CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities has been awarded a $2,050,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create research groups in three emerging areas in the humanities.
The grant will support research by University of Illinois faculty members and students in the areas of bio-humanities, environmental humanities and legal humanities. The three research areas reflect strengths at Illinois, said Dianne Harris, the director of IPRH and a professor of landscape architecture, of architecture, of art history and of history. Harris noted past IPRH initiatives have included a year of focusing on the body and medical humanities issues, as well as a lecture series on climate change and the humanities.
"We were able to include in the grant application a long list of faculty members with scholarly expertise in all three of these areas to show we could create strong research groups," she said. "We have a history over the past decade of seeing groups in the humanities doing really amazing cross-disciplinary work in those realms of inquiry."
Harris said the three research areas also align with priorities outlined in the campus strategic plan - health and wellness, energy and the environment, and social and cultural understanding.
"These are areas to which the humanities have an enormous amount to contribute," Harris said.
For example, humanities scholars can help show how past and present beliefs shape the ways we understand and see the world and its resources, just as they influence the ways we know our bodies or the laws that regulate our daily lives, Harris said. Humanities scholars are ideally positioned for research and teaching that help us examine concepts of justice, equality and sustainability.
The grant will be used for fellowships and internships for U. of I. faculty and students and to support postdoctoral fellowships. The research will be both interdisciplinary and cross-generational, Harris said, with each research group including a faculty member, graduate students, post-doctoral students and undergraduate interns.
The research groups will provide the opportunity for undergraduate students to receive guidance in conducting and presenting their own primary source research. The initiative will include the creation of certificate programs for undergraduate students, who can take a concentration of coursework in an area not within their majors and that they may use to demonstrate specialization in that area to future employers.
"This grant is tremendously exciting for our campus and it will be a game changer for our faculty members and students," said Barbara J. Wilson, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Our broad-based excellence in the humanities made this award possible, and I am grateful to IPRH and to Dianne Harris for such creative work on the proposal."
The initiative will be launched in the 2016-17 academic year. Each research group will run for two years, with the bio-humanities research group first, followed by environmental humanities and then legal humanities. The faculty members and students will be chosen in a competitive process.
IPRH promotes interdisciplinary study in the humanities, arts and social sciences. It provides fellowships and hosts conferences, lectures, research clusters, public humanities initiatives and reading groups. It also serves as the administrative hub for the Mellon-funded Humanities Without Walls consortium of 15 Midwestern research universities.