Humanities Without Walls

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is proud to be a member of the Andrew W. Mellon funded Humanities Without Walls consortium. We will be supporting collaborative applications for teams led by one or more University of Iowa faculty members that might include teams of faculty, staff, community partners, and graduate students for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. Please read the information below, including the PDF, if you are interested in applying. Then contact Obermann Director Teresa Mangum for more information (teresa-mangum@uiowa.edu). You can also find excellent resources, including a video series on this grant opportunity and how to write strong grants more generally, on the HWW website

In 2015, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $3,000,000 to the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to fund an extensive consortium of sixteen humanities institutes in the Midwest and beyond. By leveraging the strengths of multiple distinctive campuses, 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 was renewed for an additional two years and has now been renewed for a third and final round.

Preparing for the 2022-23 HWW Collaborative Grants

Humanities Without Walls Consortial Seed Grants—Applications will be accepted on a rolling deadline until September 6 and reviewed as received.

In collaboration with the Andrew W. Mellon-funded Humanities Without Walls project led by the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Obermann Center is offering seed grants to support the development of applications for the third Grand Research Challenge. For the next two years, faculty-led teams can apply for up to $150,000 for collaborative projects dedicated to “interdisciplinary, collaborative, research-based projects in the humanities and arts that build a clearly communicated commitment to methodologies of reciprocity and redistribution into their project design and proposal narratives, regardless of the research topic or theme they focus on.” The topic is open and the teams can include faculty, staff, community partners, and colleagues from other colleges and universities, and must have a role for graduate students. Final applications are due November 15, 2021 for 2022-23 (with a second round due in November 2022 for 2023-24). The Obermann Center will provide up to two project leaders per team a $1,000 stipend to support developing and writing a grant application (a $500 initial award subject to the workflow processing time and $500 upon submission of the application) and will lead a workshop to help applicants write strong applications. To learn more, please carefully read the HWW website to be sure your project idea meets the grant requirements, then schedule an appointment with Obermann Director Teresa Mangum (teresa-mangum@uiowa.edu) before applying.

The emphasis in these final two rounds of the HWW grant (academics years 2022-23 and 2023-24) will be to build a commitment to methodologies of reciprocity and redistribution into their project design that is clearly communicated in their proposal narratives, regardless of the research topic or theme they focus on. The HRI has provided the Obermann Center with seed grant funding to help faculty members develop proposals. This funding can be used to support group members in holding a planning meeting. In the early fall semester, the Obermann Center will also organize a grant-writing "sprint" for groups that apply to ensure strong applications that meet the criteria and get submitted in a timely fashion.

Read the official RFP for Humanities Without Walls 2021 Grand Research Challenge Initiative.

PDF iconReview this PDF detailing the HWW Grand Research Challenge, eligibility guidelines, application processes, and resources for developing a grant proposal.

The grant, led by HRI Director and Principal Investigator Antoinette Burton, has funded two kinds of initiatives in the past. One initiative supports the development of summer workshops for pre-doctoral students in the humanities who intend to pursue careers outside the academy. A second initiative funds cross-institutional teams of faculty, staff, graduate students, and other partners pursuing research that focuses on a grand challenge. Past collaborations have produced performances, publications, exhibitions, digital projects, new courses and more. 

The consortium includes members of the Big 10 Alliance, Indiana University Bloomington, Marquette University (joined the consortium in 2020), Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University, as well as the Universities of Chicago, Illinois at Chicago, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin-Madison—plus the University of Notre Dame. The humanities centers at the consortial institutions, including the Obermann Center, serve as the hubs for collaboration.  

The 21st century presents a clear and pressing need to collaboratively mobilize the collective resources of the heartland’s institutions of higher education. This consortium of humanities centers is advancing innovative and experimental research and pedagogical practices by sharing unevenly distributed resources across institutional walls and by testing new ideas at scale. Humanities centers can best undertake this work because they are already sites of innovation on university campuses, generating ideas and stimulating new knowledge on campuses through the creation and funding of major initiatives.

The Humanities Without Walls consortium is the first of its kind to experiment at this large scale with cross-institutional collaboration.

By leveraging the strengths of multiple distinctive campuses, 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.

Open Topic (applications due to HWW by November 15, 2021)

To quote from the HWW website:

"Reciprocity and redistribution are methods for engaging collaborators in genuinely equal and ethical partnerships—partnerships that are not one-directional (i.e., only from campus outward) or faculty-centered (i.e., hierarchical in ways that privilege presumptively white western scholarly expertise over other forms of knowing).

Reciprocity and redistribution are strategies for equity-based change by design. These strategies aim to challenge the academic status quo by enabling community partners to participate on their own terms; to co-design and co-create transformative projects; and to be equitably resourced for their time and contributions. 

