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)--now the Institute for Humanities Research--at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to fund the first two years of 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—Information Sessions
The emphasis in the final round 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. To learn more about the seed grants and how to apply for them, we welcome you to attend one of our upcoming Zoom information sessions:
The grant, led by HRI Director and Principal Investigator Antoinette Burton, has funded two kinds of 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 has funded 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 Big 10 Academic Alliance—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 and most recently Marquette University. The humanities centers at the 16 consortial institutions will 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 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.
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 links 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.
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.
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 cross-consortial research projects are all now underway.
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 will 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. To be considered, interested doctoral students must submit their applications to the Obermann Center (email@example.com) by October 31, 2020. Please do not submit your applications directly to HWW.
Previous HWW Graduate Fellows:
- Lydia Maunz-Breese, PhD Candidate, Department of English, CLAS
- Makayla Steiner, PhD Candidate, English, CLAS
- Nikolaos Maggos, PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy, CLAS
- Anu Thapa, PhD Candidate, Department of Cinematic Arts, CLAS
- Angela Toscano, PhD Candidate, Department of English, CLAS
- Noaquia Callahan, PhD candidate, Department of History, CLAS
- Erica Damman, Interdisciplinary PhD candidate, Environmental Humanities, Graduate College
HWW has provided the Obermann Center funding to help UI faculty prepare proposals for HWW seed grant applications (due November 15, 2021).
Interested applicants should also review this 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.