Elizabeth Brownlow

BGSU doctoral graduate inspired to create public good, selected for prestigious humanities fellowship

Dr. Elizabeth Brownlow ‘20 will join nonprofit PowerSwitch Action as a 2022 ACLS Leading Edge Fellow

By Laren Kowalczyk '07

Dr. Elizabeth Brownlow ‘20 arrived at Bowling Green State University intent on following the traditional path of a doctoral student: earn a doctorate degree and work as a professor at a college or university.

Slowly, as she immersed herself in the American Culture Studies program and became attuned to the University’s mantra of creating public good, Brownlow decided to take her career in a different direction.

“The fact that BGSU has staked a claim for itself as a public university for the public good has really influenced how I approach my work,” Brownlow said. “The faculty in American Culture Studies and the School of Cultural and Critical Studies were instrumental in helping me identify what I wanted to do and what I truly cared about.”

Her graduate assistantship at the University’s Institute for the Study of Culture and Society (ICS) and mentorship by Dr. Jolie Sheffer, the institute’s director and professor of English and American Culture Studies, were also pivotal in fostering her passion for nonprofit work.

“My work in ICS really helped me figure out how to talk about these complicated things in ways people outside of this little world we’ve built in academia can understand and respond to,” Brownlow said. “It really ignited my passion for translating complex concepts to larger audiences.”

Brownlow’s entrance into the nonprofit sector begins this month when she joins PowerSwitch Action as a 2022 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Leading Edge Fellow. The ACLS Leading Edge Fellowships place recent doctoral graduates in the humanities and related social sciences with nonprofit organizations committed to promoting social justice in their communities.

Brownlow, a first-generation college student, is among the fourth cohort of ACLS Leading Edge Fellows in a class with graduates from Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, New York University and the University of California, Los Angeles, among other prestigious institutions.

Brownlow is believed to be the first BGSU alumna to receive this fellowship, according to Sheffer.

“This is a perfect next step for Elizabeth,” Sheffer said. “She brings tremendous knowledge, curiosity and interest in the particular issues she’ll be working to support.”

PowerSwitch Action is a nonprofit organization working to build multiracial feminist democracies in cities, towns and regions across the United States. According to the ACLS website, PowerSwitch aims to bring billions of dollars in local public investments under the oversight of the communities most impacted, expand decision-making and power to more residents and support the building and growth of member-based organizations. 

Brownlow will act as a bridge between the communications and research teams during the two-year fellowship. Her role will involve identifying the type of research needed to advance campaigns and policy work and translating the research for wider audiences through infographics, videos, editorials and social media campaigns.

“I was very drawn to PowerSwitch Action,” Brownlow said. “When I saw their work, the research and communications strategist role seemed like a perfect fit for my particular intersection of interests. Getting to problem-solve on the fly, communicating with the broader public and translating big ideas is the kind of work I’m very passionate about.”

Along with that, Brownlow will be provided with opportunities for professional development, which she expects to be a tremendously valuable part of the experience.

“They’re not just throwing you into the field and saying, ‘You’re going to naturally be good at this,’” she said. “Instead, they acknowledge that you’ve been trained in certain areas but also recognize your skill set would have value in other areas. They want to help you develop that so you can contribute to the public good and social justice initiatives.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 09/15/2022 09:04AM