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Connected Academics

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As part of the Connected Academics initiative, the partner institutions and MLA meet annually to engage with innovative leaders who want to address tough questions about doctoral education in the humanitites and suggest sustainable models for change and advancement in professional development. Learn more about CASI2017, hosted by ASU in Phoenix, September 2017.


Arizona State University is one of three partner institutions, including Georgetown University and the University of California Humanities Research Institute, in the United States to have been awarded a grant from the Modern Language Association and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers.

ASU’s plan for the project is an ambitious set of innovations to traditional graduate training in languages and literature. ASU will augment curricula, expand para-curricular programming (including internship opportunities), and sharpen the process of mentoring.

The overall goal is to accelerate and enrich the experience of earning a doctoral degree in languages and literature. Connected Academics is not meant to impose impossible deadlines, nor to skimp on depth and quality of training, but rather to reimagine the range of possible skills that can be meaningfully incorporated into humanities graduate training and then to facilitate a broader array of outcomes suggested by that training.

Professional Fridays

Professional Fridays is a series of monthly workshops and talks in which we introduce participants to PhDs in 'alternative' careers, knowledge mobilization, and tools to build a symphonic professional and academic persona, and more.

Past Workshops:

  • "Spring Wellness Workshop"
  • "Theory-to-Practice: Pitching Your Research" with Michael Manning
  • "Developing Digital Identities" with Dr. Devoney Looser and Shannon Lujan
  • "Life with a Humanities Degree and Professional Options beyond the Academy" with Creative Instigator Tania Katan
  • "An Evening of Career Diversification" with Ruby Macksoud and Dr. Kalissa Hendrickson
  • "Practical and Rhetrocial Strategies for Pitching Research Ideas in the Humanities" with Dr. Peter Goggin
  • "The Elevator Pitch" with Richelle Weihe
  • "Alternative Career Pathways for Humanists" with Dr. Mary O'Reilly and Dr. Jacqueline Hettel
  • "Intentional Academic and Professional Development" with Dr. Alejandro Lugo and Dr. Michael Simeone
  • "Voice Matters: An Introduction to the Production of Audio Text" with Dr. Ames Hawkins


Connected Academics Internship Program helps doctoral students consider expanding their career options. By taking part in an internship, students have the chance to develop transferrable skills in different career areas, and learn and understand how to optimize, and increase their horizons inside and outside of academia.

Third year and beyond doctoral students are encouraged to take part in an internship to reimagine their career opportunities and at the same time enjoy the enrichment of mentorship. Connected Academics works with students to find a position that best fits their needs, but also encourages students to create their own internships.

Some examples of internships include working with nonprofits, government agencies, community colleges, university administrators, grant research teams, the San Diego Padres, and humanities labs.

To learn more about some current internship opportunities, please click here

PDF iconConnected Academics Internship Program Guide


We propose to provide a high quality of mentoring for students, which begins with admission to the English, Spanish, and Chinese PhD programs when students are matched with advisors. From acceptance through enrollment, advisors are encouraged to structure correspondence with incoming students. When students arrive, the assigned advisor will help the student with course selection. Both advisor an advisee will sign a mentor agreement.

Other components of mentoring:

  • faculty champions
  • early communication with faculty advisors
  • individual development plan 
  • digital portfolios

Mentor Champions

Our Champions program recognizes and compensates a small number of faculty mentors who serve as ‘go to’ faculty for graduate students who need advice about research, careers, or the structure of academic life. Students will know they can approach these faculty members for advice that either lies outside of their advisor’s area of expertise or that requires a special sensitivity. Standing outside of both the advisor/advisee relationship and the official governance of departments and their doctoral programs, these Champions will be forceful advocates for students and their futures and will provide mentoring and safe haven for students in need.

Champions are individuals known for the quality of their mentoring and their understanding of the big picture when it comes to the role of the humanities in its social and cultural applications. They are nominated for the role by their chairs and deans.


