Maria Sachiko Cecire Joins Mellon Foundation as Program Officer in Higher Learning

headshot Maria Sachiko Cecire

NEW YORK, NY, December 17, 2020 – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced that Maria Sachiko Cecire will join the Foundation as program officer in Higher Learning effective January 11, 2021.

As program officer, Cecire will participate in grantmaking that generates more complete, and accurate, cultural and historical narratives; broadens access to humanities education; elevates ideas and knowledge that illuminate our shared human experience; and accelerates the demographic transformation of faculties and leadership in the US academy. 

“Maria is an experienced and innovative humanities scholar and educator whose leadership in pioneering extraordinary interdisciplinary initiatives and undertaking wide-ranging creative work in podcasting, documentary films, and short fiction writing demonstrate her profound understanding of how the humanities can transform our society,” said Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “We look forward to her joining the Mellon Foundation in the new year.”

“Maria’s conversancy with some of the most vital current trends in the humanities will beautifully round out the talents of the Higher Learning team,” said Phil Harper, program director for Higher Learning at Mellon. “In particular, Maria brings a deep understanding of the crucial role to be served by experimentation and collaboration within humanities research itself and, by extension, in the creation of the just communities that the Foundation strives to advance. I am absolutely delighted that we will benefit from her insight and wisdom and am eager to begin working with her.”
Cecire is associate professor of literature and the founding director of the academic program and Center for Experimental Humanities at Bard College. This interdisciplinary initiative is dedicated to experimentation with digital, analog, and conceptual methods of learning, research, and public engagement. It brings together diverse collaborators from across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, including in the local community, and supports justice-minded projects that take a range of forms, including immersive 3D environments, traditional food growing and preservation methods, and multimodal performance. This year under Cecire’s leadership the Center celebrated the launch of the international Experimental Humanities Collaborative Network, comprising eleven institutions around the world and part of the new Open Society University Network. 

Cecire’s research interests include children’s literature and youth culture, media and digital studies, medieval literature and its afterlives, and the role of the humanities in contemporary society. She is the author of Re-Enchanted: The Rise of Children’s Fantasy Literature in the Twentieth Century (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), and coeditor of Space and Place in Children’s Literature, 1789–Present (Routledge, 2015). Cecire is a national project scholar for the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion group for underserved teens around the US, primarily in juvenile justice, alternative school, and youth outreach settings. She is currently at work on an interdisciplinary research project about the intellectual lives of so-called “at-risk” youth and their responses to young adult literature. She is also a member of the feminist digital humanities Data-Sitters Club project. Cecire will be on extended leave from Bard to take up the role of program officer at Mellon.
Cecire received her BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, and Master of Studies in English Medieval Studies and Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. 

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Mellon Foundation and the Higher Learning team at this exciting time, under Elizabeth Alexander’s visionary leadership,” said Cecire. “Important humanities work is being done all around us by a wide array of thinkers in sometimes unconventional forms. It’s an honor to support such endeavors in line with Mellon’s emphasis on social justice, and to help foster more diverse perspectives, bold collaborations, and inclusive conceptions of the humanities in higher learning.” 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

For more information, contact

Laura Washington