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Mellon Foundation Grant to fund improved humanities teaching, research

Jeff Unger, News Bureau (217) 333-1085


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will receive $1.25 million over four years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an initiative to transform teaching and research in four departments in the humanities.

The support will focus primarily on work in the anthropology, comparative literature, English and history departments. The funds will be used to support Mellon Faculty Fellows, Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellows, and Mellon Humanities conferences at Illinois.

"The humanities at Illinois are vibrant and perfectly positioned to assert themselves nationally at a moment when the renewal and rearticulation of the sensibilities of the humanities are vital," said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. "We believe a key to the development of the humanities at Illinois and nationally is in extending interdisciplinary involvement of this new generation of humanistic scholars in ways that will facilitate this process while also positioning them to reintegrate their broadened perspectives within their respective disciplines."

The faculty fellows program as conceived would result in the naming of 10 faculty fellows each year during the second, third and fourth year of the initiative. Fellows selected will be released from teaching responsibilities half-time for a year or full-time for a semester depending upon the projects they’re pursuing. Some of the teaching responsibilities will be covered by post-doctoral fellows in the program and some by adjunct faculty. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will provide funds to cover costs associated with appointing six additional faculty fellows in the humanities.

"The Mellon Faculty Fellows Program will provide an opportunity for an extraordinary cohort of faculty members in four departments in the humanities to conduct research and develop new courses in a stimulating interdisciplinary environment," Cantor said.

The initiative also will provide funds for eight junior post-doctoral fellows selected from applicants nationally. The fellows, scholars early in their careers, will be mentored by senior humanist scholars, conduct their own research and scholarship, and teach one course during the first year, and two courses during the second year. The initiative will also support bringing senior fellows to campus for periods of several days up to a year.

Finally, the initiative will fund an expanded set of state-of-the-art conferences to enhance the humanities. As planned, the campus would add six conferences over the four years of the initiative to bring together the most important scholars nationally on a series of topics given focus within important groups of faculty fellows and post-doctoral fellows. Each conference would have a Senior Fellow, a scholar of singular importance to current developments associated with the topic or area.