2013 Annual Report: President's Report

History Lesson

History Lesson

By Natasha Tretheway

I am four in this photograph, standing
on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,
my hands on the flowered hips

of a bright bikini. My toes dig in,
curl around wet sand. The sun cuts
the rippling Gulf in flashes with each

tidal rush. Minnows dart at my feet
glinting like switchblades. I am alone
except for my grandmother, other side

of the camera, telling me how to pose.
It is 1970, two years after they opened
the rest of this beach to us,

forty years since the photograph
where she stood on a narrow plot
of sand marked colored, smiling,

her hands on the flowered hips
of a cotton meal-sack dress.

Natasha Trethewey. "History Lesson," from Domestic Work.
Copyright © 2000 by Natasha Trethewey. Reprinted with the
permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,

History teaches us to find both the threads of continuity that lace the past to the present and important moments of change as time moves inexorably toward the future.  For a child with African ancestors, who comes to live just as signs of subjugation are fading in a changing America, the movements of the water, fish, and sand serve as powerful reminders of constancy in the human experience.  For a grandmother, whose days ahead are fewer than the ones behind, a sign-free beach invites a different understanding: she could now pose her granddaughter, just right, wherever she chose, just as her mother could have posed her, just as she liked, but only on sand specially preserved for those deemed "colored."  To appreciate the change one needed to know the history—that was the lesson.

Institutions, including philanthropies, also have history.  And in that history, certain points of inflection occur that suggest shifts.  Often change follows the succession of one president by another.  When this happens, many ponder how much will change and how much will remain the same.  Negotiating the dynamic tension between continuity and change requires both a deep appreciation and understanding of the organization's core values and principles and a deft willingness to challenge received conventions and search for new opportunities.

An abiding commitment to advancing the humanities and the arts remains a hallmark of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; it is a part of the history.  While there are more than 81,000 registered grantmaking philanthropies in the United States—81,777, as of 2013, according to the Foundation Center—too few support the humanities or arts.  As my most immediate predecessor, Don Randel, noted several times in previous editions of this report, federal support for the humanities and arts, as measured by the budgets of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, has also been wanting.  By several accountings, the Mellon Foundation provides more support for research in the arts and humanities than both federal agencies combined.  That sense of providing critical resources is an enduring dimension of the Foundation's history, a legacy we deeply value.

Why do we remain committed to the arts and humanities?  Simply put: they really matter.  In a nod toward this truth, the venerable American Academy of Arts and Sciences offered the following in a recent report, The Heart of the Matter:

We live in a world characterized by change—and therefore a world dependent on the humanities and social sciences.  How do we understand and manage change if we have no notion of the past?  How do we understand ourselves if we have no notion of a society, culture, or world different from the one in which we live?  A fully balanced curriculum—including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences—provides opportunities for integrative thinking and imagination, for creativity and discovery, and for good citizenship.  The humanities and social sciences are not merely elective, nor are they elite or elitist.  They go beyond the immediate and instrumental to help us understand the past and the future.  They are necessary and they require our support in challenging times as well as in times of prosperity.  They are critical to our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, as described by our nation's founders.  They are The Heart of the Matter. (p. 13)

While the American Academy of Arts and Sciences made a case for the humanities and social sciences, the word arts could easily replace the phrase social sciences.

On the importance of the humanities I draw your attention to a recently published book by British literary scholar and critic Helen Small, The Value of the Humanities (Oxford University Press, 2013).  Small reminds us that the argument for the humanities should resist obvious traps.  She sees no utility in opposing the humanities to the sciences or social sciences.  Knowledge creation and sharing, she concludes, requires a multiplicity of approaches.  No one field is intrinsically more valuable than another; rather, alone or in combination they offer a complementary way of unraveling the mysteries of the human condition.  She concludes the humanities have public value for four reasons.

  1. "They do a distinctive kind of work, preserve and extend distinctive kinds of understanding . . . and possess a distinctive relation to the idea of knowledge being inextricable from human subjectivity."
  2. "Their work is useful to society: it assists in the preservation and curation of the culture."
  3. "The humanities make a vital contribution to individual happiness and to the happiness of large groups."
  4. "The humanities can make a vital contribution to the maintenance of health of the democracy."

To these points Small offers one "supporting claim": that "the value of the objects and cultural practices the humanities study and the kinds of scholarship they cultivate have value 'for their own sake'—that they are good in themselves." (pp. 174-76)

Professor Small's claims and assertions will no doubt be debated in the UK and the US; but over an arc of time stretching from antiquity to the present, as Rens Bod has recently noted, principles and patterns suggest the critical place of the humanities in shaping our understanding of the world.

In rearticulating the case for the humanities and arts I take guidance from a friend in engineering who offered a version of the following one day: in the digital age, which compresses time and space, the need to understand one another is greater than ever.  For all of the calls for increases in STEM education, the study of science and engineering absent an appreciation of style and color, form and local sensibilities, language and culture means we could find ourselves building products no one wants, starting wars for all the wrong reasons, and asking partial questions and receiving incomplete answers and yet remaining puzzled by why things are not working.  In the end 9/11 happened despite the West's technological sophistication, wrought by old ideological divides which most of us don't understand because at one level they have more to do with religion than science.  So we need the humanities and arts because they enable a fuller understanding of the world we claim—past, present, and future.  Through them we deepen our understanding.

