Grant to allow philosophy department to expand, enhance diversity initiatives

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Department of Philosophy, already a nationally recognized leader in diversifying the discipline of philosophy, will receive $800,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to advance efforts related to underrepresented students, including African-Americans, Latino/as, Native-Americans, and others who have “demonstrated commitment to diversity in the academy and/or focus their graduate studies in critical philosophy of race.”

“The lack of diversity is widely recognized as a serious problem in the discipline of philosophy,” said Amy Allen, liberal arts research professor of philosophy and head of the department. “Over the last decade, Penn State has developed a leadership position in addressing this pressing problem.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently profiled the department’s achievements in diversifying its graduate student body. In 2015-16, the department graduated five black women with doctorates in philosophy, single-handedly increasing the number of black women with philosophy doctorates in the United States by almost 10 percent.

“This grant is really a recognition of the work that the Penn State philosophy department has been doing for a number of years,” Allen said, “and it will enable us to build on our existing success and expand our efforts even further.”

The project will be led by Allen and Robert Bernasconi, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy, and will include regular participation by Penn State colleagues Eduardo Mendieta, professor of philosophy; Kathryn Gines, associate professor of philosophy; and other members of the department.

The grant will support five major activities:  

  • Expand existing recruitment efforts to identify and actively recruit students from underrepresented groups for graduate study in philosophy.
  • Expand and enrich "Cultivating Underrepresented Students in Philosophy," an existing workshop for prospective graduate students.
  • Enhance existing mentoring programs for graduate students, including those from underrepresented groups.
  • Create a dissertation completion fellowship that would allow students who are advancing diversity through their experience or research to devote a full year to their dissertations.
  • Create a postdoctoral fellowship for recent doctoral students who are enhancing diversity through their experience or research.

“We are truly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this recognition of our department’s achievements around diversity and for their substantial support of our ongoing efforts. With their help, we hope to build on our past successes to make a lasting and significant positive impact on both the demographics and the culture of the discipline of philosophy,” Allen said.

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Last Updated February 27, 2017