$5M Mellon Foundation grant to support a national initiative in Latino humanities studies

The University of Illinois Chicago has been awarded a three-year, $5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a national initiative in Latino humanities studies called “Crossing Latinidades: Emerging Scholars and New Comparative Directions.”

This initiative is the product of a new consortium, which includes all 16 Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in the country that have the R1 designation — top tier doctoral universities with very high research activity — in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The consortium is led by the council of chancellors and presidents of the participating universities and focuses its efforts on increasing the number of Latino students pursuing terminal degrees and advancing to academic positions. This is the first initiative for the consortium of the 16 R1-HSI universities, and additional plans are currently being developed across all fields of studies.

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“This is a powerful opportunity for UIC and our partners to leverage our strengths in research and our commitment to educating and empowering Latinx students, as we develop a new generation of Latino researchers and scholars and prepare them for faculty positions,” UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said. “This important Mellon award launches our efforts with the first cohort in the humanities, while at the same time, it gives us the opportunity to address critical research questions related to our local Latinx communities, consistent with our roles as anchor institutions in our cities and our regions.”

The multi-institutional model of research and training featured in the Crossing Latinidades initiative will expand opportunities for a growing population of Latino students and support a national cohort of doctoral students in Latino humanities studies.

A key component of the initiative is the creation of an intensive yearly summer institute on Latino studies methodologies and theories and a mentorship program that aims to enhance the rising scholars’ comparative research skills, intellectual curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. Each university will send two pre-proposal graduate students to the summer institute, and 96 students in total will benefit from the institute and from an assigned mentor. 

“The research and training program will benefit and help pre-dissertation Ph.D. students advance through the pathway to the professoriate and successful careers in academia,” said the project’s co-principal investigator Amalia Pallares, associate chancellor and vice provost for diversity at UIC. 

A second part of the program is a research working group initiative that seeks to impact the field of Latino humanities studies with a new model of collaborative, comparative and cross-regional research to more accurately reflect the changing configurations of Latinos in the United States. In years two and three of the grant, 10 research working groups will be funded that will include senior and junior Latino humanities scholars as well as six graduate students.  

“This is the first time that we have the opportunity to construct a framework that will encourage comparative research across regions,” said the project’s co-principal investigator Maria de los Angeles Torres, UIC professor of Latin American and Latino studies.  

Plans also include the creation of a web portal that will network all faculty conducting research in Latino studies at the consortium’s universities.

The project’s initial launch, which was supported in 2020 by a $150,000 officers grant from the Mellon Foundation to the department of Latin American and Latino studies and the Office of Diversity at UIC, included a faculty-led planning committee with representatives from each participating institution that structured the initiative. 

Olga Herrera, a visiting scholar in Latin American and Latino studies at UIC, will serve as the director of the Crossing Latinidades initiative.

UIC’s institutional partners in the consortium are the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York; University of Arizona; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Riverside; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Santa Cruz; University of Central Florida; Florida International University; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of New Mexico; University of Houston; University of North Texas; University of Texas, Arlington; University of Texas, El Paso; and Texas Tech University.

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