Clusters in the Humanities and Non-Quantitative Social Sciences

Humanities and Non-Quantitative Social SciencesBuilding on a wealth of interdisciplinary teaching and research across the humanities and social sciences in Northwestern’s schools of Arts and Sciences, Communications, and Music, clusters amplify and institutionalize aspects of Northwestern faculty members’ research foci by creating explicit opportunities to enhance doctoral education. The Mellon Foundation generously supports these clusters through the Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowships, a valuable acknowledgment of this innovative and thriving programming.  We encourage all students interested in areas related to the clusters to take part in this programming.

Affiliating with a Cluster

At the time of application to Northwestern, students who wish to participate in a Humanities and Non-Quantitative Social Science cluster Initiative may indicate this interest in the on-line application.  Once a cluster has been selected in Apply Yourself, the option to attach a “cluster statement” will become available; these statements provide an opportunity to describe to the cluster faculty the ways in which your research interests make you a suitable candidate for a Mellon Cluster Fellowship.  While students may choose to participate in clusters at any point throughout their graduate careers, select students will be named Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellows at the time of admission; this designation indicates the student’s strong fit for the cluster and carries additional benefits.


Students are free to take cluster courses at any point during their first few years in graduate school. These classes, specifically designed for cluster students, are intended to cross disciplinary barriers, offering new tools and methodologies. For those students who wish to affiliate with a cluster, three cluster courses are required and these may be taken in place of departmental electives (see the cluster’s website for specific curricular requirements). Most clusters also require an original piece of research or some other cluster-specific requirement, though often that requirement can be folded into other programmatic research projects.

Beyond the first two years, cluster students may choose dissertation advisors outside their departments and are encouraged to continue their cluster affiliation through regular participation in colloquia, guest lectures, mini-conferences, etc. One of the greatest benefits of cluster participation is that it expands students’ circles of intellectual peers, friends, colleagues, and mentors who can provide ideas and support as students move to the dissertation phase.  As former TGS Dean Andrew Wachtel noted when he founded this initiative, “The more people you have to support your work, the better. With this plan, students will know more people that have similar research interests to their own and the network will be that much stronger and the chances for success that much greater.”

We encourage you to review the cluster websites, below, and consider affiliating with a cluster.

Clusters in the Humanities and Non-Quantitative Social Sciences

*Also a certificate program.