While our commitment to the humanities and arts may be justified by their importance on several levels, there are reasons to reassess how we best carry out that commitment.  Over the next five years, as the Foundation moves toward its 50th anniversary we recognize the need to blend change and continuity (see Table I) by planning carefully for both.  To that end, we have spent the past eighteen months in a strategic process of reviewing and renewing our grantmaking programs.  After delineating a general framework for the work of the Foundation as a whole, the plan begins by asserting that we will remain faithful to supporting higher education, but with a notable shift in approach.  Rather than conduct eight distinct areas of program activity, we will consolidate our work into five integrated program areas.  This will allow us to attend to natural synergies within our areas of interest and work more collaboratively both within and outside the organization.  The separate programs in research universities and liberal arts colleges are being folded into an integrated program area called Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities.  In addition to thinking anew about higher education's cross-sectored relationships, the consolidated program seeks to work with those prepared to reconsider doctoral education and pedagogical training, to probe how students learn, to advance the contributions of the digital humanities to teaching and scholarly research, and to foster relationships between research universities and neighboring liberal arts colleges.  As we make these pledges we are also cognizant of the need to support resource-strapped liberal arts colleges, since all the schools in this sector are vital to the broader higher education ecosystem.

Changes are also anticipated in the arena of the visual and performing arts.  Replacing two distinct programs—Art History, Conservation, and Museums and the Performing Arts—is the newly configured Arts and Cultural Heritage program.  The new emphasis turns on supporting art museums, arts organizations, and institutions of higher education that advance the arts and art conservation, with the goal of spurring the development of a dynamic, diverse, and effective cultural and performing arts world in the United States and beyond.  We remain ever mindful that the arts constitute fields of inquiry and production that are distinct from other forms of thought and expression.  Developed and expressed over the millennia, our global artistic heritage is a resource for renewal, understanding, and creativity. 

In other programs of the Foundation, we do not anticipate meaningful reorganization, but we do foresee significant modifications to our grantmaking priorities.  Diversity initiatives have heretofore centered on enhancing the flow of diverse students, especially students of color, into and through graduate school and  into permanent faculty positions.  A signature component of that effort has been the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.  That program remains a cornerstone of our plan, but we also will chart ways to expand the number of participants and participating institutions.  Moving forward we also envision a Latino/a initiative that complements our work with Tribal Colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Perhaps the biggest change, especially for a foundation that has prided itself on being quiet, will be the production of an annual report that synthesizes the very best scholarship on the value of diversity to social and civil life in democratic societies.

We plan to remain as vigorous as ever in the area of scholarly communications.  Our goal is to promote the common good by working with archives, research universities, academic presses, libraries, and museums in the development of tools, methods, and approaches that make possible the broad collection, curation, and dissemination of information to aid in knowledge production and transmission.  We will drop the reference to "information technology" in the program area's title because we consider such technology as only one of the tools covered by our initiatives.

Table I
Strategic Directions: Programs
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Current ProgramsNew Program Areas
  • Conservation and the Environment
  • Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities
  • Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Performing Arts
  • Art History, Conservation, and Museums
  • Scholarly Communications and Information Technology
  • Diversity Initiatives
  • South Africa
  • Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities
  • Arts and Cultural Heritage
  • Diversity
  • Scholarly Communications
  • International Higher Education and Strategic Projects

Finally, the Foundation has long maintained a program and presence in South Africa.  After more than two decades of work in South Africa, overseen in large part by the able Stuart Saunders, the time has come to build on those efforts by crafting a broader yet select international grantmaking program.  With the term "strategic," we refer to a focused set of activities in targeted regions of the world that will build on work in the other program areas.  Whatever international initiatives we decide to develop, inside or outside of South Africa, will fall within the realm of higher education, culture and the arts, diversity, and scholarly communications.  The specific regions and specific projects will emerge in the next year as we complete our assessments and welcome Saleem Badat, until recently Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, into his new role at Mellon as Program Director for International Higher Education and Strategic Projects.

Important change envelops the entire grantmaking program as well as operations at the Foundation.  Crosscutting all of our work will be commitments to promote the public humanities and arts, to pursue the achievement of diversity and inclusion in partnership with grantees and vendors, to facilitate the effective development and use of digital media, and to foster the extension of international collaborative partnerships.  These crosscutting foci should enable us to plan for a more meaningful set of initiatives and to align priorities and practices throughout the Foundation's programmatic and operational domains.

The smooth transition from planning to implementation requires that we carefully assess staffing levels and needs.  As a foundation, we have long championed non-bureaucratic processes and lean operations, with the belief that monies saved on staff could be more profitably spent on grants and programs.  We aspire to be faithful to this principle even as we seek to ascertain that we have appropriate practices and sufficient staff to execute all dimensions of the plan.  As a first step toward implementation, we are pleased to announce the addition of Makeba Morgan Hill as Deputy to the President and Chief Planner.  Makeba, a native New Yorker, has a wealth of experience in strategic planning in both health care and academic environments.  Most recently she served as Assistant Vice Provost for Planning and Accreditation at Emory University.

There is considerable internal excitement as we march toward Mellon's golden anniversary in 2019.  In all candor, some of what is to follow the plan's implementation will barely draw notice, since it will appear so in keeping with past practices.  If, however, little seems new in the end we will have failed to calibrate appropriately the dynamic tension between continuity and change.  We anticipate, therefore, that in the months ahead glimmers of the new will take their place among the signs of the old.  And like the young girl in Natasha Trethewey's poem that opened this essay, we will learn lessons that illuminate past and present, historical and contemporary, continuity and change.  Mostly we hope to continue to make a difference in support of higher education and scholarship, the humanities and the arts.

As you will read in the subsequent pages, planning for the future has not come at the expense of continuing the work at hand.  Even as we wind down the Conservation and the Environment program and alter the other programs, we remain steadfast in our goal of partnering with able individuals from capable institutions to promote the work of the arts and humanities in advancing knowledge, discourse, and intercultural understanding that are critical to flourishing, inclusive, and creative societies.

