Mellon | 23 April 2021

CFA: Public Humanities GSI Positions – Imagination



DeadlineApplications due May 20th, 2021

Call: We are seeking applications from qualified PhD students to serve as Graduate Student Instructors for The Humanities Institute’s (THI) “Questions That Matter” course series. Over the past few years, THI has hosted a series of cross-disciplinary, Humanities grounded conversations around an annual theme. The course series expands the impact of these public events into the undergraduate classroom as part of the Andrew W. Mellon funded Expanding Humanities Impact and Publics project. In 2021-2022, THI’s theme will be Imagination and the course will engage with at least some of the following questions/issues:

— How have ways of thinking about imagination as something that can be technologically augmented—but also as something foundational to human nature—changed over time? How have they shaped our present society? More specifically, how have they shaped the development of the sciences? Who and what gets excluded by this framing? What are some historical and contemporary challenges to the idea that we can (or would want to) alter imagination? 

— How are these ideas connected to utopian and dystopian thinking, especially as connected to possible futures?

We can expand our imagination sometimes by reading novels, watching movies, talking to strangers, maybe even by learning a new language. Some say they can use their imagination more creatively with the help of chemical stimulants. If imagining is something we can get better at, what kind of a capacity is it?

Imagining has sometimes been contrasted with believing. It seems like we can imagine at will but we cannot believe at will. Yet, at other times, our imagination feels limited. If we lack the first-hand experience, no matter how much we want to we will experience difficulties in imagining what it means to see red, hear the ocean, taste durian fruit, be an immigrant, be a child bride, and so on. 

— What other capacities is imagination tied to? Does perception, cognition, desiring require imagining? Does imagination always involve images or do we imagine in propositions? When we imagine “red”, do we visualize red apples or red shoes in our minds or just the word “red”? Are non-human animals capable of imagining? Is imagination culturally specific? Does our culture shape our imagination? Or by imagining differently, boldly, can we also transform our culture? 

This is an opportunity for graduate students to teach their own course and gain skills in course development. Selected graduate students will work together, with support from faculty mentors, to collaboratively develop a new undergraduate syllabus exploring the theme Imagination from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Students will teach this new course in Spring 2022 in one of 3 UCSC residential colleges and receive support from peer mentors.

Award: Selected applicants will be paid a GSI salary for Spring 2022 with in-state tuition, fees and health insurance and receive a $5,000 summer fellowship.

Course Details:

  • Spring quarter 2022
  • 5 credit course
  • 30 student maximum
  • Subject will be Imagination
  • Will be offered in 3 Colleges with shared, collaboratively-designed syllabus

Participant Requirements: All participating Graduate Student Instructors must commit to a full year of participation in the Questions That Matter program. Participation includes:

  1. FALL 2021: Regular meetings with GSI cohort to design the syllabus and 3 – 4 meetings with faculty mentors to refine the syllabus and prepare the course for university approval.
  2. WINTER 2022: 1-2 meetings with faculty or peer mentors plus additional pedagogy workshops; Required attendance at signature events related to the theme.
  3. SPRING 2022: Teach 30 person (max) seminar in 1 of 3 residential colleges; GSIs receive additional support from faculty and peer mentors, and at least one classroom visit.

Eligibility/GSI Application Requirements:

  1. PhD students must be in good academic standing and within normative time. A statement from departmental Graduate Directors must attest to these points. (Download form here)
  2. PhD students need to be engaged in humanities research and teaching in a graduate program at UC Santa Cruz (all academic departments will be considered).
  3. Applicants must be registered and in residence during the 2021-22 academic year (ineligible to apply while on leave)
  4. Advancement to candidacy strongly preferred

Application consists of:

  1. Cover letter of no more than 3 pages describing why the applicant wants to teach the course; relevant qualifications and general teaching philosophy. Also describe a particular approach to the subject, Imagination.
  2. THI Fellowship Application: Graduate Director Form signed by your department Graduate Director confirming that you are within normative time and in good academic standing (Download Form here)
  3. Unofficial transcript
  4. One-page CV
  5. Applicants must provide all teaching evaluations as a TA and GSI
  6. Letter of recommendation from PhD advisor (emailed separately to
  7. Note that the application form will ask you the following questions. Please be prepared to answer: (1) Are you currently employed as a Teaching Fellow and how many quarters have you served in a GSI/TA Title?; (2) What year will you be in your program in AY 2021-2022? (3) Are you advanced to candidacy? If yes, when? If no, when do you plan to advance?


*PLEASE NOTE: You must be logged into your Google account to use this application form.

Questions? Please contact Saskia Nauenberg Dunkell, Research Program Manager, THI at