Grand Research Challenge: The Global Midwest 2014

This initiative is designed to stimulate collaborative research that imagines and positions the Midwest as a key site—now and in the past—in shaping global economies and cultures. Cross-institutional teams of faculty, researchers, and graduate students will have the opportunity to apply for funding to support the work of these innovative teams in Fall 2014 and Fall 2015.

The consortium seeks projects that together result in “radical complementarity” rather than uniformity. These projects will generate original scholarship, but should also create public visibility for the grand challenges facing the Midwest. For example, faculty members might collaborate with public partners—such as museums, performance venues, humanities festivals, state humanities councils and historical societies, public policy centers, environmental organizations, etc.—to produce exhibitions, films, public forums, digital projects, and other means of disseminating their creations and discoveries as well as organizing symposia or conferences, commissioning art works, and publishing in scholarly venues such as book collections or special issues of journals. 

Teams will be able to apply for a portion of two separate $750,000 awards that will be available in 2014 and then again in 2015. Applications will be judged by a steering committee of consortium center directors. The due dates will be in October 15, 2014 for work to be carried out in 2015 andOctober 15, 2015 for work to be conducted in 2016.

This project links the consortial partners in a common commitment to research and dialogue around a set of important, mutually articulated problems of broad public interest. Its principal long-term objectives are to reveal and rethink the Midwest as a major force in this century’s global economy and culture for scholars, policy-makers, government officials, social scientists, and an enlightened public and to demonstrate how the “applied humanities,” through collaborations of artists, scholars in the humanities, and scientists (both social and natural), can contribute to the work on grand intellectual challenges. The initiative may also support Midwest scholars pursuing research questions at a global scale across multiple eras. Research teams must include scholars from at least two consortial institutions. In its design, this pilot project resonates with two previous Mellon Foundation grants to the international Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes that also organize interdisciplinary research projects around major issues and mobilize teams of scholars in multiple institutions to work on specific aspects of the problems.

The Obermann Center offered seed grants to groups preparing for the grant, and three of them met during the summer of 2014:  

  • “Grand Challenge: Midwestern Futures” (Chuck Connerly, Matt Gilchrist, and Tom Keegan from the University of Iowa; Carissa Slotterback, University of Minnesota; Jon McKensie, University of Wisconsin)
  • “Global Midwest through Animal Lives” (Kim Marra, Mary Traschel, and Teresa Mangum from the University of Iowa; Jane Desmond from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Maria Lux from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Alyce Miller from Indiana University)
  • “Scholars Connecting with American Indian Communities and Tribes” (Jacki Rand and Erica Prussingfrom the University of Iowa and other members TBD

Participants are still sought for these groups as well as others that formed at participating institutions. For a list of registered Global Midwest projects, visit the Humanities Without Walls Wiki