Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Appoints Three New Fellows in Residence

NEW YORK, NY, April 3, 2019 – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced the appointment of three new Fellows in Residence: Cathy Davidson, distinguished professor at the CUNY Graduate Center; Stephen Pitti, professor of history and American studies at Yale University; and Olga Viso, senior advisor at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and former executive director of the Walker Art Center. 

In the summer of 2019, they will join a cohort of prominent leaders in the arts and humanities who have served as fellows at the Foundation, where they have pursued research and worked with Foundation colleagues on shared interests. 

Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander and Executive Vice President Mariët Westermann noted in a joint statement: “It is an honor and pleasure to have Olga, Cathy, and Stephen join us. The Foundation works to reinforce the arts and humanities in the service of human flourishing and diverse, fair, and democratic societies. Several fellows have already joined us successfully in this mission, and we very much look forward to our newest fellows advancing this work.”

Cathy N. Davidson is a scholar of cultural history and technology. At the CUNY Graduate Center, she serves as Distinguished Professor of English, Founding Director of the Futures Initiative, and Codirector of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, a partnership with LaGuardia Community College. She is also the cofounder and codirector of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), the world’s first and oldest academic social network. She previously was a professor at Duke University, and she has published more than twenty books, including Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (Oxford University Press, expanded edition, 2004), Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking, 2011), and, most recently, The New Education: How To Revolutionize the University To Prepare Students for a World in Flux (Basic Books, 2017), recipient of the 2019 Frederic Ness Book Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In 2011, President Obama appointed her to the National Council on the Humanities. A native of Chicago, Davidson earned her undergraduate degree from Elmhurst College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Binghamton University, and did postdoctoral studies at the University of Chicago. At the Foundation, she will work on projects related to the reform of doctoral education in the humanities for the 21st century as well as on the importance of community college and other subjects. She will begin her fellowship in September.

Stephen Pitti is the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration at Yale, and also the Head of Ezra Stiles College. Until 2018 he served for six years as a member of the National Park Service Advisory Board and as chair of the National Historic Landmarks Committee, and in those capacities led an exploration of historic sites that could tell more complete stories about all Americans. Pitti is the author of The Devil in Silicon Valley: Race, Mexican Americans, and Northern California (2003) and articles on Latinx history and historiography. He has provided expert reports on the history of racial animus for federal civil rights cases, and he is currently working on two book projects: The World of César Chávez and Leaving California: Race from the Golden State. While an undergraduate at Yale, Pitti was a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellow. He went on to Stanford University for the PhD. At the Foundation, Pitti’s projects will include work related to the role and place of ethnic and race studies in the academy as well as the visibility of American histories in the US landscape and built environment. He will begin his fellowship in June.

Olga Viso is currently the senior advisor on global partnerships in the arts at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute. Her projects there include work on a partnership with James Turrell’s Skystone Foundation to complete the monumental earth work Roden Crater and develop an interdisciplinary academic enterprise with the artwork at the center. At ASU she is also collaborating with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on an initiative to offer professional development for emerging museum curators of color. Previously, Viso was executive director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota for ten years, where she greatly expanded the range of modern and contemporary art and artists represented in the institution. She has also held directorial and curatorial positions at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Norton Museum of Art, and the High Museum of Art. A native of Florida, she received her undergraduate degree from Rollins College and an M.A. from Emory University. In 2013, she was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on the Arts. While at the Foundation, Viso’s projects will continue her work on the interdisciplinary potential of the arts today and on the future of artists’ foundations and archives. She will also begin her fellowship in June.

Each fellow will serve for twelve months and pursue a number of projects in collaboration with Foundation leadership and staff.

Since 2015, Foundation fellows have included Karen Brooks Hopkins, the former president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and James Shulman, founding president of Artstor and now Vice President and COO of the American Council of Learned Societies. Current, continuing fellows are William D. Adams, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and President Emeritus of Colby College; Johnnetta Cole, former director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and President Emerita of Spelman and Bennett Colleges; and Michael S. McPherson, President Emeritus of the Spencer Foundation and of Macalester College.

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at


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Laura Washington