UIC wins Mellon grants to fund undergraduate humanities research, Latino doctoral studies

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received two grants totaling nearly $1.9 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund expanded opportunity for undergraduate research in the humanities and to assist doctoral candidates in Latino humanities studies.

UIC Provost Susan Poser

As part of the Engaged Humanities Initiative, or EHI, the university will receive $1 million over four and a half years to teach and mentor undergraduate students to explore and conduct research in the humanities at UIC.

The initiative will be based in the UIC Institute for the Humanities where students who are part of EHI will have the opportunity to meet with mentors, attend lectures and workshops, and engage in professional development. UIC faculty will teach seminars that introduce students to the humanities and guide them in learning research methods and developing research topics. Faculty will also mentor students who are preparing for graduate school and other careers that will draw on their humanities education.

Because students attending UIC hail from such diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds, UIC Provost Susan Poser, who is also the principal investigator on the grant, expects that the topics they choose as research projects will reflect this diversity and expand the type and scope of research that students choose to pursue.

“This in turn will encourage faculty to explore how humanities education and pedagogy can adapt to become more connected to, and inclusive of, the lives of this generation of students. Long term, this program will help UIC become a model of humanities education for the 21st century,” said Poser.

Maria de los Angeles Torres

Maria de los Angeles Torres, IUPLR executive director and UIC professor. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

In addition to this 3-year grant, the Inter-University Program for Latino Research – a UIC based national Latino research consortium — has received an $884,088 grant from the Mellon Foundation to continue its efforts to support doctoral students working in Latino humanities. The initiative previously received an $800,000 grant from Mellon.

The grant is part of the efforts of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research to develop a national fellowship program designed to mentor Latino studies scholars as they complete their doctoral research and improve their job-market readiness.

The latest grant will go to help six fellows chosen every year from the consortium’s centers, including UIC, to complete their dissertation in Latino studies in the humanities, said Maria de los Angeles Torres, professor of Latin American and Latino studies and the executive director of the consortium.

“The goal is to maximize swift and effective progress to complete the PhD, increase job market readiness and introduce students to a variety of potential jobs,” said Torres, who is the principal investigator on the grant.

One of those people who benefited was Jose Castellanos, who received his doctorate during the 2016-2017 school year and is currently teaching at Loyola University in Chicago.

“The fellowship has literally changed my life,” said Castellanos. “Like the fellowship did for me, I have the opportunity to help students who just need a little push and a little extra help to graduate.”

Joining Poser on the Engaged Humanities Initiative grant proposal was Astrida Tantillo, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Mark Canuel, professor and director of the UIC Institute for the Humanities; and Sara Hall, Associate Professor of Germanic studies and Director, Office of Undergraduate Research.