Penn State joins Humanities Without Walls project

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State is a member of the new Humanities Without Walls consortium, a consortium of 15 universities encompassing the Committee on Institutional Cooperation 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 million grant by the Mellon Foundation, with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities as the lead investigator.

''We are proud to be part of this groundbreaking initiative in cross-institutional collaboration on such a large scale,'' said Michael Bérubé, IAH director and the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Penn State. ''The idea is to undertake collaborative projects that not only span disciplines but bring together the collective energies and resources of humanities centers throughout the major universities of the region.''

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State supports and promotes innovative, interdisciplinary work by faculty scholars, artists and musicians, and graduate students in the arts and humanities throughout the University. An interdisciplinary research unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research, the institute is under the sponsorship of the College of Arts and Architecture and the College of the Liberal Arts.

The Mellon grant will make possible two initiatives: the development of summer workshops for pre-doctoral students in the humanities who intend to pursue careers outside the academy, and the support of 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 from applications solicited in fall 2014. These workshops are internships that are designed to prepare doctoral students for employment outside universities, 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. Penn State’s IAH welcomes any and all proposals. Initiatives can concentrate on topics such as 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.

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Last Updated January 22, 2014