Mellon Grant to Strengthen Humanities Curriculum and Foster New Collaborations

The English department launched a pilot lab for the Humanities Unbounded proposal, “Representing Migration.” Shown are Professors Charlotte Sussman and Jarvis McInnis with doctoral student Karen Little and sophomore Liddy Grantland. Photo by Les Todd

Duke University will expand on its commitment to a strong humanities curriculum and forge new collaborations beyond campus with a $3 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, President Vincent E. Price said Friday.

The funding will establish Humanities Unbounded, which will run from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2023. The initiative will focus on three major areas:

  • Developing new collaborative curricula models that blend undergraduate education with faculty research and graduate student training
  • Deepening Duke’s relationships with liberal arts colleges and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)
  • Piloting a new teaching partnership with Durham Technical Community College.

“Duke has long been engaged in building the future of the humanities, both through undergraduate teaching and faculty scholarship,” Price said. “We are grateful for the support of the Mellon Foundation, which will help us strengthen existing partnerships and forge new connections on our campus and beyond.”

Humanities Unbounded will build on the success of Humanities Writ Large (HWL), an initiative aimed at changing the role of the humanities at Duke. HWL supported labs that integrated undergraduates with faculty and graduate students engaged in humanities and social science research. With Humanities Unbounded, Duke seeks to scale up these efforts, such as embedding the humanities’ lab structure into humanities departments and curricula.

“We plan to develop nine humanities labs over the course of the grant, and we believe this will create innovative and flexible educational pathways that will expose more Duke students to the richness of humanistic thinking and its exciting research possibilities,” said Gennifer Weisenfeld, dean of the humanities.

The program will be led by Weisenfeld, an art historian; historian Edward Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies; and Ranjana Khanna, director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke and professor of English, women’s studies, and literature.

Humanities lab funding will support course development, research assistance, graduate student training, website and multimedia production, visits by external partners, research trips, student projects, and faculty and staff training in lab development and operations.

Humanities Unbounded will strengthen connections with liberal arts colleges and HBCUs through a series of two-year visiting faculty fellowships. The first year will be spent in residence at Duke, where fellows will conduct research and develop collaborative relationships. During the second year, fellows will receive funding to share their Duke experiences with their home campuses after returning to teaching, and to continue research collaborations.

Humanities Unbounded will also pilot a teaching partnership with Durham Technical Community College, which serves a diverse population of 20,000 students. The pilot will pair graduate student research assistants from Duke with Durham Tech faculty. The pairs will then work to develop innovative teaching modules that could include collaborative research, community‐based oral histories, the reorientation of syllabi around a case study approach, or the development of online resources. The project will focus on Durham Tech courses eligible for transfer credit, thereby preparing students to continue at four-year institutions.

“This new partnership will generate great benefits for both institutions,” said William Ingram, president of Durham Tech. “It creates exciting opportunities for our instructors to further enhance and develop their pedagogy, and that will have long-term benefits for our curriculum.”

Originally posted on Duke Today

Duke to Convene Year-long Sawyer Seminar on Corporate Rights and International Law


Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to support interdisciplinary scholarship on the nature of the global corporation

From politics to popular culture, the corporation is one of the most critical institutions of the modern era. It’s also one of the most controversial. Do corporations have rights? Are corporations people, societies or even governments? What are their civic, social, ethical and political responsibilities?

Supported by a grant of $175,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Duke University will convene a year-long Sawyer Seminar to wrestle with these complex issues about the global corporation.

“Corporate Rights and International Law: Past, Present, and Future,” will be organized by Rachel Brewster, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law, and Philip J. Stern, Sally Dalton Robinson Associate Professor of History.

The seminar will bring together an interdisciplinary community of scholars to explore how international, commercial and political rights have shaped corporate power, and consider how corporations should govern, and be governed, in our ever-globalizing world.

Hosted by the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Center for International and Comparative Law, the seminar will galvanize a robust community at Duke and in the wider Research Triangle area of North Carolina. A roundtable in Spring 2017 will convene core faculty for discussion, and the heart of the seminar will take place throughout the 2017-2018 academic year through an ambitious program of meetings and keynote addresses. It will conclude with a day-long roundtable on the intersection of corporate history and the history of human rights, and the effect of both on structuring corporate responsibility and accountability.

Sawyer Seminar awards include support for a postdoctoral fellow and for the dissertation research of two graduate students. Duke will advertise these opportunities in the coming months.

“This seminar exemplifies the capacity of Duke faculty members to imagine compelling humanistic explorations across the divides of disciplines, societies and eras,” said Edward Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. “Rachel’s and Phil’s collaboration will spark important dialogues about the pivotal roles of the corporation in the early modern and modern worlds, as well as the salience of the deeper past for contemporary policy-making.”

Duke is the recipient of previous Sawyer Seminar grants, most recently in 2010, which have each made a lasting contribution to the university.

Further information on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation can be found at

Pen and ink cartoon by Albert Reid depicting American financier J.P. Morgan grasping the Earth in his arms, ca. 1895-1905.

Originally posted on Duke Today