The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $100,000 to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the UI to fund the planning of an extensive consortium of humanities institutes in the Midwest and beyond. By leveraging the strengths of multiple distinctive campuses across institutional boundaries, the initiative, titled "Humanities Without Walls," aims to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching and the production of scholarship in the humanities, forging and sustaining areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation.
The grant will make possible a series of planning meetings, led by IPRH Director and Principal Investigator Dianne Harris, that will lead to the creation of a road map for crossinstitutional collaboration among faculty members and graduate students at the 13 institutions that belong to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, plus the University of Notre Dame and UIC. "I am very grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this opportunity to lead the development of the Humanities Without Walls consortium, and for its continued support of the humanities on our campus and beyond," Harris said. "The project seeks to expand our sense of the university in ways that are in keeping with the expanding realm of humanities communication and research. In other words, the consortium is meant not simply to facilitate extramural opportunities for scholars, but also to expand the definition of the humanities."
"I am very excited about the new funding from the Mellon Foundation," said Chancellor Phyllis Wise, "which will give Dianne Harris and her colleagues the opportunity to work with this group of universities and plan for a consortium of humanities institutes in the Midwest and beyond. The current planning grant focuses on demonstrating the benefits of synergies amongst collaborations in the humanities across multiple respected universities."
Two pilot programs, funded partially by the grant and partially by matching funds from the UI, will run throughout the year in parallel to the planning meetings, serving as proofs of concept for the project. Professor Ted Underwood (department of English) will lead a pilot collaboration titled "The Uses of Scale in Literary Studies" with colleagues at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, using the HathiTrust Research Center (an extensive digital library) as a focus of their collaborative activities. Professor Charles Wright (department of English and Program in Medieval Studies) will lead, in primary collaboration with colleagues at Notre Dame, a project titled "Performing the Middle Ages," which involves faculty participants from many CIC institutions, including the University of Iowa, Indiana University, Ohio State, University of Michigan, Purdue, the University of Chicago, and the University of Minnesota.
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ruth Watkins called the project "creative and ambitious, with excellent potential to expand the visibility and impact of humanistic scholarship across the great research universities of the Midwest, and well beyond to the national and international scholarly scene."
Once the planning phase is complete, Harris plans to seek opportunities to fully fund the creation of a multiinstitutional consortium of humanities centers that would serve as a regranting program to facilitate collaborative projects not possible by other means.