There is, of course, more than one way to think about philanthropy. What follows is, therefore, a personal view, and it differs a good deal from views that are widely held these days. It derives from my experience of having been “on both sides of the table”: five years as president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and six years as president of the University of Chicago. Others, depending on aims and experience, will have very good reasons to hold a different view. I only wish to offer some aid and comfort to those made slightly uncomfortable by the currently dominant discourse.
Both philanthropy and higher education are subject to fashion, much of which comes in waves from the world of business. This is understandable because trustees of both kinds of institutions often come from the world of business and suppose quite naturally that the application of current business practices to philanthropies and institutions of higher education would cure their many ills. By this I do not mean to suggest that philanthropies and institutions of higher education are not businesses. They certainly are. But it is essential to understand what kinds of businesses these are. For a start, the underlying logic of for-profit businesses and not-for-profit businesses is inherently very different, and much else flows from this quite naturally. This might at a minimum call for more modesty when pointing the finger across the boundary between the two.
If one doubts that business is subject to fashion (one might even dare to say mere fashion), one has only to look at one’s shelf of business books accumulated over a few decades. One might similarly review the qualifications and management styles of the leading CEOs of the last few decades. Most of these books have very short intellectual shelf lives for all of their momentary popularity. Yet they often come cloaked in a kind of moral superiority suggesting that one is both incompetent and morally bankrupt if one does not subscribe wholly to the view being advanced. The waves of “total quality management” and “continuous improvement” were good examples. They were not devoid of valuable insights. But they were preached and promoted by armies of consultants in ways often reminiscent of old-time religion and its revival meetings--you must hold hands with the person on either side of you and believe, and if you don’t there is the clear likelihood that you will go straight to Hell. (Note)
“Strategic planning” has proved more durable but has had some of the same features. Every business, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, must plan for how it will carry on its affairs over a certain time horizon. The problem with many strategic plans, especially in the for-profit world, is that the time horizon is not nearly long enough. But in the worst of cases, it can lead one to reduce complex matters to slogans, which, once adopted, can blind one to the continuously shifting landscape if not the actual earthquake going on around one.
Some of the currently fashionable words having a particular effect on philanthropy are “impact,” “assessment,” “entrepreneurship,” “venture.” They will be found in the course and reading lists of every business school and on the Web sites of a good many foundations. It is not that these terms are meaningless. But they have much to do with the ways in which enormous wealth has been created by some individuals who then (blessings upon them) wish to become philanthropists. They have solved one very concrete problem--how to make a lot of money in some particular line of business--and they suppose that life consists for the most part of similar kinds of problems that are amenable to similar kinds of solutions. Most of the world’s truly serious problems, however, are very much harder. The philanthropist who limits his or her field of vision to problems even of the dimensions of how to take a company from startup in a garage to a market capitalization of many billions will misjudge the nature of many of the world’s problems and simply ignore a good many others. Finally, it must be said that a great deal of wealth has been created by standing in the right place at the right time, or having genuinely incompetent competition, or benefiting from inappropriate power and influence. A genuine philanthropist does not get to accomplish things by any of these methods, for the enemies to be overcome ultimately reduce themselves to suffering and ignorance, which are implacable and implacably complex.
The philanthropist may, of course, choose to solve a problem that is well defined and demonstrably solvable. One can reduce the number of children’s deaths from malaria in the developing world by distributing mosquito netting at a quite low unit cost. It will be possible to count the number of nets and their costs and reasonably estimate the number of lives saved. Who could not want to see such a thing happen? Suffering will have been reduced. But what about the ignorance in which these children may live out their lives even if they are healthy? That is a much more difficult problem that afflicts the developed world every bit as much as the developing one. And if we care about the human spirit and enabling human beings around the globe to live the fullest possible lives, we must not ignore it just because we find it difficult to measure the dimensions of either the problem or its solution.
Philanthropy is not a branch of the social sciences, though it may attempt to ameliorate social ills. The philanthropist must understand that not everything is easily measurable and that the correlations of the social scientist do not necessarily lead unproblematically to effective policy. And one would be bound to admit that the social sciences have been notoriously poor at predicting even major catastrophes. Some of their predictions can turn out to be simply wrong. Hence, one cannot always approach philanthropy as if it were a controlled experiment in which one could feed one group of mice a lot and another group a little and then discover which group got fat. John Maynard Keynes, a great social scientist by any measure, put the matter extraordinarily well when he wrote the following: “the statement that Queen Victoria was a better queen but not a happier woman than Queen Elizabeth” is “a proposition not without meaning and not without interest, but unsuitable as material for the differential calculus.” The philanthropist must always bear in mind that many of the most important things in human life are not suitable material for the differential calculus.
American culture sometimes contributes to the failure to take this into account. There is no doubt that the United States has a culture of generous philanthropy that exists nowhere else in the world at anything like the same level. That generosity has created and sustained the world’s greatest universities, conquered terrible diseases, and much else. But there is a strongly practical, sometimes shortsighted, and ultimately anti-intellectual streak in this culture as well. This society has often felt compelled to justify major undertakings in terms of their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product or the national defense. But we have by now learned very well that GDP can grow while leaving behind an unconscionable number of poor. And defense spending can grow without any view to what might make the nation most worth defending.
The culture of sports also can have unfortunate effects. The public likes to know who wins and who is ranked number one or in the top ten or top 100. This appetite for rankings can produce utterly perverse effects in some areas of endeavor in which philanthropy is important. Higher education may be the most egregious. Many philanthropic dollars have been unwisely spent in the effort to make one or another college or university “more competitive” and thus higher in the rankings of such institutions. It is nonsense to suggest that one could construct a meaningful ranking in the first place. But the criteria according to which institutions rise or fall in such rankings as those of U. S. News & World Report have essentially nothing to do with the quality of educational experience that any particular individual is likely to have in any particular institution. For example, the fact that one institution has rejected many more applicants than another guarantees nothing about the experience of the student who enrolls at the one or the other. The fact that one institution is very much wealthier than another and thus is able to spend much more per student than another guarantees nothing in and of itself about whether that wealth is being invested wisely in things that might contribute to a better education. Often the philanthropic dollars that produce the wealth of institutions are invested in ways that pander to the rampant consumerism of our society in general and of very many 18-year-olds in particular.