  • students create five-year graduation plans
  • three new graduate certificates
    • digital humanities
    • teaching in higher education (pending)
    • social sciences methodologies

Time-to-Degree Digital Portfolio

Connected Academics Graduate Fellow

Connected Academics Research Fellows

2018-2019 Connected Academics Research Fellows: María Ocando Finol and Sean Moxley-Kelly

2018-18 Connected Academics FellowMaría Ocando Finol is a Spanish PhD Candidate at Arizona State University, where she is also an MLA/Mellon Connected Academics Research Fellow for the 2018-2019 year. Her research focuses on the development of intercultural competence through digital mediators, specifically film annotation. In order to advance her interdisciplinary training during her doctoral studies, María obtained a   certificate in computer-assisted language learning (CALL), and is currently completing her literary translation capstone project, which focuses on the digital rhetoric of subtitling. Before becoming a Connected Academics fellow, she was a research assistant for the Humanities Lab at ASU, where she contributed to developing intergenerational, interdisciplinary curricula that respond to social challenges in health through humanities methods. María has contributed to her academic and professional communities by organizing conferences such as the 7th Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian linguistics conference, and the 2018 iteration of AZCALL, by performing as the social media strategist for AZCALL, and leading the CALL Club at ASU. For her work, Maria has received recognition within ASU such as the Judith J. Radke Translation Award (2018), GPSA's Teaching Excellence Award (2016-2017), and the Chasqui Award (2017).


2018-19 Connected Academics FellowSean Moxley-Kelly is a PhD Candidate in Writing, Rhetorics and Linguistics at Arizona State University, and a MLA/Mellon Connected Academics Research Fellow for the 2018-2019 year. Sean has an interdisciplinary background in cultural studies and professional/technical writing, with further experience in writing centers, writing program administration, and prison education. His research examines how under-represented or silenced groups make a case for themselves as participants in collective enterprises through the transformative acts of writing and speaking. Specifically, his in-progress dissertation focuses on oral histories told by pioneering women engineers, including how skillfully told “work stories” define the field of engineering and the participants’ own professional identities. Sean is also passionate about teaching composition, and in 2017 developed an engineering-focused composition curriculum for ASU Fulton Schools of Engineering students. For his work, Sean has received awards including the Department of English Summer Research Grant (2018), Exemplary ePortfolio Award (2018), and first prize at the 2017 Connected Academics Pitch Competition.


Past Connected Academics Research Fellows 



2017-2018 Connected Academics Research Fellow: Tyler Feezell

Tyler is 3rd-year PhD student in the Chinese PhD program of the School of International Languages and Cultures at Arizona State. A year-long intensive language program in Taiwan after his undergrad compelled Tyler to return there, where he spent another five years studying Mandarin and teaching English. In 2015, he completed an MA in the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at National Chengchi University with a thesis that focused on Daoist ritual manuscripts. He currently serves as the MLA/Mellon Connected Academics Research Fellow at ASU, but has recently taught Chinese language courses and Daoism as a graduate associate. Tyler is completing course requirements and is in the initial stages of planning his dissertation research that will explore aspects of Daoist ritual and popular literature. Tyler also serves as a translator and English editor for two journals published in Taiwan and is translating a book manuscript related to Daoist manuscript culture.




 2016-2017 Connected Academics Research Fellow: José Gómez

José is a PhD student in Spanish letters and cultures at ASU. In a form of a dissertation project, José is researching spatial in/justices in Chicano/a drama. His particular interests are topics of space and place, contact zones, intersectionality, and cultural negotiation through spatial practices within Spanish letters and cultures. José holds a BA in Chicana/o Studies (minor in Spanish) and an MA in Spanish language and literature from California State University, Northridge. In addition to a solid academic and research experience, José complements the Connected Academics team with a unique critical perspective and well-rounded professionalism.

José will work as part of a team that includes partners in the Graduate College, the Department of English and the School of International Letters and Cultures, at times taking leadership over a range of activities related to the MLA/Mellon Connected Academics grant. Above all, he will be assisting fellow graduate students to find meaningful and appropriate internships across a range of academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and businesses outside of the academy.




2015-2016 Connected Academics Research Fellow: Shannon Lujan

Shannon is a PhD Candidate in English at ASU. She studies contemporary multi-ethnic American literature and is particularly interested in the connection between walking, storytelling, place, and memory. Her research focuses largely on acts of walking as social, political, and personal agents of change and identity markers. She holds a BS in English Literature (minor in History) and an MA with an emphasis in migration from Eastern New Mexico University; Shannon also brings an unusually high level of professional and research experience to the position.

"Preparing for a Future in the Humanities as an English PhD"

“What I Learned as Arizona State University’s 2015-16 Connected Academics Fellow”