Andrew W. Mellon Sawyer Seminar

When COVID-19 interrupted the late spring events and culmination of the yearlong Mellon Sawyer Seminar "Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging," we didn't know that the events would eventually end up online and across institutions. In 2019-20, seminar co-directors Darrel Wanzer-Serrano, Ariana Ruiz, and Rene Rocha worked across disciplines to organize six symposia, a film series, and a podcast. With Wanzer-Serrano now in the Communications Department at the University of Texas A&M and Ruiz in the Department of Literature at the University of California-San Diego, the final events are being co-sponsored across institutions. 

On March 26-27, the three scholars will host the following guests, some of whom will also join them on their podcast of the same name.

  • Leticia Alvarado, Ethnic Studies, Brown University
  • Gaye Theresa Johnson, César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies, UCLA
  • Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, Spanish and Women's and Gender Studies, University of Michigan
  • John Mckiernan-González, History, Texas State University
  • Cathryn Merla Watson, Literatures and Cultural Studies, University of Texas-Río Grande Valley
  • Catherine Ramírez, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California-Santa Cruz
  • Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, School of Communication, Northwestern University
  • Richard T. Rodríguez, Media and Cultural Studies, University of California-Riverside

More details will be posted soon, at 

Free and open to all.

Cosponsored by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Institute of Arts and Humanities at the University of California–San Diego, the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M University, the Iowa City Public Library, and the UI Latina/o Studies Program.


The University of Iowa is honored to be invited to nominate a team for a third Andrew W. Mellon Sawyer Seminar, a tribute to the ground-breaking work by the leaders of earlier seminars. The Obermann Center will be supporting the Office of the Vice President for Research and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences by providing potential applicants with information and advice based on our work in supporting the earlier teams. 

To quote from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website: "The Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars were established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.  The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation's long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.  Foundation support aims to engage productive scholars in comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs.  Sawyer Seminars are, in effect, temporary research centers."

The funding for the yearlong seminar supports a postdoctoral fellow, two graduate fellowships, and a year of activities. The seminar is open to UI faculty and graduate students. The Foundation also encourages the inclusion of colleagues from other institutions and organizations, such as nearby universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, museums, and research centers. Proposals that draw upon the expertise of scholars to further equity, inclusion, and social justice are especially welcome: "As the Foundation reviews proposals, preference is given to those that include concrete plans for engaging participants with diverse affiliations." Faculty leaders generally come from the humanities and social sciences. In many seminars, artists and faculty from professional schools have also played active roles. 

The Office of the Vice President for Research, in partnership with the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has established a process for identifying the proposal that will go forward from the University of Iowa. The internal application process has two stages, and Obermann Director Teresa Mangum, Assistant Vice President for Research Ann Ricketts, and Grants Administrator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Kristi Fitzpatrick are all available to assist faculty members at all stages of preparation.

First, interested faculty submit a 2-3 page letter proposing a seminar topic. Authors of plans that look especially promising will then be invited to submit full proposals. One will be selected and support will be provided to help the faculty strengthen the proposal and develop a firm budget before the University submits the proposal to Mellon on the faculty members' behalf.

The letter of intent is due by March 1, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. and should be submitted to the OVPR's online application. (Link forthcoming).

Final proposals will be due March 29, 2021 by 5:00 p.m. and should also be submitted via the OVPR's online application. (link forthcoming).  

Your best first step is to attend an Information Session. We encourage potential applicants to bring a draft of a one-page letter of intent to the information session you are able to attend that includes the title of your proposed seminar, a brief description, and a list of University of Iowa faculty members who will be involved.  We will offer advice before you invest time in the longer application. Also, it might be possible to combine proposals with promising intellectual connections. We will provide sample budgets at the information session.

Read more about Mellon Sawyer Seminars at