Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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Obermann Center Member of Major Collaborative Mellon Grant

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $3,000,000 for an innovative two-year project, “Humanities Without Walls,” that will include faculty and graduate students at the University of Iowa. In addition to the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the collaboration includes fourteen humanities institutes in the Midwest and beyond. By leveraging the strengths of multiple distinctive campuses, the initiative aims to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching, and scholarship in the humanities. The objective is to forge and sustain areas of inquiry that could not be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation. 

Mangum Invites Scholars to Brainstorm Possible Projects

Teresa Mangum, Director of the Obermann Center, is part of the planning committee that developed the proposal over the past year. “Working with this group of brilliant, creative center directors has been inspiring. The Mellon grant will allow scholars in the humanities to experiment on perhaps the largest scale ever attempted. Together we hope to kindle new research practices leading to the creation of new knowledge and to find imaginative ways to share our discoveries with the larger public. We are circulating a call for proposals, and I am eager to hear from humanities scholars who would like to brainstorm possibilities and look forward to working on this initiative with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the new Humanities Advisory Board. I am also deeply grateful to the Mellon Foundation and to Dianne Harris, Director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for inviting us to participate.”

The Global Midwest Is Focus of Grand Challenge

The grant, led by Professor Harris, makes possible two initiatives. The first will fund cross-institutional teams of faculty and graduate students pursuing research that focuses on a grand challenge: “The Global Midwest.” This initiative is intended to stimulate collaborative research that rethinks and reveals the Midwest as a key site—both now and in the past—in shaping global economies and cultures. The Obermann Center will receive an initial grant of $30,000 to support faculty members who want to propose collaborations with colleagues at one or more of the partner organizations. These teams will have the opportunity to apply for a portion of two awards of $750,000. (Those due dates will be October 2014 and 2015.)

"Alt-Ac" Workshop for Humanities Pre-Doctoral Students

A second will provide funding to create summer workshops for pre-doctoral students in the humanities who intend to pursue careers outside the academy. The academic centers will collaborate with the Chicago Humanities Festival to develop the workshops, which will be held in Chicago. Two graduate students from each partner university will be chosen to participate in the 2015 and 2016 summer programs. The RFP for this opportunity will be available next October.

Unique and Large-Scale Consortium

Dan Reed, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, said the Mellon grant offers an extraordinary opportunity “to experiment with innovative forms of collaborative and interdisciplinary inquiry as well as support more traditional forms of scholarship with our top universities across the Midwest.”

The consortium includes 13 of the institutions that belong to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)—Indiana University, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University; and the Universities of Chicago, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin-­Madison—plus the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The humanities centers at the 15 consortial institutions will serve as the hubs for collaboration. The Chicago Humanities Festival and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois are also serving as key intellectual and infrastructural partners for the project. The Humanities Without Walls consortium will be the first of its kind to experiment at this large scale with cross-institutional collaboration.

Dean Chaden Djalali of the UI College of Liberal Arts & Sciences hailed the Mellon Foundation’s support for the humanities. “More than ever, the humanities are essential to society’s understanding of our place in the world and our future,” Djalali said. “We are delighted to work with the Obermann Center on this visionary and vital initiative for humanities research.” 

To help UI teams to prepare for the Global Midwest application process, the Obermann Center is offering several seed grants of up to $10,000 thanks to the generosity of the Mellon Foundation. The funds will bring colleagues from partner universities to the Obermann Center this summer to hammer out their ideas for the first round of applications for a portion of the $750,000. During the visit, each group will receive assistance and feedback on their draft proposals.

Teresa Mangum is hosting two information sessions to discuss possibilities for collaborative work in advance of the seed grant deadline of March 14, 2014. These meetings will be held:  February 7,  8:30 to 9:30 AM at the Obermann Center and February 12, 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm in the conference room of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Development (2670 UCC).