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 every Summer 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. Applications are now open for Summer 2024.


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 staff design collaborative, team-based internships with community partners as well as support participants in pursuing one-on-one placements.

CHI students have worked with organizations including Axis Lab, Block Cinema, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chicago Cultural Alliance, Chicago History Museum, Guild Literary Complex, HANA Center, Honey Pot Performance, Museum of Science & Industry, Newberry Library, People for Community Recovery, Shorefront Legacy Center, and the Center for Health Equity Transformation.

For examples of past projects, see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


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 may 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. You must be funded for Summer Quarter. 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 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 now to join the Summer 2024 cohort of CHI.

Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible in order to maximize time for securing placements.

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

For more information contact Ruth Martin Curry, Program Director.