In the January 2011 issue of The Independent Scholar I shared a glimpse of my transition from tenure track professor to independent scholar (Vol. 24, Issue 1). In “An Independent Scholar: An Independent Voice” I focused briefly on my “calling” to practice sociology in “a more focused, public, and action-oriented capacity.”
While it had always been my desire to be a sociological interpreter of pressing social problems, it wasn’t until six years into my life as an assistant professor that I realized I might be more efficacious in my endeavors if I moved out of the Academy and into the realm of public scholarship. Though this choice may be off the beaten academic path, after working closely with health advocates and community-based organizations in my academic research I developed a ready network of collaborators. What’s more, I received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that helped me to finish a research project that would prove crucial in building a platform from which to spring.
The NEH Fellowship would support the completion of my research into the culture and industry of breast cancer in the United States, a project I began during my graduate studies and upon which I continued to build in my academic research agenda. The twelve-month Fellowship provided funding to release me from my faculty duties and complete a book manuscript on the topic. After I finished the manuscript, negotiated a book contract, and completed the Fellowship, I was ready to take the leap from faculty member to independent scholar. I left the Academy in 2010, and the book — Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health — was published by Oxford University Press, copyright 2011.
The NEH Fellowship was a key factor in my becoming a full-time independent researcher, social science writer, and health advocate. Now grantors such as NEH will be even more crucial as I continue my research from this new vantage point. If you’re an independent researcher with a PhD, I urge you to review the NEH guidelines (www.neh.gov/grants) for important details and consider applying in the next award cycle.
A fuller version of this article with the title, “Life-Changing Opportunities for Faculty and Independent Scholars: A Spotlight on the National Endowment for the Humanities,” was published in the February issue of The Independent Scholar, a publication of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars.