Opening the Call: Scholarship in the Service of Social Justice

voting rights advocates gathered outside Courtesy of the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

A new call for concepts from the Mellon Foundation.

The last two years have seen an explosion of activism and dialogue as communities seek to combat society’s most entrenched injustices while working to realize a more equitable future.    

It’s change that is, at once, fraught with conflict and abundant with the energy needed to shape more just communities. It’s also change that is often most active at the center of college and university campuses, with younger generations questioning long-held norms, asking fresh questions, and putting forward new ideas for public discourse. Indeed, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckonings of 2020, student interest in fields associated with social justice has grown significantly.

But even if academic campuses are a nexus for this kind of change, the role of academic institutions in realizing a more just world is still taking shape. More than ever, colleges and universities across the country are piloting new approaches to help students and faculty explore urgent areas of inquiry—from the phenomenon of race and the struggle for enfranchisement to the role that literary work plays in imagining what a just world looks, sounds, and feels like. 

At this unique inflection point—with the role of higher learning in the promotion of social justice still being defined—the Mellon Foundation is issuing a call for concepts to institutions that are mounting curricular or research projects in three distinct categories that link broad-scale social-justice concerns to students’ day-to-day social and cultural experiences. Those categories include: 

  • Civic Engagement and Voting Rights: Projects that explore current and historical challenges to realizing broad participation in the democratic process
  • Race and Racialization in the United States: Projects exploring the past and present effects of racial differentiation across the spectrum of national life
  • Social Justice and the Literary Imagination: Projects aimed at advancing revelatory, reparative, and imaginative literary work that helps lay foundations for more just and equitable futures

See more about the call for concepts.

In keeping with the Foundation’s aim to increase the accessibility of its grantmaking, this call for concepts is unprecedented in breadth and openness—designed to reach institutions without a recent history of Mellon funding.

The invitation is intended for four-year, non-profit, accredited, degree-granting institutions in the US that offer a liberal arts education. Envisioned projects should be achievable with contributions from Mellon of $250,000–$500,000, with durations of up to three years.