Mellon Foundation grant will support rethinking of humanities centers

The Mellon Foundation has awarded Brandeis University a 15-month, $150,000 grant to support "Re-envisioning the Role of the Humanities Center in the 21st-Century University," under the direction of Professor Ulka Anjaria, the Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for the Humanities.

The project aims to help humanities centers at institutions of higher education position themselves as hubs of socially engaged research and learning on their campuses. Under the leadership of Anjaria, the Mandel Center will convene a group of leaders and staff from humanities centers at private, public and access-oriented institutions around the country to form a working group charged with giving humanities centers the tools to address some of the most critical challenges facing the university today, including:

  • The need to advance the scholarship of and by historically underrepresented groups;
  • The relationship of the university to surrounding communities;
  • The relationship between liberal arts and practical skills;
  • The future of liberal arts and doctoral education.

The leadership group will feature directors from Humanities Centers across the higher education sphere. “These directors are already working to foreground questions of social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion and the public humanities,” says Anjaria. The working group will meet twice over the 2022-23 academic year to share findings from their campuses and begin drafting a report in the summer of 2023 that will help humanities centers lead their universities in rethinking themselves.

By documenting what innovative humanities centers are already doing, how they fit into administrative structures, and what perceived or real obstacles remain, the report, which will be publicly available, will help institutions collectively imagine the multiple futures for humanities centers. The report will also reflect the ways that humanities centers can work with local communities and increase broader public engagement around social justice issues. Finally, it help to place faculty in the humanities in the foreground when it comes to institutional decision-making.

“Even when engaging department chairs, division heads, and other faculty leaders, university administrators rarely look to Humanities Centers as places where planning, ideas and strategies for institutional change can be developed,” says Anjaria. “Yet, Humanities Centers have the potential to be ideal sites from which to advance innovative programming, center questions of race, equity and social justice, and contribute to large-scale questions about the future of the university.”

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences

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