A commitment to practices of reciprocity and redistribution also opens up possibilities for new forms of collaboration between faculty and graduate students and staff; between HWW partner universities and regional and community colleges; between Predominantly White Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges; and between each campus and its variety of public stakeholders."

The Obermann Center will offer seed grant funding in spring 2021 to groups that would like to propose a multi-year project funded by awards of up to $150,000. Please watch our newsletter and visit this page for announcements about the seed grant competition in the spring. 

Past Grant Projects

Grand Research Challenge: The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate (now completed)

After focusing for two years on "The Global Midwest," the HWW consortium focused on a second grand challenge for two years. This second research initiative linked the consortium partners in a common commitment to intellectual exchange and dialogue around a broad question that resonates with many contemporary humanist scholars—namely, what is the work of the humanities in a changing climate? 

This new research initiative also continues to link the consortium partners in a common commitment to intellectual exchange and dialogue, this time around a broad question that resonates with many contemporary humanist scholars—namely, what is the work of the humanities in a changing climate? This rubric is intended to be both intellectually focused and capacious. In its narrowest interpretation, it calls for collaborative work on climate change, arguably the most pressing grand challenge of our time. We supported collaborative research in the field of environmental humanities, broadly conceived, as well as the development of new humanities-centered paradigms for thinking through the limits and possibilities of climate change policy. We did so out of a conviction that the current climate crisis has deep historical roots yet to be fully tapped; that it calls for new philosophies and theories of the human and the anthropocene; that its fictions and visual cultures bear mightily on its material consequences, past, present and future; and that collaborative research on these questions and more is indispensable to scholarly expertise on the subject, in the humanities and beyond.

Pre-doctoral Summer Workshops for Students in the Humanities and Related Disciplines

Launched in 2015 as an initiative of the HWW consortium, the workshop welcomes thirty participants each summer from higher education institutions across the United States. HWW Summer Workshop Fellows work in a variety of academic disciplines. They are scholars and practitioners who bring experience in community building, museum curation, filmmaking, radio programming, social media, project management, research, writing, and teaching. They are invested in issues of social justice and seek ways to bring humanistic values, insights, and skills to the public and private sectors. You can see valuable sessions on preparation for diverse careers on the HWW Youtube channel

In the spirit of practice-oriented learning, HWW partners with entities such as IDEO, a design and consulting firm, to lead students in real-world problem-solving exercises around important contemporary issues. Recognizing that each fellow’s skillset has been primarily oriented toward an academic track, the workshop includes sessions on values-based career planning, resume and cover letter construction, networking, and social media strategies from experts in career development.

Graduates from the workshop emerge with a network of contacts in a range of professional realms; a significantly broadened sense of the career possibilities that await humanities PhDs; a cohort of HWW Summer Workshop Fellows (and friends!) from whom they may draw support and advice; and a set of resources aimed at helping them advance into the various realms considered under the broad rubric of “the public humanities.”  

We encourage you to watch this video in which alumni of past summer workshops discuss their experience, the benefits of the workshop, and their advice for those who would like to apply. 

In summer 2021, HWW is holding its first online, national, virtual summer workshop for doctoral students interested in learning about careers outside of the academy and/or the tenure track system. Through a series of workshops, talks, and virtual field trips, participants learn how to leverage their skills and training towards careers in the private sector, the non-profit world, arts administration, public media and many other fields. All aspects of the workshop will be remote, virtual, and online in nature.

We invite applications from doctoral students pursuing degree in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to participate in this three-week, virtual summer workshop. This is a limited-submission application. Eligible doctoral students must be nominated for this fellowship by their home institutions, and only one nomination may be made to HWW by each university. Applications have been completed for the summer of 2021.

View program and application details on the HWW website. 

Previous HWW Graduate Fellows:

Summer 2021

  • Andrew Boge, Communication Studies - Rhetoric, Culture, Engagement 

Summer 2018

  • Lydia Maunz-Breese, PhD Candidate, Department of English, CLAS
  • Makayla Steiner, PhD Candidate, English, CLAS

Summer 2017

  • Nikolaos Maggos, PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy, CLAS

Summer 2016

  • Anu Thapa, PhD Candidate, Department of Cinematic Arts, CLAS
  • Angela Toscano, PhD Candidate, Department of English, CLAS

Summer 2015

  • Noaquia Callahan, PhD candidate, Department of History, CLAS
  • ​Erica Damman, Interdisciplinary PhD candidate, Environmental Humanities, Graduate College

Overview

HWW has provided the Obermann Center funding to help UI faculty prepare proposals for HWW seed grant applications (due November 15, 2021).

Humanities Without Walls has posted the RFP for the Grand Research Challenge Initiative on its website.

Interested applicants should also review PDF iconthis PDF detailing the HWW Grand Research Challenge, eligibility guidelines, application processes, and resources for developing a grant proposal.

Letters of interest are due October 1, 2021. 
Full applications are due November 15, 2021.