“What’s a Guggenheim?” (aka the promised good news post)

So this post echoes my insane fall of applications post.  First of all: probably nobody should ever apply for 11 things like I did.  But it was a hell of a good year professionally. 

Tl;dr:  we will be in two places next year. Carrie will be based at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.  I will be based at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard.  To my great surprise, I also won a Guggenheim fellowship, which I’m deferring to 2026, but as you read this post (if it’s Monday) I’m on a very quick trip to New York City for a celebratory reception at the Foundation on Tuesday (back home Weds AM, so sorry NYC friends–I’ll see you next time!).

I’ll start with where we screwed up so you can avoid our mistakes if you want to.  As mentioned in the fall post, we missed most of the deadlines for Europe, which are about two years out from the fellowship date.  So we will be spending sabbatical in the US during a presidential election year.  That choice is almost certainly ill advised. 

Second, our plan was to apply all over and do what was “best for the family.”  That turned out to be an option we hadn’t considered when we were applying. In the end, I had no offers on the west coast and Carrie had none on the east coast.  And we did not feel like we could ask the other person to turn down the very good offers we both had.  And Harvard has great US healthcare while Stanford has no healthcare plan for fellows.* So we decided to live apart for 8 months.  Carrie gets the cats because a) I will spend January, June, July, and my fall and spring breaks in California and b) we found a place that takes cats there.  She’ll come visit me in between my longer visits to her.  I think if the most important goal is to be together then the plan has to be more geographically targeted, or perhaps only one partner applies, or we suck it up and one of us turns something down. In the end, Carrie suggested we take both, and I came around to the idea.

We don’t love the idea of being apart for several months. But we have commuted before and can do it again.  It’s temporary. We have friends in both places to look after us. And we’ve gotten great advice from couples who’ve commuted. We will try and see what works for us.  

On the flip side, we both DO love the opportunities we have. For me, the Radcliffe setup is great, and I’ll have some nice resources there.  Cambridge is ideal for me intellectually next year.  I have tons of colleagues in the area who can help me think about both projects I’ll be working on, and I’ll be an easy visit for Mara Mills, with whom I’m working on a project.  And for the AI and sound book you’d think Silicon Valley might be better.  But it’s not and I’ll still get to go there if I need to. Carrie’s Stanford is great but it’s my blog and so I’ll let her speak for herself if she wants.

“What about the Guggenheim?” you ask. Right. When I was an undergrad I remember one of my profs talking about one of my other profs “being on a Guggenheim” with great reverence. I didn’t really know what that was. It’s a fellowship. It seems to mostly be a career achievement fellowship, though you do apply with a project. Before this year, I’d had a lot of success as a letter-writer in support of others’ applications, but no success of my own. I’m not sure what got me over the hump this year–could be aging, other credentials now on my CV, a topical proposal, or a book contract (I normally never bother with advance book contracts). Like all these things, they are named for long-dead philanthropists. Most come with more prestige than money.** In this case, the Guggenheims were a Jewish family that arrived in New York in the 1850s and made their fortune in mining. Their names are now all over museums and other philanthropy. I don’t think mining in the 19th century was any nicer than it is now, so like all of these things, “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”

At Harvard, I am the “William and Flora Hewlett Fellow.” That’s the Hewlett in Hewlett-Packard.

*yes we keep Quebec healthcare but they pay at Quebec rates which don’t go far in the US.  

**exceptions: MacArthur and Killam.