Worst of all is the money spent on intercollegiate athletics. It is sometimes claimed that successful athletic teams generate philanthropy for other purposes. This has been shown not to be true in the main. Yet a good deal of philanthropy in higher education goes to supporting athletics programs in which students of lesser academic ability are segregated from the intellectual life of their institutions and in the worst of cases graduate at very much lower rates than their fellow students. Participation in athletics can be a valuable part of an undergraduate education, just as playing in the college orchestra or acting in a play can. But the goal cannot be allowed to become rising to number N from number N-x simply for its own sake.
Philanthropy must in the end be about values worthy of the name. These are not easily measurable or rankable. And they may not be novel or change much over time. It may not be possible to realize them easily. But failure in the attempt does not necessarily make the attempt unworthwhile. This argues for a philanthropy that resists fashion and the pursuit of novelty for its own sake. The worst thing about much philanthropy in the foundation world especially is that it is fickle.
It is well then to begin by asking not what is the problem to be solved, but what is the phenomenon to be addressed and what are the values to be realized. The answer to this question must predominate over whether the outcome has impact that is easily measured or can be easily assessed. This may entail a willingness to live with ambiguity and what might be thought to be failure in more conventional terms. The fear of failure can stand in the way of noble undertakings. Even more important in this context, however, is that one need not be deterred by a fear that one may never know whether one has succeeded or failed except that one has valued and supported some activity. There is a cost/benefit analysis that is usefully undertaken in this context as well. Efforts at impact and assessment may simply cost too much as a fraction of the total resources being expended. All of us surely believe that certain activities are inherently worthwhile and deserve support even if they cannot be shown to cure ills that might be measured by the tools of social science.
This raises an ethical question. Some problems can be solved and some social ills measurably ameliorated. Given the enormity of the social ills afflicting even the richest country the world has ever known, to say nothing of the developing world, how can one devote resources to activities that do not ameliorate these ills or that may even disproportionately benefit those who must be seen to be privileged by any reasonable definition?
The logical extreme of the position implied by this question, given that the world’s social ills will almost certainly never be entirely cured, would hold that no philanthropic resources whatever should be devoted to higher education and cultural institutions except perhaps to the extent that higher education trains people who will work directly on social problems. Such a view surely implies similar constraints on consumption by the well-to-do. How can one devote one’s personal resources to anything other than basic necessities in the face of human misery? This points directly to the question of income inequality and income redistribution. Individuals will have widely varying views of this, but nations will arrive at compromises among these individual views and engage in more or less income redistribution for social and other purposes. But every nation--including the most socialist in the world today--and every individual could always do more.
A better approach to the ethical question would start with some attempt to describe the rights of all people, rich and poor alike. Martha Nussbaum describes this (somewhat more expansively than Amartya Sen) in terms of capabilities that every human being is entitled to realize. These capabilities include, of course, good health and nutrition, education, and political freedom. But they also include the capability of thought and imagination and creative work. Seeing the realization of this capability as a fundamental right provides the framework in which we can advocate the investment of philanthropic resources in cultural institutions and in those aspects of higher education that serve more than a merely instrumental purpose. Although it will not be easy to strike the balance among capabilities in the face of resource constraints, to fail to invest in the realization, on the part of as many people as possible, of the capability of what we might call the life of the mind and its creative potential is to deprive at least some number of people of a fundamental human right.
Understood in this way, the humanities and the arts are essential to being fully human and are far from being mere entertainment. This is not to say that everyone participating in the arts by attending plays and concerts is deeply engaged in living the life of the mind. And it does not prevent one from regarding some artistic creation as trash. But simply to arrive at such a critical judgment is itself to exercise the imagination in a way that society should value and promote. In this way, the cultivation of the humanities and arts can be understood to be one of the responsibilities of a society to its people and an essential part of becoming fully human for the individual.
It will be very hard either to prove this or measure it. How would we know that more people are living the life of the mind? Taking college courses in the humanities, attending concerts and plays, and visiting museums do not in and of themselves guarantee it. We are forced to console ourselves with the belief that doing these things is better than not doing them and that promoting them is a worthy undertaking.
These activities turn out to be expensive, and this returns us to the question of income redistribution. Absent some commitment on the part of society at large and philanthropy in particular, they will become increasingly the province of the rich. This is a fundamental injustice in the terms I have outlined. The embarrassing fact, however, is that many in the United States at the moment seem fully prepared to deny to a substantial fraction of the population the capability of good health and adequate food and shelter. It should perhaps not be surprising then that these same people are fully prepared to withdraw public support for the humanities and the arts. This leaves the responsibility for the necessary redistribution of income to individual educational and cultural institutions. Each must enable access for the less well-to do by requesting or simply requiring the more well-to-do to contribute a greater-than-average share of the costs. Philanthropy plays a very big role in this, a role that is favored by the tax code. But placing this responsibility ultimately on thousands of individual educational and cultural organizations is at a minimum a very inefficient method for achieving a result that is crucial to the well-being of the society at large.
Accepting the appropriateness of philanthropic support for the humanities and the arts, how might one think about actually providing it? A foundation that would have this as its principal goal must begin by understanding thoroughly that it only supports money-losing businesses. If educational and cultural institutions of the kind we have in mind were not by their nature money-losing businesses they would have no need of philanthropy. Market forces have shown clearly that they will not provide the necessary support for such activities.
This is perhaps the hardest thing for some philanthropists and trustees of philanthropies to understand, coming as they sometimes do from the world of for-profit entrepreneurship. Some will say that they do not wish to make donations for the sake of covering deficits. But every philanthropic dollar goes to cover a deficit. The only question is how large a deficit is the institution reasonably prepared to try to cover. Expenses and revenues must of course be brought into balance, and this requires careful planning and estimates of risk (as in any for-profit business). But there is no such thing as saying that the first dollar donated during the fiscal year is not covering a deficit whereas the last one is. Similarly, to say, for example, that an institution ought to live within the means provided by its endowment without reducing its real value is only to say that the institution’s deficit should be covered by past donors who created the endowment rather than by present donors.