Earl Lewis
June 2014


Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities

Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities

Vice-Presidents Philip Lewis and Mariët Westermann continued to exercise joint responsibility for the program in 2013.  Ms. Westermann was responsible for grants to US universities and to institutes for advanced study, as well as for collaborations between Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities (RUSH) and Mellon programs other than Liberal Arts Colleges.  Mr. Lewis managed the Mellon-based competitions for Sawyer seminars and New Directions fellowships, handled grants to humanities centers, and negotiated arrangements with regranting organizations.  RUSH also continued to oversee grants representing the interests of the Foundation in the public humanities, understood as the broad horizon on which the arts and humanities engage with the policy concerns of other philanthropies and with social and political issues.  In particular, it completed a series of endowment grants to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that bring to a total of $5 million the funding committed for sustaining indefinitely the core of the Humanities Indicators, a vital database that makes available to the world at large information about the role of the humanities in our society.  Another RUSH grant of $2 million in endowment completed the Foundation's commitment to the core faculty fellowship programs at the National Humanities Center.  Each of these endowment grants fits within a central focus of the 2013 calendar year on the program's decisive participation both in planning for future Foundation activities under President Earl Lewis and for bringing to closure a significant number of long-term projects so as to create room for the launch of new initiatives.  As a result of this strategic planning process, RUSH will merge with the Foundation's Liberal Arts Colleges program by 2015.  The consolidation of the two programs into one named Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities is spurred by recognition that, despite pronounced differences of mission, scale, and practice between research universities and liberal arts colleges, these different types of institutions share many interests and problems that compel the Foundation to situate their respective sectors in the larger system of higher education.  As President Lewis notes in his essay in this report, the consolidated program will continue to attend to the specific needs and opportunities of universities and colleges while focusing deliberately on opportunities for crosssector collaboration in such areas of mutual concern as doctoral education and pedagogical training, digital humanities research and teaching, the evolving curriculum of liberal education, the involvement of institutions of higher education in public humanities programs, and regional relationships between research universities, liberal arts colleges, and other kinds of institutions.

Among the organizations that administer Mellon-funded fellowship programs for graduate students, recent PhD recipients, and scholars who teach in US and Canadian universities, the most prominent over the past two decades have been the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).  Both received additional support in 2013 for fellowships that fund graduate students in the arts, humanities, and related social sciences.  The ACLS grant renewed support for its long-term competition for dissertation completion fellowships, while the renewal for the SSRC's dissertation proposal development program funded a pilot project, the key objective of which is to design the gradual transfer of this mentoring responsibility to the graduate schools whose students now seek outside guidance.  The Foundation expects to make a final grant in 2015 to support the implementation of the SSRC plan.  During 2013 RUSH also continued to make grants in support of a variety of postdoctoral fellowship programs, both for recent PhD recipients and for early and midcareer faculty in the humanities.  The ACLS received $4.4 million for its "public fellows" program that places recent PhDs in the humanities in positions in public agencies and nonprofit organizations, as well as a smaller grant for renewal of a program that supports collaborative research by teams of two or three humanities scholars.  Its two programs for early-career faculty, the Ryskamp fellowships for untenured faculty and the Burkhardt fellowships for recently tenured faculty, were also renewed.  A number of institutions—Johns Hopkins University, McGill University, the University of Michigan, Brown University, and the National Humanities Center—also received assistance with postdoctoral programs in the humanities and the arts.  At the same time, the Foundation's officers conducted discussions with the ACLS about the systemic implications of postdoctoral programs for new PhDs and continued the shift introduced in 2012 toward decreasing the fraction of RUSH’s annual resources allocated to such programs.

RUSH maintained its annual investment of approximately $5 million in two ongoing programs for which groups of distinguished scholars meet at the Foundation to select the winning applicants.  The program named after former Mellon President John Sawyer, which enables interdisciplinary groups of faculty to come together in yearlong seminars devoted to the comparative study of culture, made awards of $175,000 to nine institutions: Boston, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Georgetown, and Northwestern Universities and the Universities of Cambridge, California at Los Angeles, Minnesota at Twin Cities, and Texas at Austin.  The New Directions program provides funding over a period of three years to scholars who, at a point six to ten years beyond completion of the PhD, seek to pursue formal study in fields other than those in which they hold their degrees.  A total of $3.24 million was allocated to the 14 scholars whose projects were selected.  In the domain of international studies, RUSH made grants totaling $2.64 million to three institutions: the International Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden, The Netherlands), the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (Washington, DC), and the American Academy in Rome.  A series of grants in support of international partnerships between US and foreign institutions, inaugurated in 2011, was concluded with grants to the Fondation Maison des sciences de l'homme (Paris, France), which will organize multiple connections between American and European universities, and to the University of Michigan for a partnership with the Witwatersrand Institute for Social and Economic Research (Johannesburg, South Africa).

RUSH support for interdisciplinary humanities centers, reinforced in recent years, continued in 2013.  It was marked by a second major grant to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, an international organization of more than 180 members headquartered at Duke University, that will support collaborative research by groups of scholars working on historically important interdisciplinary problems at multiple sites in North America and around the world.  Other grants in support of humanities centers went to the Cogut Center at Brown University, the Franke Institute at the University of Chicago, and the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin.  Of special note was a $3 million grant to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), which will lead a consortium of 15 humanities centers in major midwestern universities.  Alongside RUSH grants to these campus-based centers, an award to the New York Botanical Garden will assist in the development of a center for advanced scholarship in the humanities at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

Two initiatives conceived in 2011 and 2012 were pursued further in 2013.  The first of these, launched under the rubric "Arts on Campus," supports universities that seek to integrate the design, making, and performance of art more systematically into their undergraduate curricula and faculty research programs.  The initiative distributed a total of $1.8 million in awards to Johns Hopkins University and to the University of Michigan Musical Society.  The second initiative, "Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities," focuses on the city as it is being transformed in our age of accelerating urbanization.  It is funding the concerted exploration by a dozen or more institutions of the interdisciplinary knowledge that the planet's urban environments will require to ensure a livable future.  Major thrusts of the initiative include the establishment of stronger relations within universities between schools of architecture and programs in the humanities, and stronger engagement of universities with their own urban communities.  In 2013, the initiative disbursed more than $11 million to groups at Harvard, Princeton, and New York Universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and the Witwatersrand.

