A $650,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to Wake Forest University in support of “engaged humanities” – teaching, learning, mentoring and real-world problem solving that moves beyond the classroom.
The three-year grant will support a program that will expand interdisciplinary humanities research, teaching practices and public scholarship.
Michele Gillespie, dean of Wake Forest College, will advance these efforts in partnership with the Humanities Institute, Information Technology Services, Z. Smith Reynolds Library (ZSR), Reynolda House Museum of American Art and the historic Reynolda estate, to create broad-based support for the humanities at Wake Forest and in the broader Winston-Salem community. Administration and faculty will have support in many forms, including grants for curricular design, faculty seminars, public engagement projects, symposia and conferences.
Funding will support a range of humanities-inflected programming, including, in response to high faculty demand, more opportunity for cross-disciplinary faculty to teach together and offer students the benefit of intentional cross-disciplinary learning, particularly in the context of publically engaged courses, for which faculty have increasingly been seeking support.
“We are honored that the Mellon Foundation recognized the work we have done and are making it possible for Wake Forest to continue building on the network of resources for the engaged humanities that is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education,” Gillespie said. “It’s building on faculty initiatives to connect learning with engaged scholarship in the broader community and curricular innovation.
Mellon funding also supports two new positions, a digital humanities research designer and a web developer, who will help launch a digital humanities design studio in ZSR Library to support the research and design needs for faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate/professional studies. The studio will be a component of the larger ZSR renovation plans to create a suite of Collaborative Learning Spaces as part of Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest.
The engaged humanities program will be framed in the context of Wake Forest’s modern day presence in Winston-Salem, connecting the campus to the history of the community and linking the past, present and the future. For example, in an effort to engage Reynolda House with learning on the main campus, faculty, students, and museum staff will organize scholarly gatherings inspired by the Reynolda Conferences hosted a century ago in Katharine Reynolds’s reception hall.
“Our fast-expanding Innovation Quarter downtown, the Reynolda Historic District and our main Reynolda campus tell a quintessentially American story of industry, innovation, and cultural transformation in the New South, with attendant tensions, possibilities, and challenges,” said Provost Rogan Kersh. “Consequently, our subject matter includes expanded and refreshed interpretations of race, class, community, the arts and cultural heritage, refracted through the legacy of tobacco and the significance of medicine and related fields in Winston-Salem.”
At a time when many liberal arts institutions have struggled with questions of relevancy, Wake Forest has stepped up its efforts to reaffirm its distinctive liberal arts mission. The University’s humanities renaissance began with a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant in 2010 that led to an additional $1.5 million raised by Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest in the years that followed. Transformational programming in the College such as the Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathway to Medicine Program, which offers guaranteed admission to Wake Forest School of Medicine for up to five undergraduates majoring in the humanities or fine arts, and new interdisciplinary initiatives like a growing digital humanities community at Wake Forest have followed.
“Over the last five years Wake Forest faculty have increased their work in public and digital humanities. This new initiative will help scale up efforts and allow our faculty and students to move to the next level with new resources to expand campus capacity for both kinds of work,” said Mary Foskett, director of the Humanities Institute. “The engaged humanities supported by the Mellon grant seeks to strengthen and make explicit the important relationships that our students and faculty are building with the larger community.”
The grant will help administrators and faculty focus on three priorities that align with the Mellon Foundation’s mission:
“We had planted all of these seeds and they were starting to sprout. The Mellon grant will enable them to grow across the humanities and blossom in interdisciplinary connections,” Gillespie said. “This grant is going to help us build on faculty initiatives to connect learning with engaged scholarship.”