Three NYU Professors Awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

Three NYU faculty members received the prestigious fellowship to help fund their projects over the next year.

Last week the Guggenheim Foundation announced the Guggenheim Fellows for 2020. From left to right, NYU Professors Melissa Schwartzberg, Jenny McPhee, and Kim Phillips-Fein received fellowship awards. (Staff Illustration by Chelsea Li)

Three NYU faculty members were announced as Guggenheim fellows on Thursday, April 9. The fellowships are awarded to advanced professionals who have already demonstrated their ability in the arts, humanities or sciences.

The John Simon Guggenhein Memorial Fellowship offers grants to 175 of the most promising project proposals from almost 3,000 applicants, according to the foundation’s website. The chosen applicants are awarded grants of varying amounts over a period of six to 12 months.  Fellows are chosen to receive the prestigious award based on their history of achievement and future promise and apply by submitting a retrospective on past work and a plan for a future project to be worked on during the fellowship period.

Three NYU professors have been awarded the fellowships this year: Silver Professor of Politics Melissa Schwartzberg, Academic Director of the Center for Applied Liberal Arts at the School of Professional Studies Jenny McPhee and Gallatin Professor of 20th Century American History Kimberly Phillips-Fein, who commented on the steps toward the fellowship.

“In academia you get used to planning future projects, but it was interesting to look back on my career and trying to construct a narrative out of it during the application process,” Phillips-Fein said.

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Schwartzberg will be researching how since antiquity, ordinary citizens have informed rulers and governments by voting and serving as jurors. McPhee’s project will be a new translation of Italian novelist Elsa Morante’s first novel, “Menzogna e sortilegio”. And Phillips-Fein’s upcoming work addresses the long-standing efforts of those with power and wealth in American politics to defend historically high levels of social and economic inequality. 

“Your proposal builds on what you’ve done before and also takes it in a new direction,” Phillips-Fein said of her project.

Along with receiving the fellowship and grant, Phillips-Fein was able to strengthen a friendship with fellow applicant Schwartzberg as they navigated the process together. The pair met each other years ago because they live in the same apartment building, Schwartzberg said.

“Kim is my neighbor in Washington Square Village,” Schwartzberg said. “She and I had ongoing conversations about applying and strategizing for the Guggenheim Fellowship.”

Despite the Guggenheim fellowship only awarding a limited number of grants, the two professors were able to work together in a way that’s not always common in crowded academic fields.

“Academia is often a very competitive space,” Phillips-Fein said. “But one of the things I really value about Melissa is that she has a vision about academic life that’s collaborative, not just competitive, and a sense that people can be mutual support for each other.” 

For both professors, the fellowship is a milestone achievement. Schwartzberg commented on what it means to her to win it in the same year as Phillips-Fein.

“It’s tremendously cheering, you know, receiving this honor,” Schwartzberg said. “In a way, it’s sort of a testament to what it’s like being part of the NYU community. That we both got the fellowship feels in a way like a testament to the value of that community, solidarity in tough times. It’s always nice to have this recognition, and the material support is nice, but it was even nicer doing it with a friend.”

Email Nick Mead at [email protected]

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