Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities

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Leading colleges and universities are custodians of knowledge; they produce, preserve, and transmit it for the good of culture and society.  Support for the humanities in these institutions bolsters their commitments to liberal education, their capacities for innovative research, and their ability to contribute substantially to debate about contemporary challenges.

Mission and Goals

Through the program in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, the Foundation assists select colleges, universities, and research institutes in the work of training scholars and producing scholarship in the humanities broadly conceived, and thereby contributing to culture and society.  In practical terms, this means helping institutions and professional organizations respond to the economic, demographic, financial, and technological challenges affecting higher education, supporting initiatives designed to enhance the learning experience of both undergraduate and graduate students in the humanities, and fostering collaborations within and among institutions that support disciplinary innovation, foster practices of diversity and inclusion, and promote the social value of the humanities.

New areas as well as strengthened emphases include:

  • Capacious and innovative curricula in the arts, humanities, and humanities-related social sciences, and productive relationships between the arts and humanities and the natural and social sciences
  • Faculty growth as teachers, scholars, and academic citizens across the stages of a professorial career
  • Programs that scale up training for humanistic engagement with the digital
  • Reforms of doctoral education that broaden the intellectual and professional preparation of students
  • Programs that introduce faculty and graduate students to effective pedagogies, the science of cognition, and to scholarship on student learning
  • Assistance to less well-endowed liberal arts colleges in planning for their intellectual and financial futures
  • Research on broad structural questions in higher education
  • Initiatives that involve humanities scholars in grand challenge questions that require interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Collaborations among research universities, liberal arts colleges, and other cultural and educational institutions in their communities
  • Commitments of faculty and students to the public humanities

Community College and the Humanities in the 21st Century

Executive Vice President Mariët Westermann on a new initiative to support community college students through university partnerships, and why nurturing the next generation of humanities scholars has broad implications for the country.


New Directions: Cristle Collins Judd

Senior Program Officer Cristle Collins Judd on her trajectory as a music historian, and why the New Directions Fellowship is so unique.


Private Philanthropy Cannot Replace the NEH

President Earl Lewis on why the NEH remains unique in rallying private support, supporting rural and urban communities equitably, and bringing the humanities to the national forefront.


“Higher Education Has Given Me My Humanity Back”

Senior Program Officer Eugene Tobin’s account of his visit to Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, NY.


Revitalizing Graduate Education

Cristle Collins Judd, Senior Program Officer in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, on the Mellon Foundation’s commitment to the future of doctoral education.


The Humanities Proposition

Mariët Westermann, Executive Vice President of the Mellon Foundation, finds allies in David Brooks and Judith Butler.


Six Things You Should Know About Mellon Foundation Goals for Liberal Arts Education

Mariët Westermann, Vice President of the Foundation, highlights programming goals.


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