Anna Kryczka, 2016 Public Fellow

Anna Kryczka, PhD candidate in Visual Studies, talks about her experience as a Public Fellow at Orange County Parks

I am currently a public fellow working for the Orange County Parks Historical Operations Group where I am collaborating with a four-person team comprised of myself, fellow graduate student Laurie Dickmeyer, and Emily McEwen and Justin Sikora of the OC Parks. This branch of the OC Parks Department manages a group of historic parks located across the county. They develop, produce, and maintain interpretive material for these parks and plan events to support the documentation of Orange County’s history in relation to these sites. Together we are managing and planning public programming funded by an NEH Common Heritage Grant to document individual and family connections to Orange County’s changing twentieth century landscape. This project productively correlates to my ongoing commitment to the public humanities and to interdisciplinary collaboration in the service of the development of inclusive and critical histories of the American experience. I have been able to put my expertise in twentieth century California history to work in the service of the development of themes for our four history collection events. I have gained significant experience in terms of logistical planning components for these events. Laurie and I are developing a volunteer handbook to guide participants on the day of the event. Anticipating the needs of both participants and volunteers has provided me with invaluable management perspective on the enactment of public humanities projects. Developing approachable press copy to advertise these events has also been quite enlightening. It has been great to see two historians with PhDs working in a non-academic context and doing such valuable work.  Having experienced first-hand the horrendous nature of the academic job market this year, this experience has been useful in terms of gaining non-teaching work experience as I continue to apply for a variety of jobs outside the academy.

Through the Humanities Out There Public Fellows program, six humanities graduate students interned one afternoon a week with a local cultural organization. These public fellows applied and expanded their humanities research, writing and analytical capacities – skills developed in a PhD program – in a non-profit setting. The 2016 Public Fellows were funded by individual donations to the Humanities Out There Program.  The Humanities Commons recently received a grant from the Luce Foundation to expand the Public Fellows Program in 2016-2017.