The constellation of RUSH grants for the year included approximately 20 awards that supported innovative academic programs and research projects in particular universities.  Noteworthy among these were: grants to the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago for programs in Islamic studies; grants to the Universities of Rochester and Southern California for interdepartmental training programs in the digital humanities, with an emphasis on graduate students; an award to Dartmouth College for the establishment of a Society of Fellows; a grant enabling Vanderbilt University to develop exchanges of faculty members and postdoctoral fellows with Berea College, Tougaloo College, and Tennessee State University; a grant to New York University for the establishment of a Center for Ballet; and a grant enabling the University of New Mexico to expand a curriculum focused on the land arts of the Southwest.

Liberal Arts Colleges

Liberal Arts Colleges

The Foundation's Liberal Arts Colleges (LAC) program, led by Eugene M. Tobin, makes multiyear grants to liberal arts colleges and regional consortia in support of the arts, humanities, and related social sciences.  In 2013, LAC continued its support of colleges and universities that demonstrate a commitment to liberal education, uphold rigorous academic standards, and encourage close student-faculty relationships.  Cognizant of the ongoing demographic, economic, technological, and competitive challenges faced by liberal arts colleges, LAC worked with grantees to balance competing priorities and to maintain a focus on institutional mission.  As in recent years, iterative conversations and exchanges focused on curricular renewal, faculty development, pedagogical innovation, and initiatives that have the potential to exert a lasting influence on students and faculty.

Liberal arts colleges face a constant stream of institutional and student-driven expectations.  The intimacy, rigor, and personal attention that characterize a liberal arts college education make for costly commitments to individualize student learning through first-year seminars, collaborative research, and capstone projects.  The need to introduce interdisciplinary, comparative, and cross-cultural perspectives into the curriculum, educate global citizens, and integrate study abroad, internships, and civic engagement into students' overall educational experiences results in an equally compelling and taxing set of expectations.  Recently, the emergence of sophisticated tools and pedagogies associated with the digital liberal arts, such as geographic information systems, text mining, visualization, and multimedia presentations, has raised important questions about the appropriate levels of students' digital literacy and the readiness of faculty to adopt new approaches in their teaching and collaborative research.

The common denominator linking student-faculty research, the internationalization of the curriculum, and the introduction of digital pedagogies is the continuing need for faculty development and renewal.  This is especially important during a period of financial constraints and escalating costs when colleges are increasingly reliant on current faculty members' engagement with curricular development and mentored research.  Throughout 2013, LAC invited participating institutions and consortia to consider how Foundation support might strengthen curricular and pedagogical innovation with a focus on faculty renewal.  Some grants reflected a renewed commitment to general education, oral and written communication, global engagement, experiments with digital pedagogies, and the expansion of student faculty collaborative research opportunities in the humanities.  Other grants used combinations of postdoctoral fellowships, retirement initiatives, internal sabbatical leave replacements, and the conversion of full-time and part-time adjunct positions to tenure-track to promote faculty renewal, curricular coherence, and the effective allocation of resources.  LAC also responded to requests to create an arts-based campus culture in which art-making is an autonomous cognitive practice that illuminates other curricular areas.  In other instances, LAC recommended grants that trained students, faculty, and librarians in geospatial and computational analysis for use in teaching and research.

For most liberal arts colleges the notion of "going it alone" is an unrealistic option.  The pace of change and constraints on the ability of liberal arts colleges to respond to new curricular and pedagogical imperatives means that many institutions may not only fail to innovate, but may become increasingly isolated from national higher education conversations.  The diseconomies of scale that wreak havoc with the small-college business model are equally frustrating when faculty find few colleagues on their home campuses capable of appreciating and critiquing their work as teachers and scholars.  In addition, growing economic challenges make it imperative that as institutions seek to improve student learning, they also explore strategies to reduce or stabilize instructional costs.  These are areas in which liberal arts college consortia can make substantial contributions.

Throughout 2013, LAC worked with consortia on a variety of curricular and faculty development initiatives.  Building on the results of its successful Faculty Career Enhancement project (FaCE), the Associated Colleges of the Midwest received a grant of $2 million to enable faculty members to enhance their teaching through the use of blended learning and the application of insights from cognitive science.  The Foundation made a $1.25 million grant to the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium to support collaboration in study abroad, blended learning in less commonly taught languages, and exploration of a single learning management system.  A $1 million grant to Five Colleges Incorporated focused on a broad range of technology-centered projects, including the use of blended learning in commonly and less commonly taught languages and study of the comparative learning outcomes from hybrid and traditional classroom pedagogies.  Other grants supported pilot studies of online learning in the humanities by member institutions of the Council of Independent Colleges and an exploration of blended learning by the Central Pennsylvania Consortium.  The Associated Colleges of the South received funds to test potential collaboration between liberal arts colleges and research universities, and the Five Colleges of Ohio used a renewal grant to expand the integration of digital materials into teaching and scholarship.  Finally, a grant to the ASIANetwork supported in-country seminars for Asia specialists seeking to expand their areas of expertise.

