Mellon's “Humanities for All Times” Awards More Than $16 Million to Liberal Arts Colleges for Social Justice-Oriented Humanities Curricular Development

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Mellon's “Humanities for All Times” Awards More Than $16 Million to Liberal Arts Colleges for Social Justice-Oriented Humanities Curricular Development

New York, NY – January 26, 2022 — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – the nation’s largest funder of the arts, culture and humanities – today announced that grants totaling more than $16.1 million have been awarded to 12 liberal arts colleges as part of its Humanities for All Times Initiative.  Humanities for All Times was created to support newly developed curricula that both instruct students in methods of humanities practice and clearly demonstrate those methods’ relevance to broader social justice pursuits. Of the 50 liberal arts colleges invited to submit proposals, 12 institutions were selected to receive a grant of up to $1.5 million to be used over a three-year period to support the envisioned curricular projects and help students to see and experience the applicability of humanities in their real-world social justice objectives. 

While humanities thought and scholarship are broadly understood to influence developments in the social world, the last decade has seen a sharp decline in undergraduate humanities study and degree recipients – now occurring concurrently with a marked rise in undergraduate interest in and awareness of social justice issues.  A recent study from Best Colleges noted that over 72 percent of undergraduates report that their awareness of social justice issues had increased over the preceding year, and 51 percent said that their involvement in social justice efforts had affected their coursework choices. The Humanities for All Times initiative aims to make clear the power of the humanities in solving societal challenges through distinctive analytical projects that ensure students are skilled in diagnosing the cultural conditions that hinder our achieving a fully just and equitable society, and identifying the steps necessary to changing them. 

“The Humanities for All Times initiative underscores that it's not only critical to show students that the humanities improve the quality of their everyday lives, but also that they are a crucial tool in efforts to bring about meaningful progressive change in the world,” said Phillip Brian Harper, Mellon Foundation Higher Learning Program Director. “We are thrilled to support this work at liberal arts colleges across the country - given their unequivocal commitment to humanities-based knowledge, and their close ties to the local communities in which such knowledge can be put to immediate productive use, we know that these schools are perfectly positioned to take on this important work.”

“Deep engagement with the humanities gives us insight into complex cultural landscapes across the centuries,” said Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Mellon’s Humanities for All Times grants will support students and faculty at these 12 liberal arts colleges as they go about the good hard work of wrestling with ideas and knowledge that help us understand societal challenges and contribute to positive change.   

A full list of the winning projects is below: 

  • Austin College (Sherman, TX): $1,344,000 for “Pathways to a Just Society,” which will generate over 30 new/re-designed courses and six community-engaged undergraduate research and internship experiences at the nexus of humanities learning, social justice, and career readiness.
  • Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY): $1,490,000 for “Rethinking Place:  Bard-on-Mahicantuck” proposes a Native American and Indigenous Studies approach to a revitalized American Studies curriculum and undertakes an expansive understanding of land acknowledgment that goes beyond addressing a single institution’s history in regards to Native peoples.
  • Colorado College (Colorado Springs, CO): $1,024,000 for “Humanities for Our Times: From Epistemologies and Methodologies to Liberatory Creative Practices and Social Justice” which supports professional development for humanities faculty engaged with Colorado College’s new General Education curriculum and ongoing work toward becoming an antiracist institution.
  • Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO): $1,500,000 for “All Our Nations Language Revitalization Hub” centering on Native concepts of animacy in language, empowering language learners and teachers, and teaching language revitalization program design.
  • Kalamazoo College (Kalamazoo, MI): $1,297,000 for “Humanities Integrated Locational Learning (HILL),” a project rooted in Kalamazoo College’s commitment to experiential learning and social justice, and emphasizing the study of location and dislocation through the various disciplines that encompass the humanities.
  • Knox College (Galesburg, IL): $1,234,000 for “Abolition for All Time: A Proposal for Civic Engagement and the Humanities,” a Humanities Lab to promote curricular innovation focusing on "abolition" as both a legacy of the College and a lens to understand its future.
  • Macalester College (Saint Paul, MN): $1,497,000 for “Mississippi River Watershed: An Immersive Humanities Curriculum,” a project to develop innovative humanities-based educational activities that critically examine issues at the confluence of race, environment and extraction.
  • Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA): $1,499,000 for “Movement, Memory, and Justice: Building A Humanities Cultural Heritage Curriculum for Liberation,” an interdisciplinary initiative to create an African-centered, transdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on helping students understand injustices in the criminal justice system in America and assisting them in contributing to efforts that address such inequities.  
  • Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA): $1,500,000 for “Humanities for Just Communities,” a collaborative teaching and community-engaged initiative that will introduce incoming and first-year students to the problem-solving power of the humanities to advance health equity, migrant justice and freedom struggles.
  • Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY): $1,500,000 for “Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment”: Faculty from Sarah Lawrence and Bronx Community College will together rethink the humanities curriculum through the lens of climate and environmental justice and develop creative, collaborative pedagogies to address the climate crisis.
  • Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY): $1,185,000 for “Africana Studies and the Humanities: Transnational Explorations in Social Justice”: The project will support Skidmore’s Black Studies Program and Racial Justice Teaching Challenge, advancing Africana studies and social justice through innovative course creation and teaching, undergraduate research, and interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT): $1,064,500 for “Carceral Connecticut Project” which through innovative curricula, engagement with archives, and public presentations (exhibitions, film, conference), explores - from interdisciplinary perspectives - the past and contemporary resonances of slavery, race, and industrialization in New England.

In April 2021, the Foundation’s Higher Learning program issued a call for proposals to 50 liberal arts colleges for up to three innovative curricular-development projects.  The Foundation received 76 applications, from which the 12 winning proposals were selected by a jury of distinguished humanities scholars. 

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