Another feature of activities such as the humanities and the arts that does not respond well to the culture of the for-profit world as we encounter it today is that they operate on very long time horizons. One might argue that the for-profit world could benefit from operating with longer horizons in view as well. But the pursuit of the humanities and the arts is by its nature timeless and endless. Its methods may change over time, but its goals remain essentially the same, and thus there is no such thing as the quick fix or the quick profit.
This runs headlong into modern society’s unquenchable thirst for novelty and its correspondingly atrophied attention span. Setting aside the mass media and their attitude toward what ought to be conveyed as news to the citizenry, even universities can fall prey to the pursuit of novelty for its own sake. This has a way, without malice necessarily, of privileging the sciences and technology over the humanities and the arts. Science is by its nature about the pursuit of the new. Discovery is its goal--sometimes patentable and revenue producing. Thus, the university’s own communications effort may give a much more prominent place to the sciences than to the humanities and the arts because these are often occupied with ancient concerns even if expressed in new forms. And if we care about undergraduate education, we will find it especially difficult to produce good newspaper copy by current standards.
The big news in undergraduate education on every campus every day ought to be that some large number of undergraduates felt the thrill of grappling with an idea new to them, never mind whether that idea was first expressed in Greece in the 5th century BCE or the day before yesterday. This should not be confused with a wish to have them encounter some fixed body of ideas and works embodying them. The goal is to nurture a hunger for ideas ancient and modern, Western and non-Western, and an enduring regret that one will never have read enough or know enough or have exhausted the mind’s capacity to stretch. Yet no newspaper will make this the lead story day in and day out.
The lesson for the philanthropist is that if one cares about the humanities and the arts, one cannot reasonably insist on novelty as the primary goal. Nor can one insist that the goal be reached in some near term, after which one is at liberty to direct one’s attention elsewhere, perhaps leaving an institution with a financial burden that it may have difficulty sustaining. To promote the humanities and the arts is to promote more than anything a way of life rather than a body of information. As a result, philanthropic supporters of the humanities and the arts must be content to be patient and steadfast and not to have their names on the front page of the newspaper very often.
A frequent debate in philanthropy concerns the difference between support for specific programs in an institution and core support for the underlying costs of the institution’s activity. Some foundations are highly allergic to the latter. Here, too, different balances can be struck. But one cannot in good conscience only push institutions to pursue novelty without taking some account of their need to keep the lights on and the reluctance of many donors to help with such mundane needs.
All of this is to suggest that there are extremely valuable and important kinds of philanthropy that do not have novelty as a primary goal and that do not lend themselves to metrics for impact and assessment. Above all, they do not lend themselves to the self-promotion of the philanthropist. They derive from values and belief and commitment, even or especially in the face of forces to the contrary. In the end, it might even be more satisfying to know that one has remained true to one’s values and belief and commitment despite demonstrated failure. The likelier case is that one will never know for certain whether one has succeeded. But the fear of failure and an inability to live with ambiguity are as paralyzing in philanthropy as they are in any other human activity.
How then to go about being a philanthropist? Modesty is a desirable attribute. This brings me back to my experience of having been “on both sides of the table.” I am often asked about the difference. In my own view they have something profound in common. As a university president I always assumed that my job was to listen for other people’s good ideas and then try to find the resources with which to help them realize those ideas. As a foundation president I assume that my job is to listen for other people’s good ideas and then try to provide the resources with which to help them realize those ideas. This of course assumes in the university context that one picks very good people--people with good ideas and a commitment to collaboration for the common good. The president cannot possibly alone have all of the good ideas that it takes to make a great university. Admitting that is crucial to achieving the necessary collaboration. The foundation president cannot possibly have all of the good ideas either and should not assume the right to tell everyone else how they ought to conduct their affairs. Listening is perhaps the greatest skill of them all.
Although the foundation president can choose the right colleagues, the foundation does not choose its grantees in quite the same way. It requires especially careful listening. In the end, as in most other activities in life, it requires figuring out whom one can trust. And given trust, there needs to be some willingness to gamble. When I hear talk of venture philanthropists and entrepreneurial philanthropists, I often think that we are a lot more like bookies. With some ability to read the racing form, we go out to the track, and when we spot a good-looking horse, we decide to put two dollars on the nose of that one. Then we can only stand back and see what happens, knowing that if we don’t lose once in a while we will never win big either.
In the pages that follow, the Foundation’s program staff offer summary accounts of their activities in 2011 and how they have wrestled with the challenge of being part of a great philanthropy. The remainder of the report contains a compilation of the Foundation’s grants for 2011 and its annual financial statements.
Don M. Randel
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In 2010 the staff of the Foundation’s programs in higher education--Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities (RUSH), Liberal Arts Colleges (LAC), and Diversity Initiatives--undertook to promote conversations in their respective domains about initiatives that would make for better articulation of undergraduate and graduate education. In particular, as the Foundation’s 2009 Annual Report foresaw, the communications sent by staff to regular beneficiaries of support from RUSH and LAC expressed the Foundation’s interest in developing collaborations between colleges and universities and in improving the preparation of graduate students in the humanities for educating undergraduates. Over and beyond this dialogue specifically focused on the Foundation’s support for colleges and universities, the higher education programs, owing to their size and breadth, were centrally engaged in the Foundation-wide effort to engineer cooperation among the various programs.
Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities
Vice-Presidents Philip Lewis and Mariët Westermann continued to exercise joint responsibility for RUSH in 2011. In the course of the year, President Randel modified slightly the distribution of grantmaking responsibilities. In addition to handling the program’s central core made up of direct grants to US universities, Ms. Westermann assumed explicit responsibility for collaborations between RUSH and Foundation programs other than LAC and for grants to independent research institutes; in addition to negotiating arrangements with regranting organizations and managing Foundation programs such as the Sawyer Seminars, New Directions program, and support for humanities centers, Mr. Lewis took charge of grants to universities in the United Kingdom and Europe while continuing to oversee collaborations between RUSH and LAC and to work with the staff of the Foundation’s South Africa program. The leaders of RUSH elected to make grants in two venerable Foundation programs, the Distinguished Achievement Awards and the Emeritus Fellowships for retired faculty, that will not be continued in 2012. Three universities were the beneficiaries of $1.5 million grants to support the work of the winners of Distinguished Achievement Awards: Benjamin A. Elman, professor of East Asian studies at Princeton University; Kaja Silverman, professor of history of art at the University of Pennsylvania; and John McDowell, professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. The Emeritus Fellowships program, overseen by Senior Fellow Harriet Zuckerman, awarded a total of 28 grants averaging approximately $37,000 to retirees in 22 universities. The number of the Foundation’s New Directions Fellowships, which enable recently tenured scholars to spend a year and two summers studying in areas outside their primary academic fields, was increased from 10 to 15 in 2011. As in previous years, ten John E. Sawyer Seminars in the Comparative Study of Cultures were funded.
The program’s practice of enlisting other nonprofit organizations to administer fellowship programs and research support initiatives was significantly reinforced in 2011. The American Council of Learned Societies, in addition to receiving a pair of major grants that funded the continuation of postdoctoral fellowships in universities and expanded a pilot program providing for postdoctoral positions outside the academy (principally in governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations), received a $6 million contribution to an endowment that supports its operating expenses. Two large grants renewed programs administered by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), one that provides support for dissertation-completion fellowships in international studies and one that enables graduate students to pursue a year of dissertation research abroad. A third grant to the SSRC funded a pilot program in area studies.
A grant to the Council on Library and Information Resources renewed funding for a program that provides dissertation-completion fellowships to graduate students in the humanities who do research in original sources. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, in May and June of 2011 the Institute for International Education (IIE) cooperated with the Foundation in a response to the withdrawal of federal funding for 130 graduate students who had been promised fellowships for dissertation research abroad. A one-time grant of $3.2 million to the IIE provided funding for approximately 80 students in the humanities and closely associated fields that the Foundation has traditionally supported.
The array of RUSH grants marked by interdisciplinary and international emphases was expanded in 2011. Three substantial grants to humanities centers were characterized by cross-institutional collaboration: support for a highly successful consortium of the centers at Cambridge, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and the University of California at Berkeley, built around discussions of the history and structure of the academic disciplines, was renewed; a second renewal supported the New York Humanities Corridor, a consortium headquartered at Syracuse University that connects in working groups a broad spectrum of humanities departments and programs at Cornell, Syracuse, and the University of Rochester; and a major grant to the University of California Humanities Institute, headquartered on the Irvine campus and linking the humanities centers of all the research university campuses in the California system, will provide support for multi-institutional research groups studying problems of labor and the role of educated workforces in a global knowledge economy. In the long-term context of an effort begun in 2004 to support work in art history centers and, in particular, to strengthen their links to the academy, grants were made to Harvard University in support of the Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at the Villa I Tatti in Florence, Italy, and to the National Gallery of Art in support of the Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts (CASVA). The latter grant included a contribution to an endowment campaign designed to ensure future support for CASVA’s programs.
In the international sphere, two universities--Duke and the University of Chicago--received funding for new programs they are mounting abroad. In Europe, Duke has formed a consortium of graduate programs in visual studies with institutions in France, Italy, and Germany. In Asia, Chicago is developing research centers in Beijing and New Delhi that are closely tied to the home campus as well as to the Chinese and Indian scholarly communities. Other international initiatives included a grant to the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome for support of an annually selected senior scholar from the US who serves as its academic leader, and a collaboration with the Volkswagen Foundation in Hanover, Germany. The latter arrangement will support an annual exchange of 12 postdoctoral fellows in the humanities from the US who will be hosted by scholarly institutions in Germany and 12 German postdoctoral scholars who will be hosted by US universities.
Finally, the primary focus of RUSH grantmaking, consisting of direct grants to major US research universities, supported significant initiatives in more than a dozen institutions in 2011. Noteworthy among them were grants in support of research opportunities for humanities faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, renewals of postdoctoral fellowship programs at the University of Oxford, Tulane University, and the California Institute of Technology, support for graduate fellowships in the humanities at Rutgers, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington Universities, and funding for major programmatic initiatives in graduate education at the University of Virginia and the University of California at Los Angeles. The latter two initiatives focus in part on the preparation of graduate students for undergraduate teaching. Two grants in this category deserve mention because they may anticipate future grantmaking emphases. Duke University was awarded an exceptionally large grant of $6 million for a five-year initiative, the “Humanities Writ Large,” built around research groups--Humanities Collaboratories--that give undergraduates in the liberal arts an opportunity to participate with faculty and graduate students in problem-solving projects and in the development of humanities-based networks in collaboration with neighboring colleges and universities. An innovative grant to Brown University will support a pilot program for graduate students who seek training in a second field germane to their intellectual interests. This grant is emblematic of the RUSH program’s concern with sustaining the cultivation of liberal arts breadth alongside the traditional stress on field-based special expertise in graduate education. Underlying the experiments at both Brown and Duke is the recognition by academic leaders that, for both undergraduate and graduate students, liberal arts education entails learning to work cooperatively and bringing diverse competencies to bear on multidimensional questions.