The promotion of formal and informal collaborations is not limited to existing consortia.  LAC supported joint courses, guest lectures, faculty panels, and simulations to encourage academic relationships between students and faculty at liberal arts colleges and military institutions of higher education.  A group of liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania received a planning grant to explore the development of a new state-wide consortium.  Two women's colleges in Virginia, Sweet Briar College and Hollins University, received an officer’s grant to study inter-institutional collaboration.  Wofford and Converse Colleges were awarded a planning grant to explore an integrated library management system.

Successful collaborations require both strong leadership from college leaders and "ownership" by faculty and staff.  Without these core elements, collaboration has less chance of succeeding when faced with the autonomous institutional cultures reflected in different academic calendars, course schedules, and student enrollment sizes.  A $1.4 million grant to Carleton College, in collaboration with St. Olaf College, which built on a previous planning grant and even earlier partnerships between the respective libraries, demonstrated that, while proximity matters, patience and familiarity with one’s counterparts are crucial to mutually beneficial relations.  Lastly, LAC concluded 2013 with a growing realization that collaboration between dissimilar, noncompeting institutions with complementary strengths may be a productive avenue to pursue.

As noted in the report on the Foundation's program in Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities, that program will be consolidated with LAC in the course of 2014.  While the integrated program will support individual liberal arts colleges as it has in the past, it will be in a better position to pursue objectives that tie colleges directly to the lives of research universities, such as strengthening pathways for bringing traditionally underrepresented college graduates into PhD programs, or preparing doctoral candidates for tasks of teaching and mentoring in broadly integrative academic programs that are vital to the mission of liberal arts colleges.

Diversity Initiatives

Diversity Initiatives

Early in 2013, the Foundation began to plan for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program, which will take place at the High Museum in Atlanta on June 25, 2014.  In anticipation of that milestone, a yearlong critical appraisal of MMUF was completed in December 2013.  The design and development of a new MMUF Web site (www.mmuf.org), pursued throughout the year, was completed in time for an early 2014 launch.  Additionally, 11 MMUF chapters were renewed for four years, and two longstanding summer programs at Bowdoin College and Williams College were reconstituted with independent grants.

As one of higher education's premier "pipeline" programs aimed at remedying the problem of underrepresentation in the American professoriate, MMUF has become a multigenerational scholarly network of considerable complexity.  Through December 2013, MMUF had chosen 4,230 fellows, 510 of whom had earned PhDs and 705 of whom are currently enrolled in PhD programs. In addition, 85 fellows have now earned tenure.  Of those who finished the PhD, approximately 80 percent of fellows have at one time taught or are currently teaching in colleges and universities, with many others teaching in public and private schools and holding research positions.  The report resulting from the review of MMUF summarizes 180 pages of statistical documentation and data analysis focusing on the varying rates of "throughput" of fellows to PhD programs from the 41 MMUF colleges and universities, as well as the UNCF consortium participants.  Comparisons between the throughput rates of all participating programs were made on the basis of such contributing factors as institutional wealth, freshman to sophomore persistence rates, graduation rates, institutional selectivity, total earned PhDs per 100 baccalaureate degrees, and "critical mass" factors such as the percentages of black and Latino/a students on campus, the relative diversity of institutional faculties, and the percentage of students eligible for Pell Grants.  Among the report's notable findings is MMUF's outstanding average time for earning the PhD degree of 6.6 years, which betters by as much as one year the median time nationally for social science PhDs and by as much as 2.5 years for humanities PhDs.

Intensive planning and development of the new MMUF Web site resulted in a new capacity to highlight the ongoing achievements of fellows including the recent appointment of the first fellow to become a college or university president.  The Web site also serves to publicize the many annual events sponsored by MMUF, including those for graduate fellows planned by the Social Science Research Council and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

The Diversity Initiatives area also made grants that continue to support other pipeline programs with similar aims to MMUF.  In 2013, grants were made to the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library and the Library Company of Philadelphia for summer programs to support the use of primary materials by college students wishing to pursue graduate study in African American culture and history; to the Kohala Center in Hawaii for dissertation completion and postdoctoral fellowships for Native Hawaiians and others studying aspects of Hawaiian history, culture, and the environment; and to the University of New Mexico for late-stage graduate students completing dissertations focused on Mexican American, Native American, and border topics.  Additionally, grants supporting the research agendas of underrepresented scholars and others during the early phases of their careers were made to the University of Chicago and to the UNCF.

The Foundation supports faculty and curriculum development as well as capacity-building in the area of enrollment management for a group of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that offer an exemplary liberal arts education.  It also promotes faculty degree attainment for the Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) through the American Indian College Fund (AICF).  In 2013, grants were made to Dillard University for faculty career enhancement; to Bennett College in support of internationalization of undergraduate study; to Johnson C. Smith University both for the expansion of a visual and performing arts curriculum and a new faculty development plan; and to the HBCU Library Alliance to promote coordination of library resources with faculty research agendas.  The AICF received a grant for masters degree completion for TCU faculty to complement an existing grant in the area of PhD completion.

Scholarly Communications and Information Technology

Scholarly Communications and Information Technology

The Foundation's Scholarly Communications and Information Technology (SCIT) program was led in 2013 by Donald J. Waters and Helen Cullyer.  The mission of SCIT is to help ensure that academic and cultural institutions disseminate widely the knowledge and research they produce and that they make easily accessible and preserve the original sources, interpretive scholarship, reference materials, and other resources that scholars need for further research and teaching.  SCIT's objectives are to: (1) strengthen the publication of scholarship in the humanities and the arts and its dissemination to the widest possible audience; (2) support libraries and archives in their efforts to preserve and provide access to materials of broad cultural and scholarly significance; (3) assist scholars in developing specialized scholarly resources that promise to open or advance fields of study in the humanities and related social sciences; and (4) support the design, development, and implementation of information technologies that directly enhance scholarly research at the university and college level, or support the core operations of libraries, archives, museums, and performing arts organizations.

