Mellon Foundation grants back two UIC humanities initiatives
The University of Illinois Chicago has received two grants totaling nearly $1.3 million from the Mellon Foundation in support of threatened humanities scholars from Latin America and a curricular and pedagogical program concerning humanities-based critical race and gender analysis.
Through a $785,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Higher Learning program area, UIC’s Latin American and Latino Studies program will establish “Scholars Under Threat in the Americas,” a fellowship program for writers, artists and other academics to reestablish or continue their professional careers while being hosted and contributing their unique international perspectives and experiences at UIC.
“From Nicaragua and El Salvador to Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela, scholars in various countries of the Americas have been increasingly threatened with violence, subjected to harassment and imprisoned as a result of their intellectual work and activism. As such, they are not able to practice their craft without peril,” said the project’s principal investigator Jonathan Inda, UIC professor and director of Latin American and Latino Studies.
The residential fellowships will host two threatened scholars and their families for two years beginning in August 2024 at UIC, where they will teach, research, mentor and partake in the intellectual and social life of the university.
Beyond hosting scholars, Inda said, the program will provide UIC faculty, staff and students, as well as the broader community and public, with the opportunity to engage in advocacy, acquire knowledge about the circumstances of threatened scholars in the Americas and learn from the participating researchers.
The program also will provide the two scholars the opportunity to visit other institutions in the Crossing Latinidades Humanities Research Initiative, a national consortium of R1 universities in the U.S. that are also Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
Among other related plans is a 2026 international conference on academic freedom and scholars under threat in the Americas, including the United States and Canada. It will involve threatened scholars hosted by other Crossing Latinidades institutions, as well as other experts.
A three-year, $500,000 grant within the Mellon Higher Learning program’s U.S. Racialization and the Law portfolio will support the “Humanizing Critical Race Theory” project, which integrates humanities-based critical race and gender analysis into undergraduate curricula, faculty scholarship and collaborative university-community projects at UIC.
The project is created by lead principal investigator Teri McMurtry-Chubb, associate dean for research and faculty development and professor at UIC School of Law, and co-principal investigator Jane Rhodes, professor of Black studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Working collaboratively with a dozen scholars across the university, McMurtry-Chubb and Rhodes created an interdisciplinary proposal to develop curricular and outreach tools that will prepare faculty and graduate students – particularly those who work with humanistic methods and theories – to teach versions of critical race and gender analysis to the next generation of undergraduate students.
“The award comes at a time when critical race theory has been under attack in the media and state legislatures nationally,” McMurtry-Chubb said. “Our aim is to empower students with knowledge and skills that can benefit their careers and their communities.”