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Humanities Without Walls

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities is pleased to announce a major new initiative.

The IAH is now a member of the Humanities Without Walls consortium, an unprecedented, ambitious consortium of fifteen universities encompassing the CIC institutions (Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Chicago), the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Notre Dame.

Last month, Humanities Without Walls was awarded a $3,000,000 grant by the Mellon Foundation, with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities as the lead investigator. The goal of the project is to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching, and the production of scholarship in the humanities, forging and sustaining areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation.

The grant will make possible two initiatives: one supports the development of summer workshops for pre-doctoral students in the humanities who intend to pursue careers outside the academy; a second initiative will fund cross-institutional teams of faculty and graduate students pursuing research that focuses on a grand challenge: “The Global Midwest.” The latter is intended to stimulate collaborative research that rethinks and reveals the Midwest as a key site—both now and in the past—in shaping global economies and cultures.

The first pre-doctoral workshop will take place during the summer of 2015; two graduate students from Penn State will be selected, and we will solicit applications for that in the fall of 2014. These workshops are internships that are designed to prepare doctoral students for employment outside universities-- the so-called "alt-ac" career track-- in response to the downturn in the academic labor market. In summer 2015, these internships will involve learning the operations of the Chicago Humanities Festival, which employs a wide range of people with postgraduate degrees. In future years, internships may be arranged with other nonprofit and cultural organizations that welcome applicants with postgraduate degrees. 

The Global Midwest project will begin immediately: each member institute now has $30,000 of seed money to sponsor a project that contributes to the understanding of the Midwest in a global perspective. Any and all proposals are welcome; initiatives can concentrate on (for example) the history of immigration in our area, the persistence of “heritage languages” in Pennsylvania, the place of Pennsylvanian labor, agriculture, and industry in the context of global commerce, or the changing landscape of Pennsylvania higher education as a locus for international students.

Beyond the first year of seed funding, Global Midwest groups will be eligible for additional rounds of $750,000 in two successive years ($1.5 million in all), if they propose inter-institutional collaborative networks with groups at another HWW institution. The humanities centers at the 15 consortial institutions will serve as the hubs for collaboration. The Chicago Humanities Festival and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois are also serving as key intellectual and infrastructural partners for the project.

The Humanities Without Walls consortium will be the first of its kind to experiment at this large scale with cross-institutional collaboration. The IAH is proud to be part of it– and we hope you will be, too. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions about this exciting new program.