Grant support in the field of publishing emphasized initiatives that are developing and using innovative tools and workflows to enhance authoring, editing, and reading in a digital environment.  The program provided support to the University of Southern California for further development of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, a collaboration among scholars, archivists, and publishers, and of Scalar, a multimedia authoring tool.  A grant was made to the Pennsylvania State University to fund the planning and prototyping of the Public Philosophy Journal, a new open access serial that would focus on topics of urgent public concern.  SCIT also supported studies on the current state and future possibilities of publishing.  Grants were made to Rutgers University to support research on the feasibility of collaborative direct marketing for US university presses and to the University of Cambridge for a sociological study of the transformation of book publishing in the digital age.

In the field of preservation, the program focused on grant support for the preservation of digital materials, including electronic scholarly publications, and of audio and audiovisual collections.  Columbia University received funds to increase significantly the number of electronic journal titles preserved by services such as Portico and Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (LOCKSS).  SCIT provided funds to the New York Public Library to support a preservation needs assessment of its audiovisual collections and to the Northeast Document Conservation Center for the planning of a suite of new audio reformatting and preservation services that it would offer to cultural institutions.  In order to improve access to special collections in the US, SCIT continued to support the national Hidden Collections Cataloging program administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).  SCIT also made grants to support cataloging of collections held outside the US.  These included a grant to the Austrian National Library (ANL) to support the digitization and cataloging of its large unpublished collections of ancient and medieval papyri in Arabic, Coptic, and Greek.  ANL scholars and staff are collaborating closely with scholars and technologists at the Duke University library's Foundation-funded Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3), which is intended to serve as a model for the increased integration of academic units, libraries, and information technology services that is required to support digital scholarship.

In the area of digital scholarly resources, a grant was made to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München for further development, in collaboration with ANL and Duke, of the Arabic Papyrology Database (APD), an online database of Arabic papyri that is used both for research and online instruction.  SCIT also made grants to support advanced scholarly resources and software tools in the fields of classical studies, early modern studies, and archaeology of the Americas.

In 2012, SCIT conducted an evaluation of its information technology projects and those funded by other programs at the Foundation.  Several grants were made in 2013 following the recommendations of that assessment.  Stanford received funds to hire staff, conduct workshops, and disseminate code, standards, and data models with the goal of fostering collaboration and efficiencies across software development projects that serve humanities scholars and cultural institutions.  Cornell was awarded a grant to conduct software development that would enable libraries to create and publish linked data about scholarly publications at large scale.  Several projects received grants that would assist them in the development of sustainability models, and Ithaka Harbors, Inc. was awarded funds to design and implement sustainability workshops for technology and digital resource projects in the higher education and cultural sectors.  The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign received a grant to support a nationwide regranting competition for proposals that promise to develop software tools and methods that would enrich and augment the metadata of digitized materials in the HathiTrust repository.  The technologies generated by the selected projects would make the contents of the HathiTrust and potentially other large digital repositories more useful for scholarly research.

SCIT also supports a number of fellowship programs that advance the objectives of the program and of the Foundation as a whole.  In 2013, these included postdoctoral fellowships, administered by CLIR, for digital data curation in the field of early modern studies, and the iSchool Inclusion Institute of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, which provides summer fellowships that prepare undergraduate students from underrepresented populations for graduate study in information science.

Finally, Duke University received funds to support the Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI), formerly hosted by the University of Virginia.  The new SCI would address pressing cross-disciplinary issues in scholarly communication, and participants at each institute would be selected by means of a competitive review process.

Performing Arts

Performing Arts

The Foundation's Performing Arts (PA) program, led by Susan Feder, seeks to shape and sustain a vibrant performing arts ecosystem at the intersection of creative practice and public engagement.  Its grants aim to stimulate ambitious and distinctive work, preserve culturally significant repertoire, promote inclusivity and diversity, build knowledge within the sector, and strengthen exemplary institutions that are advancing these efforts.  To the extent that artistic creation is experimental and pushes boundaries, it resembles research undertaken by scholars; over time the works created may enter the canon and themselves become the subjects of scholarly inquiry.  PA puts particular emphasis on the development and dissemination of new work, through grants to institutions that place a high value on artist-driven processes led by composers, choreographers, playwrights, and ensembles creating devised work.

In 2013, the program continued to organize the distribution of its grants by discipline, in music (largely to orchestras and opera companies), theater, and contemporary dance.  Increasingly, it has directed resources toward presenting organizations, alongside producing companies, in recognition of the crucial role they play in the incubation and touring of new work.  Reflecting the rapidly changing demographic, technological, and financial challenges facing performing arts organizations, PA also fostered organizational capacity building and leadership development.

