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Philanthropy news

Mellon grant will support community-based humanities research


The University of California, Davis, Humanities Institute recently received a $400,000 award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a new program that will support humanities graduate students in leading community-based research projects beginning this fall.

Real-world experience for building careers

Pairing community organizations with graduate students whose research bridges a wide variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, the Mellon Public Scholars Program strengthens the university’s commitment to publicly engaged scholarship and provides graduate students opportunities to apply their research in real-world settings and explore possible careers outside of the academy. Opening up new career paths for graduate students in both the sciences and humanities has become a national issue as the job market for tenure-track faculty continues to shrink.

“The Mellon Public Scholars Program will take the university into new territory since it has the potential to foster innovation across the humanities at UC Davis and beyond,” said David Biale, Humanities Institute director and Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish history. “At the same time, our graduate students will have the opportunity to apply their research in novel and exciting ways that will have an immediate positive impact on the vital work of community organizations throughout our region, state and even globally since some of our students’ research is international.”

Helping humanities students

With the award, the institute will invite 10 graduate students at UC Davis to participate in a quarterlong seminar that will cover all aspects of public humanities scholarship — from research methods and practices to project management, fundraising and marketing.  Each student will be paired with a faculty mentor whose research connects to a community organization or public agency. In the summer, each student will serve in a paid internship with the organization to translate their research into action.

Community partnership

This fall, the institute will put out a call for graduate students who wish to participate in the Public Scholars Program. Community partners interested in participating, including arts and cultural organizations, local, regional or international nonprofits, and public agencies, can contact Molly McCarthy, the associate director of the Humanities Institute. The institute also will hold a public launch event March 7, 2016, for community partners, faculty members and the first cohort of Mellon Public Scholars to discuss the challenges and opportunities of community-engaged research.

Grant funds program through 2018

The grant, which covers the period from July 2015 through June 2018, will allow the Humanities Institute to develop program curriculum, establish partnerships with community organizations and fund the participating graduate students’ research. According to Biale, additional students from across the University of California system, up to one student per campus, may be invited to participate through a UC-wide effort among the other UC humanities institutes to include more students during this pilot program. 

This article was originally published by UC Davis News Service.