Liberal Arts Colleges
The Foundation’s Liberal Arts Colleges (LAC) program was led in 2011 by Mr. Lewis and Eugene M. Tobin. As in recent years, grantmaking reflected the financial, demographic, and technological challenges facing liberal arts colleges. LAC reaffirmed long-standing commitments to curricular and faculty development, institutional renewal, pedagogical innovation, and multi-institutional collaborations. In 2011, support for all consortia totaled slightly more than $6 million and included two grants to Five Colleges Incorporated: an endowment grant of $1.5 million and a program grant to support curricular initiatives connecting liberal and professional education. Other grants to consortia supported faculty career enhancement at the Associated Colleges of the South, cross-institutional curricular initiatives among members of the new Northwest Five College consortium (Lewis & Clark, Reed, and Whitman Colleges, the University of Puget Sound, and Willamette University), undergraduate research at the Appalachian College Association, and information literacy in select humanities disciplines for members of the Council of Independent Colleges.
LAC’s complementary grant programs enabled the Foundation to sharpen well-defined program areas, to exit fields (like environmental studies) in which defined objectives had been achieved, and to redirect resources to new ventures in core fields of continuing interest such as undergraduate research, integration of the arts across the curriculum, and introduction of the digital humanities. The interest in undergraduate research encompassed support for multiple strategies and definitions of student-faculty collaborative “research.” LAC acknowledged the need to familiarize humanists with collaborative approaches and encouraged initiatives that embedded undergraduate research into the curriculum. LAC’s renewed interest in the arts was predicated on the assumption, championed by Don Randel and other advocates for the arts, that the arts are an integral component of the life of the mind and that the making of art enables students to understand strongly, through experience, how the exercise of curiosity, imagination, and reflection relate to the process of discovery. LAC grants supported initiatives that positioned the arts at the intersection of curricular reform and community engagement and used artistic residencies to connect arts and non-arts constituencies within and outside the campus.
In many respects, 2011 was the year in which the digital humanities emerged as an area of growing, if still indeterminate, importance. LAC convened a meeting of digital humanists to address some basic questions: Can the digital humanities be defined with greater precision? Should the notion of digital literacy figure into current thinking about the competencies of a liberal education? Will thinking about the digital humanities migrate from current work in history, geography, and literature to art history, visual culture, film and media studies, musicology, cultural sociology, and anthropology? Are there existing models that colleges and universities can use in evaluating the quality of teaching and research pursued in digital humanities projects? How will faculty involvement in digital humanities affect pedagogy? What role should libraries play in helping students and faculty navigate this new technological terrain? What kinds of continuing faculty development and infrastructure costs should liberal arts colleges expect to sustain? The amorphous, diffuse nature of digital humanities initiatives and uncertainty regarding future directions contributed to deliberate and cautious grantmaking. A small number of grants supported discrete projects on individual campuses, and other awards encouraged multi-institutional initiatives among liberal arts colleges and between liberal arts colleges and humanities centers at research universities. A handful of institutions received planning grants to explore whether faculty development would be enhanced by the availability of postdoctoral fellowships, and whether there was a large enough pool of young, digitally-trained scholars to meet the demand.
In 2011, the use of postdoctoral fellowships became a unifying theme in LAC grantmaking across the program areas of faculty career enhancement, educational effectiveness, curricular development, faculty renewal, libraries and information technology, and presidential support. Although LAC traditionally used postdoctoral fellowships to keep the professorial pipeline open and to socialize new PhDs into the culture of liberal arts colleges, grants made in 2011 explicitly encouraged institutions to consider how “postdocs” might address multiple needs. Some of the most interesting grants used postdoctoral fellowships to add a stronger international dimension to humanities curricula and pedagogy, to rejuvenate faculty ranks with fresh thinking, and to support cross-institutional collaborations.
After serving as program officer for the Diversity Initiatives (DI) program and director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program since 2009, Carlotta Arthur resigned from the Foundation in December 2011 to take up a post at the Henry Luce Foundation as program director for the Clare Boothe Luce Program. Her successor will be Armando Bengochea, dean of the college and senior diversity officer at Connecticut College. Mr. Bengochea, who has served as coordinator of the MMUF programs at both Connecticut College and Brown University, will take up his position at the Foundation on July 1, 2012. In the summer of 2011, Lina Buffington joined the Foundation as associate director of MMUF. She will work with Vice-President Westermann in managing DI and MMUF operations prior to Mr. Bengochea’s arrival.
In 2012 the program continued both to sustain the work of MMUF and to make grants to a range of institutions and programs dedicated to the academic success of faculty and students from historically underrepresented groups. DI grants support projects that seek not only to mitigate underrepresentation of disadvantaged communities in higher education and research, but also to ensure the presence of wide-ranging perspectives in the academy.
MMUF, which is active at 42 institutions including three South African universities, and which also works with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) consortium of 39 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), is at the core of the Foundation’s efforts to help transform the academy into an educational community that embraces and reflects the diversity of the US population at large. To this end, MMUF undertakes to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue PhDs in core arts and sciences disciplines and to support the pursuit of PhDs by students who may not come from underrepresented minority groups but have demonstrated a commitment to the goals of MMUF. As of March 2012, 3,767 students have been selected to participate in MMUF over the 24 years of its history. The total number of PhDs earned by fellows is 411, 47 of whom have earned tenure in colleges and universities. The number of PhDs in progress is 703.
In past years, the simultaneous renewal of grants to a growing majority of MMUF member institutions was covered by a large infusion of Foundation funds. As this situation left little room for support of other diversity initiatives in years of large renewals, the MMUF grantmaking process was restructured in 2010 to stagger program renewals over consecutive years. The staggering process was virtually completed in 2011, by making grants for an extra year of MMUF support to four institutions. The last of these extended renewal grants are anticipated for 2012. While MMUF recruits undergraduates interested in academic careers, recent efforts have also provided support and mentoring to the growing number of fellows who have become graduate students and junior faculty, and to leveraging the collegial networking and mentoring potential of the entire postgraduate MMUF community. A large 2011 grant to the Social Science Research Council renewed a graduate initiatives program designed to help MMUF doctoral candidates complete their dissertations on time. In recognition of the significant support that MMUF recipients can provide each other throughout their graduate and academic trajectories, the Foundation awarded two grants to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to explore, plan, and launch the development of a formal MMUF alumni network.