Over the past several years, PA has made an effort to align with the Foundation's other principal program areas by expanding support for the performing arts at colleges and universities.  Through grants for performances and residencies that highlight the role of artists in the cultural and intellectual life of the campus, the program has aimed especially to make these activities readily accessible to students.  In 2013, the Foundation launched a multiyear initiative placing choreographers in extended residencies at schools whose offerings include strong dance departments and professional arts presentations.  Flexibly designed to be reflective of the strengths of each school, grants were awarded to Bard, Lafayette, Middlebury, and Williams Colleges and Montclair State University.  Funds will support time and space for creative work and research, choreographers' integration into the academic and social environment, and distinctive opportunities for kinesthetic academic engagement.  A related grant to Wesleyan University continues funding for multidisciplinary artistic and curricular initiatives and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.  The Foundation also renewed support for the presentation of ambitious classical music events at four research universities: the Universities of North Carolina, Michigan, California at Berkeley, and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  In tandem with the Foundation’s recent RUSH grants to these institutions as part of its Arts on Campus initiative, this set of grants aims to integrate the university's cultural, academic, and new media resources to educate and engage audiences, work with faculty to provide academic context for the performances, and enable students as well as community constituents to become active participants in program offerings.  By concentrating on presentations by large ensembles, especially visits by leading orchestras, the grants were also intended to complement the Foundation's efforts to help orchestras extend their performances beyond traditional subscription seasons.  Another grant provided spendable and endowment support for the Bard Music Festival at Bard College.

Among PA's regranting programs, the National Dance Project (NDP, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts) and the New York Theater Program (NYTP, administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts) received renewed support in 2013.  NDP subsidizes production and touring costs to presenters and artists across a broad aesthetic array—established, emerging, culturally specific, and experimental—as well as providing pre-production residencies designed to support the artist in improving the quality of the finished product through technical, artistic, directorial, and dramaturgical assistance.  NYTP offers general operating support to small and midsized New York City-based theater producers and presenters that vitally contribute to theater culture on both a local and national scale.  The Network of Ensemble Theaters received an implementation grant in 2013 for its Touring and Exchange Network, which aims to build organizational and artistic capacity among creators of "devised work" through the sharing of techniques, ideas, and expertise.  Renewed support to the National New Play Network will sustain its Continued Life of New Works fund and help develop an online script database.

Cooperating with producing organizations that increasingly provide physical and technical resources to improve developmental processes, the Foundation made grants to Washington National Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Theatre for a New Audience, Center Theatre Group, and the University of North Carolina PlayMakers Repertory Company, among others.  PA grants also provided production support to a number of companies with exemplary commitments to commissioning and producing new work or to reviving existing work in distinctive new formats.  In the former category were grants to Glimmerglass Opera Festival, Lincoln Center Theater, Los Angeles Opera, and English Stage Company (Royal Court Theatre); in the latter, grants to the Park Avenue Armory, New World Symphony, and Philadelphia Orchestra.  In recognition of exemplary efforts to create distinctive, socially relevant dramatic work, often in collaboration with local communities, grants were awarded to Cornerstone Theater Company, Perseverance Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, and Appalshop (Roadside Theater).

PA continued its backing of efforts to preserve dance archives, with implementation grants to the Martha Graham Dance Company, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and Pick Up Performance Company (David Gordon), and assessment grants to New York Live Arts and Discalced (Mark Morris).  Renewed support to the Dance Notation Bureau will enable the notation of important dance works in Labanotation.

In harmony with the Foundation's commitment to diversity and inclusion, the program made grants to support the Sphinx Organization's national tour of musicians from underrepresented communities and Chicago Sinfonietta's Project Inclusion fellowships for orchestral musicians and conductors.  A grant to L.A. Theatre Works subsidized the distribution of its audio drama database to 49 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Recognizing that organizations that foster inspiring artistic work need to be appropriately capitalized, the Foundation provided grants to build capacity and catalyze activities of fieldwide benefit at Gina Gibney Dance, the American Symphony Orchestra League, and the Lark Theatre Company.

As President Lewis notes in his essay in this annual report, the Foundation's two programs in the arts—Performing Arts and Art History, Conservation, and Museum—will, in the course of 2014, be merged into a consolidated program of Arts and Cultural Heritage.  This reconfiguration makes explicit two assumptions that motivate the Foundation's grantmaking in the arts alongside higher education and the humanities.  First, the arts constitute a fertile field of human inquiry, knowledge, and experience that is distinct from other forms of human thought and making.  Second, a dense matrix of cultural organizations helps ensure that the arts can flourish and that their accomplishments remain available as a resource for future generations.  These performing arts organizations, museums, and art centers have cognate missions and challenges, and they are largely distinct from the institutions of higher education supported by the Foundation’s other programs.  The merged Arts and Cultural Heritage program will be able to respond more nimbly to changes in today's evolving system of the arts, in which boundaries between institutional types and media have blurred and performing and visual arts organizations face similar challenges.

Art History, Conservation, and Museums

Art History, Conservation, and Museums

In 2013, the Foundation’s program in Art History, Conservation, and Museums (AHCM) continued to be led by Vice President Mariët Westermann and Associate Program Officer Alison Gilchrest.  AHCM supports the fields of art history and conservation through grants to museums, research centers, and universities, with an emphasis on collaborative efforts among institutions.  The program maintained the Foundation's long-standing commitments to curatorial and conservation initiatives at the intellectual core of museums, while expanding recent initiatives aimed at strengthening teaching with objects and collections in graduate art history education as well as the development of scholarly resources for modern and contemporary art.

Following a yearlong planning process, the program awarded a major grant to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to support an undergraduate fellowship program aimed at diversifying the curatorial profession by providing opportunities to students that are historically underrepresented in the sector.  LACMA will administer this program in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

New and evolving approaches to the role of digital media and outreach in curatorial practice were supported at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Creative Time, and the Carnegie Museum of Art.  AHCM supported core curatorial and training functions of museums with grants for curatorial positions and postdoctoral fellowships at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Menil Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, as well as installation planning at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

The program continues to support the study, public understanding, documentation, and preservation of contemporary art.  The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art received support for reinforcing its commitment to working with artists to document, install, and preserve their works.  Through the Artist Initiative, the museum will integrate these practices systematically into its collecting and conservation activities, and disseminate them widely through exhibitions, publications, and online resources.  Both this grant and a final renewal of the Panza Collection Initiative at the Guggenheim Museum are intended to enable collaboration among curators, conservators, and artists or their estates.

