Mellon Foundation Grant Establishes New Faculty Positions

CONTACT: Gary Sandefur, 608-263-2303,

MADISON – The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Letters and Science has received the first $400,000 of a $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (

The grant will establish 12 faculty positions for teaching and research in the humanities focused on the interdisciplinary crossings and connections between the West and Asia: the Middle East, China, the Indian subcontinent and the Pacific Rim nations. The college will assume compensation responsibility after three years.

The university is among a select group of public research universities with traditionally strong programs in the humanities. The grant will enable UW-Madison to maintain its prominent academic presence in the study of the historical, social, religious, linguistic and literary relationships between and among these regions.

The new faculty will expand the scope and reach of the humanities by offering fresh perspectives on the realities of 21st century relationships through the study of changing patterns of influence throughout history. The grant also will expand programming in the university’s humanities centers and institutes, including the Mellon-supported Center for the Humanities, the Institute for Research in the Humanities and the Language Institute. By supporting new faculty and graduate students and enhancing existing programs, this initiative will encourage curricular flexibility, new models of collaboration, team-teaching and transnational outreach.

“The world is becoming increasingly complex and interconnected through technology and economic growth. Given this reality, the humanities are more important today than ever because they help us understand the global landscape,” says Gary Sandefur, dean of the College of Letters and Science. “This generous gift from the Mellon Foundation will help make the University of Wisconsin-Madison a leader in defining our past, understanding the present and envisioning a brighter, more humane future.”

Since the 1990s as the global landscape has changed, the nature of scholarship in the humanities has changed with it. Work has flourished at the crossroads of disciplinary divisions, cultural exchange and intellectual dialogue. UW-Madison anticipated this change more than 15 years ago through the creation of a number of cross-disciplinary centers and research “clusters.” Today, the university’s leadership in this transdisciplinary evolution is reflected in its reputation for excellence and the number of institutions emulating this model.