence.  The fellowship committee will be able to award up to 18 total months of support.  The other change is that the fellowship no longer requires publication with the OI’s book program, though depending on the length of the fellowships all fellows will get careful attention to manuscript development, including with a roundtable with OI editorial staff and external readers if suited to their situation. 

Another change is COVID-accelerated.  We have taken all of our events online for this year, through our new events portal:  We have organized the site to reflect the different needs and structure of events.  Our colloquia series, for example, is designed to give scholars feedback on their work in progress.  We have thus limited registration and weighted it toward our local campus community.  Our lectures will have a much larger registration capacity and will be hosted on a different platform.  Co-sponsored events will be accessed through our events site even if we are not the host organization.  Most events will be recorded and archived, including our summer series on Slavery and Freedom in the Era of Revolutions, which you can already find (with closed captioning added). 

In short, for all OI events, check out the new events site.

A key attribute of the postdoctoral fellowship redesign was a wide consultation, and the same is true for the new events site. We hope and expect for continued feedback.  By the end of the year we intend to share our initial thoughts on how well we are able to serve our community with the new COVID-induced opportunities.   

Another consideration, though, is not just how well we can do in the COVID context, but what we want to carry forward into the years beyond.  We are hopeful these new platforms and programs may prove equally important and useful in a healthier world.   Your feedback will be more important than ever, and we will be very grateful to know your thoughts, now and as we go through this very different year.

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