Humanities Without Walls

Humanities Without Walls logo
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. 

In 2015, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $3,000,000 to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to fund the first two years of an extensive consortium of fifteen 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 has now been renewed for an additional two years.

The grant, led by IPRH Director and Principal Investigator Antoinette Burton, makes possible two initiatives: One 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 and graduate students pursuing research that focuses on a grand challenge: “The Global Midwest.” The latter 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 first pre-doctoral workshop took place during the summer of 2015.

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, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 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 the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are also serving as key intellectual and infrastructural partners for the project.

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 will together advance 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.

Grand Research Challenge: The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate

After focusing for two years on "The Global Midwest," the HWW consortium is focusing on a second grand challenge. This new research initiative 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. As a metaphor, climate change is pluripotent: it offers humanists the opportunity to think expansively about the meanings of “climate” and “change” as they manifest in their own research, and to bring their contributions to bear on cognate questions in the present.

This new research initiative 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 seek 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 do 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.

As a metaphor, climate change is pluripotent: it offers humanists the opportunity to think expansively about the meanings of “climate” and “change” as they manifest in their own research, and to bring their contributions to bear on cognate questions in the present. Thus “The Work of Humanities in a Changing Climate” also hails scholars who wish to consider the pressure of other forms of contemporary “climate change” on their fields of inquiry—from a changing racial climate to a changing economic climate to the changing notion of “the public” and what it means for the intellectual work environments of humanists.

The next round of applications are due October 31, 2017.  You'll find detailed information on the application process at http://www.humanitieswithoutwalls.illinois.edu/initiatives/changing-climate/rfp.html.

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

This project aims to help prepare doctoral students for careers both within and outside the academy through a series of summer workshops. Graduate students selected for this program will engage in intensive discussions with organizers of public humanities projects, leaders of university presses and learned societies, experts in the various domains of the digital humanities, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, and holders of important non-faculty positions in colleges and universities (academic administrators, student services professionals, librarians and archivists, development officers, and so forth).

The three-week workshops, in July-August through summer 2018, will take place in Chicago. The Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) offices will supply administrative support and logistical assistance. The workshops will bring together cohorts of thirty graduate students, selected in a spring competition conducted by the humanities centers, each of which will be responsible for recruiting applicants with broad interdisciplinary interests and with the capacity to represent a broadened vision of life in the humanities upon returning to their campuses. The expectation is that the centers themselves, by engaging with this project, will strengthen their capacity to serve as cross-disciplinary engines for the reorganization of graduate programs in the humanities.

Applications are due  November 1, 2017. The application process has two stages. University of Iowa graduate students should read the instructions on the HWW website before applying. Students apply to the Obermann Center by November 1, 2017. A review committee will select four students to forward to the HWW Consortium committee. Two students will be chosen from each consortial school to attend the summer workshop.

Attend a free information session Thursday, September 14, at the Obermann Center for graduate students interested in applying for this year's HWW summer workshop.

Application Requirements

A completed application cover sheet

A narrative of no more than 1,000 words explaining the applicant’s intended career trajectory and addressing the following questions:

Why do you want to attend the workshop?

What are the most important pieces of information you are seeking?

A 2-page cv; and,

Two letters of recommendation. One letter should be from the applicant’s primary adviser/dissertation chair; both should emphasize the applicant’s fit for this workshop.

Application Procedures

Letters of recommendation should be submitted to the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies via our email address obermann-center@uiowa.edu by November 1st, 2017, at 5:00pm CDT.

Applicants should prepare and submit the rest of the required application materials to the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies via our email address obermann-center@uiowa.edu by November 1st, 2017, at 5:00pm CDT.

Center directors will nominate up to four finalists from the applications they receive, compile the applications and recommendations, and submit them using the online application portal by5:00 pm CST on December 1st, 2017.

Center directors must submit the required application materials, including the two letters of recommendation they have received, via the portal as a single PDF file.

Announcement of fellowship awards will be made by the end of January 2018.

Interested in applying? Attend a free information session at the Obermann Center on Friday, September 1. 

We congratulate previous HWW Graduate Fellows:

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

If you are interested in applying for a Humanities Without Walls grant, please attend an upcoming info session:

  • Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. in 2670 UCC
  • Thursday, February 1, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. in 2670 UCC

Find application checklists at the Humanities Without Walls website.

Eligibility

Tenured faculty members from the University of Iowa from the humanities and qualitative social sciences may apply for the Grand Challenge. Graduate students in the humanities and qualitative social sciences may apply for the Pre-Doctoral Workshop.