Other DI grants supported academic programs, faculty career enhancement, libraries, and academic review and planning at HBCUs and Native American colleges with strong track records in graduating students from underrepresented communities. Grants to the HBCU Faculty Development Network and the American Indian College Fund supported programs for faculty career enhancement and research. Morehouse and Spelman Colleges received support for the coordination and enhancement of international studies. A grant to the Southern Education Foundation assists HBCUs with preparing for reaccreditation reviews that tax these institutions administratively but also bring them planning benefits. With a view to ensuring the full participation of underrepresented groups in the rapid evolution of academic libraries, grants were made to the Robert W. Woodruff Library to stimulate the enrollment of HBCU graduates in library and information science programs and to the LYRASIS consortium for a program designed to strengthen HBCU libraries.
Mentored research opportunities contribute significantly to the academic success of undergraduate students. In addition to supporting undergraduate research through MMUF, the DI program regularly makes grants for undergraduate research to HBCUs and other institutions committed to offering supervised research experiences. Grants in this area were made to Brown and Xavier Universities, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, and the University of Michigan. The latter grant was developed in collaboration with the Foundation’s RUSH program; the Foundation is anticipating more such collaborative grantmaking as it seeks to mitigate the limited diversity in cultural institutions such as museums and performing arts organizations.
Scholarly Communications and Information Technology
The Foundation’s Scholarly Communications and Information Technology (SCIT) program was led in 2011 by Donald J. Waters and Helen Cullyer. SCIT’s overarching goal is to assist universities, libraries, and other cultural institutions with the development of systems, which are driven by the needs of scholars and other users, for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of information in print, analog, and digital formats. The program’s objectives are to: (1) support the efforts of libraries and archives to preserve and provide access to materials of broad scholarly and cultural significance; (2) assist scholars in developing specialized scholarly resources that promise to open or advance fields of study in the humanities and humanistic social sciences; (3) strengthen the publication of humanistic scholarship and its dissemination to the widest possible audience; and (4) support the design, development, and implementation of software applications and services that advance the objectives of the Foundation’s core constituents.
During 2011, SCIT continued to fund projects that help libraries reorganize their services so that they become more efficient and better serve the changing needs of scholars. Emory University received funds to develop a digital scholarship center within the university library, and Johns Hopkins University was awarded a grant to undertake a study of the impact of patron-driven acquisition models for scholarly monographs on both research libraries and scholarly presses. The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) received a second grant to assist in the transformation of the organization that began in 2008. CRL is expanding both the digital collections it provides to its members and its services for the audit and certification of digital repositories. It is also helping to coordinate regional print archiving efforts across the US.
Conservation and preservation grants focused on the development of new forensic and scientific methods and on their application to the preservation of library and archival materials in a variety of media; they also sought to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of well-trained conservators and conservation scientists to serve libraries and archives. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received funds to help develop open source software, based on digital forensic methods, for the management and preservation of born-digital archives. To foster scientific research on conservation issues in libraries and archives and to recruit scientists to work on these issues, Johns Hopkins University was awarded a grant to continue a pilot postdoctoral program in materials science applied to book and paper collections. In addition, following upon three initial grants in 2010, SCIT awarded funds to the art conservation programs at Buffalo State College, New York University, and the University of Delaware to support two cohorts of graduate students specializing in the conservation of library and archival materials.
SCIT also continued to assist libraries and archives with critically important cataloging activities. In the UK, the University of Cambridge received a grant to continue cataloging its legal deposit material, and the University of Oxford was awarded funds to convert its paper-based catalogs for maps and music to electronic formats. In the US, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) administered the Foundation-funded Hidden Collections program, a national, peer-reviewed, competitive grantmaking program for the cataloging of uncataloged and unprocessed special collections in US institutions that are effectively “hidden” from scholars. Nineteen libraries, museums, and collecting institutions were awarded Hidden Collections grants. CLIR also received funding to continue to administer the program in 2012 and for general operational support.
To help scholars build resources and tools to advance their fields, the Foundation made a number of grants in ancient Near Eastern and classical studies, archaeology, medieval studies, early modern studies, and musicology. Awards included grants to the University of California at Los Angeles for expansion of its Cuneiform Digital Library; to Arizona State University for further development of Digital Antiquity, a repository of data from US archaeological projects; and to the University of Wisconsin for a project to develop open source software tools for the analysis of a corpus of early modern English printed texts. In order to foster development of new humanistic resources, tools, and digitally-based research, funds were awarded to the American Council of Learned Societies to support the Digital Innovation Fellowship program. An award was also made to the University of Chicago to assess the relationship of technological innovation to disciplinary change. Two postdoctoral fellows will each study the influences of a particular technology on a set of disciplines, and the influences of those disciplines on the technology.
SCIT also made grants to fund the development and publication of electronic reference works such as the Online Egyptological Bibliography (University of Oxford), the New Greek Lexicon (University of Cambridge), and People of the Founding Era (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy). In addition, SCIT funded projects that are developing infrastructure for scholarly publishing. Grants were made to the University of Southern California for development of multimedia authoring and reading applications: the Sophie project received funds to develop applications so that books authored with Sophie software could be read on mobile devices; and the Alliance for the Networking of Visual Culture received further funds to plan for the sustainability and enhancement of the Scalar platform that is already being used by some university presses for the publication of multimedia, booklength scholarly works.
Other information technology grants included support for the development of applications for use by libraries, archives, and museums and by scholars. Grants were made to the American Museum of the Moving Image for the further development of CollectionSpace, an open source museum collections management system, and to New York University for ArchivesSpace, a system for archival description that combines the features of Archivists’ Toolkit and Archon. Also receiving funds were the University of Nebraska, which is to develop a tool that would automatically convert text from one mark-up schema to another, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is to develop a system that evaluates algorithms for music information retrieval and plan for its sustainability.
