Higher Learning


Working with colleges, universities, and organizations in higher education committed to the humanities and social justice, the Higher Learning program makes grants that broaden our understanding of American history and culture; develop the interpretive tools and methods researchers use to create meaning; support faculty and students whose work exemplifies a drive toward greater equity in their fields and institutions; and promote pathways for those seeking to exercise transformative academic leadership. 

How We Do This

Three interconnected strategies guide Mellon’s Higher Learning grantmaking:

Strategy one: Elevating the knowledge that informs more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures

Higher Learning supports knowledge production in the humanities by funding fellowships, seminars, curricular development projects, and regranting programs that center paradigm-shifting work in an array of emerging and established fields. We seek in particular to uplift perspectives and contributions that have been marginalized within the conventional scholarly record, and that promote the realization of a more socially just world. 

Strategy two: Accelerating the demographic transformation of US academic faculties and institutional leadership to better reflect the population and center humanities expertise 

Mellon has long worked to make the US professoriate reflective of the population at large—primarily through Higher Learning’s flagship Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, which is designed to ensure maximum diversity among humanities PhD candidates and, by extension, within the faculty pipeline. We also support professional advancement and mentoring programs for established humanities faculty members, with the aim of fostering demographic breadth and elevating humanities knowledge across all levels of academic leadership.

Strategy three: Creating equitable broader access to humanities higher learning opportunities

Mellon works to provide liberal-arts educational opportunities to the largest possible share of the population while also striving to ensure that all postsecondary students see humanities study as a viable and rewarding path. Thus, in addition to supporting such specific initiatives as higher education in prisons and the transfer of community college students to four-year humanities degree programs, Higher Learning also funds curricular and co-curricular programs that demonstrate the broad purchase of humanities expertise in the world beyond the academy.

Top photo courtesy of Macalester College.