Jessica Wilkerson, assistant professor of history and Southern Studies, trades Oxford, Mississippi, for Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the 2016–17 academic year as part of the Visiting Scholars Program at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The Academy’s Visiting Scholars Program provides residential fellowships for junior faculty members and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences. The fellowship program offers scholars a year for research and writing free from teaching and administrative duties, a collaborative work environment, and the opportunity to interact with Academy members.
“The Academy also organizes weekly seminars when we will meet with the other fellows, as well as editors, publishers, and senior scholars, to discuss our work,” said Wilkerson, who has taught classes on southern history, women’s history, contemporary US history, and oral history at the University of Mississippi since fall 2014. Her research interests include southern and Appalachian history, US women’s and gender history, labor and working-class history, twentieth-century social movements, and oral history. She earned her MA from Sarah Lawrence College and her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This past semester Wilkerson completed a successful graduate class on oral history techniques. The class ended with students performing short pieces from their oral histories.
The Visiting Scholars fellowship will allow her to devote all of her energy to writing her book-length manuscript, “Where Movements Meet: From the War on Poverty to Grassroots Feminism in the Appalachian South.” The work traces the alliances forged and the grassroots movements led by women in the Appalachian South in the 1960s and 1970s.
She received the news just before spring break, and said she was pleasantly surprised. “My motto is to apply for anything and everything that could support my research and writing, and that means I am used to getting rejection letters,” Wilkerson said, “But every now and then, the stars align. I feel very fortunate to have the time to pursue my writing goals, and I am grateful for the support of the Academy and the University of Mississippi.”
Housed at the headquarters of the Academy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, visiting scholars participate in Academy-sponsored conferences, seminars, and informal gatherings while advancing their scholarly research. The Academy provides office space and computer services as well as library privileges in cooperation with the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. Nearly sixty academic institutions from across the country have become University Affiliates of the Academy, supporting the Visiting Scholars Program and participating in Academy studies on higher education.
Wilkerson said she is looking forward to meeting the other seven visiting fellows in her cohort.
“I love being a part of small, focused scholarly communities and writing groups, so it’s a perfect fit for me,” she said. “And while I enjoy small town life, it will be lovely to explore a new-to-me city. Is there a more intellectually thriving place than Boston and Cambridge? Museums, bookstores, lectures, exhibits, performances galore. It will be fabulous!“
By Rebecca Lauck Cleary | June 1, 2016