The Foundation’s Performing Arts program was led in 2011 by Susan Feder. It makes grants in the disciplines of music (with an emphasis on orchestras and opera), theater, and dance, and also provides support for presenting organizations, service organizations, and related institutions working to advance the field (several of which administer regranting programs that extend the Foundation’s reach). Many grants support the creation, presentation, and dissemination of ambitious or rarely performed artistic work and are evaluated on the basis of artistic excellence, distinctiveness, and impact. While the program has long focused on supporting the work of generative artists--composers, playwrights, and choreographers--it has increasingly concentrated on strengthening the developmental process of their work, both before and after a premiere. In 2011, grants also helped organizations seeking to adapt their practices, structures, or programming to a rapidly changing environment and provided support for documentation and preservation, international exchange activities, technological and media-related innovations, professional development, and collaborative ventures. In addition, the program continued its recent emphasis on enhancing the role of the performing arts on college and university campuses. While the program’s grants are national in scope, they also reflect the Foundation’s role as a New York-based funder.
Examples of grants supporting creation and presentation included those for the University of North Carolina’s ambitious yearlong exploration of “The Rite of Spring” at 100 (one of six grants to college and university-based presenters aimed at integrating professional classical music into academic offerings); the New York Theater Program (administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts), which provides support to 31 small and midsized New York City-based theater producers and presenters that contribute to the cultural landscape on both a local and national scale; the National Dance Project (administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts), which enables partnerships between artists and presenters across the US; and English National Opera’s multiyear commitment to new or recent American operas (one of several similar grants to opera companies).
Highlights of the Foundation’s 2011 support for creation and developmental activities included a grant to Washington Drama Society (Arena Stage) for the American Voices New Play Institute, in which playwrights receive three-year salaried residency positions and access to a discretionary fund for the development of their work (the institute also provides one-year fellowships for earlycareer producers, and online tools designed to engage the broader theater community). Similarly, a grant to New York Live Arts supports a two-year choreographic residency including commission, salary, and tour support for one midcareer artist annually. Grants to Emerson College and the National Performance Network are intended to provide developmental and production support for touring artists and companies through on-site residencies, while grants to several theater companies aim to strengthen the development of new work by means of extended residencies. Through a new initiative, 15 dance organizations in New York City received three years of support to subsidize the costs of providing affordable rehearsal space. This should result in more than 21,000 hours annually available for professional choreographers and dance companies to rehearse their work.
In the aftermath of the economic downturn (but not solely because of it), collaboration has been a distinguishing feature of an increasing number of initiatives. Opera America’s New Works Forum will offer opera producers and creators opportunities to gain greater fluency in the production of new work through facilitated discussions, case studies, and showcases designed to foster stronger relationships among opera company leaders and encourage collaborative projects. Project Audience, a national initiative developed cooperatively by arts and culture organizations, will commence a proof-of-concept phase aimed at creating a technology platform that can aggregate and share performance and event information on a common local, regional, and, eventually, national basis. Two orchestras will partner with universities on initiatives: the Atlanta Symphony with Emory University to explore the topic of creation, and the Louisiana Philharmonic with Louisiana State University, where the orchestra will perform and teach and in turn receive technological support and access to the Louisiana Optical Network. A grant to the Curtis Institute of Music will support multiyear residencies with the ensemble eighth blackbird, an initiative developed by Curtis in recognition of the urgent need for young musicians to assume more comprehensive and entrepreneurial roles in their future careers. The Foundation also renewed its support for ArtPlace--a collaboration involving large private foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other federal agencies--which makes grants to enhance the physical and social character of communities through arts and cultural activities.
Recognizing that professional development ought to serve leaders throughout their careers, the Foundation supported the efforts of National Arts Strategies to create a two-year executive leadership program for 100 experienced and emerging arts executives, to be held in cooperation with leading business schools. The program is designed to address issues such as the centrality of the arts to civil society and discourse, competition with commercial entertainment, and opportunities and challenges in a globalized marketplace. Similarly, a re-envisioned version of Theatre Communications Group’s successful professional development program will now target midcareer as well as emerging leaders, while a grant to the Margaret Jenkins Dance Studio supported its mentorship program for established and emerging choreographers. Grant funds also made possible a tuition-free course on strategic technology planning for nonprofit arts organizations.
The Foundation awarded several grants to strengthen organizational infrastructure. These included covering expenses associated with the merger of two leading music service organizations and contributing funds to a cash reserve, and a grant to support an operating reserve for the Signature Theatre’s new center, the largest performing arts complex to open in New York City since Lincoln Center (the grant also supports productions by distinguished playwrights long associated with the company). The Foundation extended for another three years its program-related investment (administered by the Nonprofit Finance Fund) for a zero-interest loan pool serving small and midsized performing arts grantees. Finally, a grant to the Cunningham Dance Foundation, to support rehearsals for the company’s final tour, represented the capstone on the Foundation’s support for Cunningham’s legacy planning, as well as nearly 40 years of funding.
Art History, Conservation, and Museums
The Foundation’s Art History, Conservation, and Museums program was led in 2011 by Ms. Westermann and Alison Gilchrest. Formerly known as the Museums and Art Conservation program, the program was renamed in order to emphasize its support of the art historical and conservation mission of museums as well as its recognition of the triangulated relations among museums, research centers, and universities in the practice of these disciplines. At the end of 2010 and into 2011, staff reviewed the program’s long-term initiatives and found that several have reached a level of maturity that warrants a gradual withdrawal as grantee institutions and other funders assume responsibility for established programs. Staff also explored the current needs and priorities of art museums within the expanded institutional field of the early 21st century. Through consultations with leaders of museums, conservation centers, research institutes, and graduate programs, new challenges and opportunities for art museums emerged: limitations to collecting and conservation capacity, the growing importance of non-collecting institutions, expanding digital expectations and ambitions, and the impacts of globalization. Grants made in the Art History, Conservation, and Museums program in 2011 began to support initiatives that address new needs and expand the range of grantee institutions while maintaining investments in curatorial practice, conservation training, and conservation science and documentation.
