University of Minnesota Receives More than $315,000 for Humanities Without Walls Program


September 2, 2020

The Humanities Without Walls initiative has been awarded a $5 million grant renewal from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Humanities Without Walls (HWW) is a consortium of 16 universities, based at the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The consortium fosters collaborative research and explores the contributions of humanities in the workplace. In the newest round of funding, the University of Minnesota will receive more than $315,000 to conduct a career-diversity workshop in 2023, plus faculty will be eligible to apply for $150,000 cross-institutional collaborative research grants. The IAS will be offering seed grants and activities beginning this fall for faculty interested in pursuing HWW research grants.

The IAS is a founding member of the consortium (representing the University of Minnesota), and has had several faculty projects successfully funded. These include Professor Mark Pedelty, project leader on “Field to Media: Applied Ecomusicology for a Changing Climate,” and Professor Vicente Diaz, co-PI on “Indigenous Art and Activism in Changing Climates: The Mississippi River Valley, Colonialism, and Environmental Change.” The current five-year renewal will focus on the principles of redistribution and reciprocity, providing funding to new research teams and continuing support for the successful pre-doctoral career diversity summer workshops for humanities graduate students.

“HWW is helping the academy rethink the ways it works. It has helped foster principles core to the IAS’s mission to promote interdisciplinarity, innovation, and engagement,” said Jennifer Gunn, director of the IAS. “HWW models how we can educate graduate students for diverse careers using their knowledge; make graduate students equal partners in research teams; and build collaborations across universities that amplify resources and ideas to bring interdisciplinary humanistic perspectives to bear on critical challenges the world is facing.”

Since its inception, HWW has graduated more than 140 students from its annual career diversity workshops. In Summer 2023, the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts will host the workshop for 20 students from around the country. The University of Minnesota has had seven participants in these student workshops, including Rose Miron, now director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library.

“Embedding reciprocal structures and practices in diverse and inclusive intellectual projects is key to the long-range transformations of academic culture in the humanities to which HWW aspires,” said HWW principal investigator Antoinette Burton. “This means modeling best practices of diversity and equity through collaboration and interdisciplinarity not just at scale, but by design—purpose-built to address contemporary challenges not only with knowledge, but with methods aimed at changing how we think about and do the work in the world for which humanists are urgently needed.”

In addition to the University of Minnesota and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Humanities Without Walls consortium includes 14 other institutions that belong to the Big Ten Academic Alliance—Indiana University, newest partner Marquette University, 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, Nebraska and Wisconsin-Madison—plus the University of Notre Dame. The consortium was initially funded in 2014 with a $3 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and was renewed in 2016 with an additional $4.2 million.






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