NU Chicago Humanities Initiative

Explore the role of the humanities in public life.


The NU Chicago Humanities Initiative (CHI) enables graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to explore public-facing scholarship and careers beyond the tenure-track. Through an 8-week internship with an arts, culture or community organization and a weekly seminar, participants will explore the role of the humanities in public life through hands-on, real world practice and interdisciplinary classroom discussion.

CHI is offered through a partnership between the Center for Civic Engagement, Chicago Field Studies, and The Graduate School, with support from Kaplan Humanities Institute and Northwestern Career Advancement.


The experiential component of CHI is an 8-week internship at a local organization. Through their internships, participants might dive into world-class archives, design public programming, write for public audiences, or develop skills in project management or audience research.

CHI participants work one-on-one with CCE staff to secure a placement that matches their interests. CHI students have been placed at organizations including Chicago Cultural Alliance, Chicago History Museum, Newberry Library, Shorefront Legacy Center and the Center for Health Equity Transformation. CHI participants work 16-24 hours per week on a project they develop with their host organizations.


The academic, credit-bearing component of CHI is CFS 495: Civic Engagement and Graduate Education. Shared readings, along with guest speakers and site visits, foster discussion across disciplines and between scholars and practitioners. Course topics include arts & public culture in Chicago, models and methods of public humanities scholarship, and case studies from non-profit organizations.

Additional Programming

Additional programming—including neighborhood explorations, career counseling workshops, and special panels—will be available to, and sometimes required of, CHI participants. These opportunities are designed to help students explore Chicago, identify their goals with respect to career development, and widen their local networks.


Graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences are eligible to apply. While PhD students are given priority, Masters students will be considered if space permits.

International students can participate in CHI, but need to apply for CPT authorization. This process usually takes about a week, but arrangements should be made as soon as you are placed. For further information, contact your advisor in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

Application Information

Apply here to participate in the Summer 2020 NU Chicago Humanities Initiative. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible in order to maximize time for securing placements. Late applicants will be considered if space allows.

Information for Host Organizations

If you are interested in hosting a CHI student this summer, please consult our information sheet for host organizations. We welcome feedback from new & continuing partners on how we can strengthen the program and further develop mutually-beneficial relationships.

Contact Information

Contact Ruth Martin Curry, Program Director, by email or at (847) 467-2890.