GRADUCon 2021 - Careers in Public Humanities


Careers in the public humanities are wide-ranging but share a common mission: to foster and support public engagement with artistic, cultural, historical, and literary ideas, issues, and debates. The public humanities encompasses a broad array of career paths, including curatorial and audience engagement work at museums and cultural institutions, public programming and event planning at humanities-based organizations, and work with non-profits and foundations dedicated to the humanities. In this panel, four alumni of the University of Chicago will discuss their varied experiences and career paths in the public humanities, as well as how their work connects with the types of expertise they developed in their graduate education. From coordinating the programming for a large humanities festival to compiling oral histories of the pandemic’s effect on the American art world, these panelists will discuss the work that they do and its impact on the broader public.


Benjamin Gillespie, Arlene and Robert Kogod Secretarial Scholar, Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (PhD, Humanities Center, The Johns Hopkins University, 2019; MA, Humanities, University of Chicago, 2011)

Ben Gillespie (MAPH ’11) is the Arlene and Robert Kogod Secretarial Scholar for Oral History at the Archives of American Art, where he manages the oral history program as part of the curatorial team. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University and most recently served as the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Scholar in Library-Museum Collaboration at the University of Oregon. Previously, he worked at the Denver Art Museum in the modern and contemporary curatorial department and the Herbert Bayer Archive. His research centers the recuperation, preservation, and amplification of neglected artistic voices.

Jagravi Dave, Program Coordinator, Chicago Humanities Festival (MA, Humanities, University of Chicago, 2019)

Jagravi Dave joined the Chicago Humanities Festival as the University of Chicago’s MAPH Fellow in 2019 and transitioned into the Program Coordinator role in early 2020. She graduated from Cornell University in 2017 with majors in English and Linguistics and a minor in Asian American Studies, and went on to earn an MA in the Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2019. Prior to CHF, Jagravi worked in poetry editing, publishing, and educational technology.

Sarah Jones Weicksel, Director of Research and Publications, American Historical Association (PhD, History, University of Chicago, 2017; MA, American Material Culture, University of Delaware, 2008)

Sarah Jones Weicksel, a historian and material culture scholar, is the Director of Research and Publications at the American Historical Association, where she oversees the AHA’s research initiatives and publications program. She is also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where she recently co-curated with Amanda Moniz, “Who Pays for Education?” Her research and museum work focuses on United States history, material culture, race, gender, and the politics of everyday life. The author of several peer-reviewed articles, she is currently at work on a book about the American Civil War era. In 2018-2019 she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wolf Humanities Center. Dr. Weicksel earned a PhD in History from the University of Chicago, an MA in American Material Culture from the Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware, and a BA in History from Yale University.

Monica Felix, Chief Administrative Officer, American Comparative Literature Association (PhD, Comparative Literature, University of Chicago, 2017)

Monica Felix received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago in 2017. She is the Chief Administrative Officer for the American Comparative Literature Association, the principal learned society in the United States for scholars whose work involves several literatures and cultures as well as the premises of cross-cultural literary study itself. Her previous position was as the Museum Director of the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. She is also the Founder of, a start up developed in the midst of the economic downturn of 2020 designed as a tailored employment service for humanities graduates.


Julie Marie Lemon, Program Director and Curator of the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative at UChicago Arts (Master of Liberal Arts, University of Chicago)

Julie Marie Lemon is the Program Director & Curator of the University-wide Arts, Science + Culture Initiative, developing the strategic and intellectual direction of programming in collaboration with of the Arts, Science + Culture Faculty Advisory Committee. The Initiative serves faculty, students, and beyond. She has 15 years of experience in visual arts interpretation and education and has worked at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; as Art Director at the International School, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. She has a Master of Liberal Arts from the University of Chicago.