Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities

Building just and durable democracies in the 21st century depends on extending the benefits of higher education to all students, including those historically underrepresented, and enabling students of all backgrounds to experience and value diversity and inclusiveness in their pursuit of learning.  Colleges and universities are custodians of knowledge; they produce, preserve, and transmit it for the good of culture and society.  Support for the humanities in these institutions bolsters their commitments to liberal education, their capacities for innovative research, and their ability to contribute substantially to debates about contemporary challenges.

Mission and Goals

Through the program in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, the Foundation assists colleges, universities, and research institutes.  Among these institutions are research universities, liberal arts colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions.  In practical terms, this means helping institutions train scholars and produce scholarship in the humanities broadly conceived; fostering practices of diversity and inclusion and promoting the social value of the humanities; responding to the economic, demographic, financial, and technological challenges affecting higher education; and expanding access and support degree completion.

New areas as well as strengthened emphases include:

  • Curricular innovation in the humanities, arts, and related fields
  • Faculty development as teachers, scholars, and academic citizens across the stages of a professorial career
  • Support for organizations that employ traditional and non-traditional means to help colleges and universities diversify their student population
  • Reinventions of doctoral education that broaden the intellectual and professional preparation of students
  • An initiative to increase representation of the Latino/a population in PhD programs and the professoriate
  • Research on broad structural questions in higher education
  • Research to increase understanding of diversity and efforts at diversification and inclusion
  • Initiatives that involve humanities scholars in grand challenge questions that require interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Collaborations among institutions and across institutional sectors
  • Initiatives that promote engagement with the public humanities

Radcliffe is Reshaping Our Understanding of the Fight for Suffrage 

Award-winning author and historian Jane Kamensky leads a Mellon-funded initiative reminding us that the fight for suffrage didn’t end when the 19th Amendment was ratified.


In New Hampshire, Community Colleges Foster a New Generation of Humanities Scholars 

The New Hampshire Humanities Collaborative is rekindling enthusiasm for the humanities by helping community college students find meaningful employment and aiding in the transfer process to four-year

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Taking the Long View on Academic Leadership: Historian and Case Western Provost Ben Vinson III 

Ben Vinson III—one of the foremost historians of Latin America and an alum of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program—strengthens pathways for the next generation of diverse leaders.

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Humanities Without Walls: Scholars in the Midwest Partner to Solve Today’s Challenges 

Scholars from Midwestern universities collaborate on projects examining climate change, globalization, and other challenges, all while charting new pathways for doctoral students in the humanities.

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Driven by Data: The Center for Policing Equity 

Phillip Atiba Goff, an alumnus of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program, blends humanism and data science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to improve community policing nationwide.

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Refusing to Forget: Monica Muñoz Martinez Uncovers America’s History at the Border 

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) alumna Monica Muñoz Martinez on her new book, her MMUF experience, and how academic excellence can shape public history.

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Origins of Sound: New Directions Fellow Laurent Dubois Studies the Banjo 

Laurent Dubois, Mellon Foundation New Directions fellow and director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics at Duke University, talks about using his fellowship to explore the history of the banjo and the links between the instrument and its African roots.

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The Demands for Diversity Hiring Require a "Pipeline" 

An op-ed by Mellon Foundation Senior Program Officer Armando Bengochea.

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Igniting Confidence and Building the Humanities Pipeline 

The Johns Hopkins-Community College of Baltimore County Humanities for All Program builds confidence and research skills for community college students.

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New Directions: G. Gabrielle Starr 

Pomona College President, Gabrielle Starr on the intersection of the humanities and neuroscience, and how her New Directions Fellowship paved the way.

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Duchess Harris: Archiving the Past for Future Generations 

Duchess Harris, alumna of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program, discusses her "Human Computers at NASA" digital archive project at Macalester College and tells the story of her grandmother Miriam Mann, one of NASA's earliest "hidden figures."

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Public Libraries Are Reinventing Access to Higher Education 

Senior Program Officer Eugene Tobin on the critical importance of the new Bard College and Brooklyn Library "microcollege."

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Tell Them We Are Rising: A Documentary Film Breaks New Ground  

Senior Program Associate Emma Taati interviews Stanley Nelson, award-winning filmmaker and National Humanities Medal recipient, about his new documentary on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

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Community Colleges and Universities Collaborate to Foster the Next Generation of Humanities Scholars 

A new initiative from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the CUNY Graduate Center and LaGuardia Community College supports students on their pathway from an associate to a baccalaureate degree in the humanities.

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Freeing History 

Historian Erica Dunbar discusses her new book "Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave" and the impact of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.

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"Higher Education Has Given Me My Humanity Back" 

Senior Program Officer Eugene Tobin’s account of his visit to Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, NY.

An inmate at Five Points Correctional Facility presenting from a lectern in his college class.READ MORE >

Revitalizing Graduate Education 

Cristle Collins Judd, former Senior Program Officer in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, on the Mellon Foundation's commitment to the future of doctoral education.


What Can You Do With a PhD? 

The American Council of Learned Societies helps humanities PhDs find opportunities in public service.


Supporting Native American Education 

Less than 13 percent of Native Americans hold a college degree. The American Indian College Fund and College Horizons aim to increase that figure.


Going Full Circle with Mellon Mays 

Besenia Rodriguez reflects on her journey in the program from Brown University undergraduate to Associate Dean of the College for Curriculum.


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