The program continued its emphasis on enhancing the role of works of art in teaching and research with grants to the Universities of Michigan, Virginia, and the Witwatersrand, and to Oxford, Princeton, and Rutgers Universities; these grants are intended to stimulate collaborations between campus art museum curators, professors, and students, as well as to enrich curricula. Museums and universities alike have begun to recognize that the revitalization of object-based study and curatorial experience within PhD programs is vital to art history as an intellectual enterprise. Several grants were made to enhance the experience of art history graduate students with objects, collections, and conservation, and also to integrate museum curators into university teaching and research. The grants to Michigan and Rutgers included such components; a grant to the University of Delaware supported the launch of a curatorial track within its art history PhD program. Grants to the Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center, for use by the High Museum, and Emory University in Atlanta supported a collaborative program focused on objects from the museum’s collection. With Foundation funding, the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, is offering pilot workshop courses in the technical study of art for art history students from any graduate program where such training is not offered.
Support for core curatorial functions in art museums of national or international importance remained a priority. First-time grants were made to the Newark Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Luis A. Ferre Foundation in Puerto Rico for use by the Museo de Arte de Ponce. A select number of new directors with demonstrated leadership capacity and compelling visions for their museums received grants to initiate curatorially-focused endeavors that will advance the missions of their institutions and that could have the potential to serve as models for the field. Among such grants were those made to the Toledo Museum of Art and the Carnegie Institute. Established directors with innovative ideas for expanding and improving curatorial practice received awards that will enable them to test new methods of enhancing curatorial capacity: the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) will host a series of consulting curators who will be in residence to bring their expertise to bear on the IMA’s collections; the Whitney Museum of American Art will launch a new curatorial initiative in performance; and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will establish a series of fellowships in its Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives program, which supports research collaborations with colleagues in Eastern Europe, Japan, and Brazil.
The grants to the Whitney and MoMA also exemplify the Foundation’s continuing interest in strengthening scholarship in contemporary art. The New Museum of Contemporary Art and New Art Publications, Inc. (BOMB Magazine) received grants to help make their prodigious documentary resources more fully available to scholars and to help establish standards for research, documentation, and archiving in the domain of contemporary art. Grants to the Menil Foundation and the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art-North America support artist interview initiatives. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston received support for research and publication on the complex interactions between conceptual art and craft after World War II.
The program’s commitment to conservation was reflected in several grants to the US graduate conservation programs that support their important function in training skilled professionals. A major grant to Carnegie Mellon University maintains support for the Art Conservation Research Center, which will continue its research on fundamental chemical and physical degradation processes of art and library materials while it prepares to relocate to a new host institution.
Although the program’s support is focused domestically, staff have developed an approach to non-US museums that would support initiatives of genuinely innovative and modeling potential for art history or the museum sector, and that may stimulate sustained engagement between US institutions and counterparts abroad. Grants such as those to the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, to support the Cranach Digital Archive, and to the University of Delaware, to support the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage, recognize the importance of international collaboration for the advancement of the inherently global disciplines of art history and conservation.
Conservation and the Environment
The Foundation’s Conservation and the Environment program (C&E), directed by William Robertson IV, continued efforts begun in 2003 to help a consortium of over 240 herbaria from more than 70 countries develop a coordinated database of high-quality digital images (600dpi) of plant Type specimens (the original specimens used to identify species). These Type images are augmented by reference works, photographs, and botanical art. The participating herbaria are contributing images for all of the Types they hold, and their estimates indicate that the total will be in excess of 2 million. The Plants Initiative database now holds about 1,900,000 images and associated data: 1,300,000 Types and historical specimens; 190,000 images of artwork, photographs, and reference materials; and nearly 450,000 articles linked from JSTOR. Objects are arriving at the rate of about 7,500 per week. Searches within JSTOR Plants also display returns from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and other online resources. The database is available online at JSTOR (http://plants.jstor.org). Staff welcome communications from any institutions holding Type specimens that have yet to be included in the database.
C&E will close in 2013 as the Foundation moves into the next phase of its long-term plans to focus on the humanities and the arts. Proposals continue to be accepted for the Plants Initiative and from extant grantees in order to bring the Research Bridges to South Africa programs to an orderly conclusion.
Special International Emphasis: South Africa
Under the guidance of its representative in South Africa, Stuart Saunders, the Foundation supports programs at key South African universities. They are designed to produce the next generation of scholars and advance research and teaching in an innovative and purposeful way in the humanities. At the University of the Western Cape and the University of Pretoria, awards were given for doctoral and postdoctoral fellows in the humanities. The award to the University of Pretoria included funds for distinguished visiting fellows and seminars. The award to the University of the Western Cape was given for use by the Centre for Humanities Research, while the University of Pretoria is in the process of establishing its own Centre for Advanced Scholarship.
At Rhodes University, funds were used to support leading humanities scholars in an effort to promote research and postgraduate development. In addition, a grant was given to the university’s Women’s Academic Solidarity Associated Research Program and the Women’s Academic Solidarity Association, which promote the roles of women in teaching, research, and administration.
Grants awarded to the Opera School at the University of Cape Town (UCT) helped to reinforce the achievements of the past nine years, which have seen a transformation of opera in South Africa and the arrival of African opera singers in leading companies of Europe and North America. UCT also received grants to establish a photographic archive and to create an academic post in music technology, to support research into the use and abuse of memory in post-authoritarian societies in its Centre for Popular Memory, and to provide merit awards for outstanding young faculty members in the humanities.
The Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit at UCT received a matching grant to help establish an endowment that will support the important interinstitutional summer training programs for humanities and social science scholars in quantitative methods. The Constitutional Court Trust received support to ensure the continuation of the Southern African Legal Information Institute, which collects primary legal materials and ensures public access to them. A new vice-chancellor was appointed at the University of the Free State, and a discretionary grant was awarded to support his initiatives.
Note This essay was written to honor Senior Advisor Stuart Saunders, who has guided the Foundation’s work in South Africa. It was privately published in eighty copies of a special issue of the African Yearbook of Rhetoric (“The Elephant and the Obelisk,” August 2011), and the publisher has agreed to its reproduction in this annual report. Return to Text