Mellon Foundation grant ‘reimagines’ humanities at Yale and beyond

Yale has received a grant of $1.95 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to extend and broaden humanities education throughout the University’s academic enterprise.

The four-year grant will help to develop a comprehensive plan integrating new approaches to humanities education at Yale from the undergraduate through the postdoctoral levels. The plan will inspire undergraduate teaching that spans disciplinary and conceptual boundaries, extend the intellectual reach of doctoral education, and create a community of postdoctoral fellows, with the goal to broaden the scope of humanities teaching, learning and research.

“We are extremely grateful to the Mellon Foundation for providing the opportunity to address humanities teaching and research at all levels of the University,” said Mary Miller, dean of Yale College. “Our goal is to establish a flow of new ideas among a community of scholars that would extend from those teaching undergraduates through graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, making it possible for faculty and students alike to participate in broader conversations across the humanistic discplines.”

At the undergraduate level, Yale faculty members representing diverse disciplines and perspectives will develop team-taught courses that cross the boundaries of academic departments. Ranging from introductory lectures to capstone seminars, these courses will enable the discovery and development of new knowledge at the edges and intersections of traditional fields of study.  

To broaden the necessarily sharp focus of graduate study, Yale will use Mellon funding to introduce a new concentration for doctoral students in the humanities. In each of the next three years, a team of faculty will offer a core seminar on a different topic that cuts across disciplinary boundaries and brings students together from multiple departments. Extending their course work from two to three years, students in the concentration will develop individual programs of study to extend their understanding of both their home discipline and the concentration topic with the goal of broadening their intellectual formation. In addition to the coursework, students will have the opportunity to develop special exam topics and to participate in team-teaching in courses that apply grand themes of understanding to human pursuits.

The Mellon Grant will also allow Yale to build on an already existing program for post-graduate fellows in the humanities. The program provides recent doctoral degree graduates with new opportunities to teach at the undergraduate level and to broaden their teaching portfolios to include a diverse palette of humanities courses. In addition to enhancing the future employment prospects of the Ph.D. graduates, the program will further enrich the robust community of humanities scholars at Yale.

Yale is also considering ways of extending the resources afforded by the Mellon grant by developing partnerships with nearby universities and liberal arts colleges. Among strategies under consideration is a cost-sharing plan whereby Yale would pay part of the salaries for recent Yale Ph.D.s to teach at small liberal arts colleges and other universities within a a two-hour driving radius of New Haven. With this pooled funding, Yale could increase the number of post-doctoral fellows it supports, and the fellows themselves would find new teaching opportunities and gain pedagogical experience.