Support continued for graduate programs in art history that wish to integrate exposure to object-based study and curatorial practice more fully into their curricula, usually in collaboration with significant museums.  Under this initiative, a grant was made to the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, and twin grants were made to the University of California at Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Two grants supported cross-institutional initiatives that use a short-term institute model to reach broad cohorts of emerging scholars: a grant to New York University renewed funding for a summer institute in technical art history hosted at the Institute of Fine Arts, and a grant to the Center for Curatorial Leadership will help launch a pilot curatorial institute for PhD students.

Three institutions of higher education (Colby College, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania) received final rounds of support under the Foundation's long-running College and University Art Museums initiative, for programs designed to generate academic collaborations among curators, faculty, and students around museum collections and exhibitions, including the development of new curricula across the disciplines.  Under a similar rubric, Johns Hopkins University received a last grant for its Museums and Society program.

In the area of art conservation, the program continued to focus support on strengthening the pipeline of conservators who specialize in the care and treatment of Chinese paintings.  Endowment challenge grants to the Smithsonian's Freer-Sackler Galleries and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will help to build a full cohort of midcareer conservators who could eventually become senior experts and trainers in this critical field.  An endowment challenge to the Denver Art Museum will support a conservator and fellowship program in textile conservation, which is also a small but vital specialization.  In conservation science, the program continued to emphasize mutually productive relationships between museums and universities.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston received a grant to support scientific collaboration in conservation with the Menil Collection and the chemistry department at Rice University.

While the Foundation emphasizes support for US institutions, AHCM's interests extend to collaborations between American institutions and counterparts abroad.  Attending to global networks in which art history, conservation, and museums operate, the program again funded select international projects.  A grant to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will support a program of predoctoral curatorial fellowships; a grant to the Iziko Museums in Cape Town will strengthen conservation capacity; and a grant to the Universidad Complutense de Madrid will support research related to the conservation of the Pórtico de la Gloria at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

AHCM grantmaking in 2013 largely focused on themes that will be of ongoing interest to the program, including diversification of the curatorial pipeline, efforts to strengthen scholarly resources for the study and conservation of contemporary art, and use of technology to enhance scholarship and dissemination of knowledge about cultural heritage.  As noted in the report on the Foundation's activities in the Performing Arts, above, AHCM will in the course of 2014 be merged with PA into an integrated Arts and Cultural Heritage program.  The merger will enable AHCM to work more effectively at the intersection of new media, performance, and installation art, to attend more closely to the role of artists in arts organizations, and to strengthen the work of museums as premier institutions for the public humanities.

Conservation and the Environment

Conservation and the Environment

Grantmaking in the Foundation's program in Conservation and the Environment, directed since 1979 by William Robertson IV, closed in December 2013 as long planned.  Elsewhere in this annual report, an essay by Mr. Robertson reviews the history of the program.  Plans for its orderly closing were made several years ago at a moment when the Foundation was reinforcing its core commitments to the arts and humanities; they were carried out flawlessly and on schedule by Mr. Robertson, who retired from the Foundation in December 2013, and his colleagues, Doreen Tinajero and Sydney Gilbert.  In 2013, the program made 76 grants totaling $13.6 million, including large grants to some major institutions—the New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the Smithsonian Institution—that will take the lead in ensuring the continuation of the broad collective project known as the "Plants Initiative" that was begun in 2003.  Final proposals were accepted in 2013 from more than 60 participants in the Plants Initiative as well as from four grantees in the Research Bridges to South Africa program.

The Plants Initiative has assisted a consortium, formed gradually as the original effort focused on Africa expanded to other continents, of 322 herbaria from more than 75 countries in the work of developing and maintaining a coordinated database of high-quality digital images (600dpi) of plant type specimens (the original specimens used to identify species).  The type images that constitute the core of the database are supplemented by reference works, photographs, and botanical art.  The participating herbaria, including those that will provide for the management and enhancement of the database in the future, have been contributing images for all of the types they hold.  Their estimates indicate that the total number of images in the Plants Initiative database will exceed 3 million.  The database now holds about 2.8 million images and associated data: 1.8 million types and historical specimens; 400,000 images of artwork, photographs, and reference materials; and nearly 450,000 articles linked from JSTOR.  Objects continue to arrive at a rate of about 7,500 per week.  That rate is expected to continue through 2014 and taper off thereafter.  Searches within JSTOR Plants also display returns from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and other online resources.  The database is available online at JSTOR (http://plants.jstor.org).

Special International Emphasis: South Africa

Special International Emphasis: South Africa

Over the past two decades, the Foundation has made grants to academic institutions and nonprofit organizations in South Africa under the guidance of Stuart Saunders, who formally retired from his post as senior advisor at the March 2013 meeting of the Board of Trustees.  At the request of incoming president Earl Lewis, Dr. Saunders agreed to continue to serve as a consultant to the Foundation for the remainder of 2013 and recommend to the Board, during the summer and fall, grants that would be considered in the third quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.

In 2013, the program made 19 grants totaling $6.1 million.  These awards continued to support primarily six research universities—Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, and the Universities of Cape Town, Pretoria, the Western Cape, and the Witwatersrand—with which the Foundation has maintained ongoing relationships.  As in the past, the grants to universities supported activities in a number of categories: graduate student fellowships, postdoctoral fellowships, research projects in the humanities, specialized research centers, interdisciplinary institutes, endowed chairs for distinguished faculty, and opportunities for faculty and staff development.  Supplementing this ongoing pattern was an award of $500,000 for financial aid to both undergraduate and graduate students at the University of the Free State.