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UW-Madison receives grant to support humanities

December 20, 2010 By Stacy Forster

An extraordinary public-private partnership will allow the University of Wisconsin–Madison to enhance education and research in the humanities. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the university a $10 million grant as part of an effort to preserve and enhance the humanities at public research universities that have records of scholarly and educational excellence.

The grant, which will be matched by the state, is intended to support and sustain strength in core areas, hire new faculty, and support postdoctoral and graduate students.

“I’m delighted by this support for the humanities at UW–Madison and by the private-public partnership that made it possible,” says UW–Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin. “The funding will allow us to strengthen fields that are essential to the education of our students and to the body of scholarship that preserves and reinvents culture.”

For a full text of the chancellor’s remarks click here.

Mellon Foundation President Don Randel worked with Martin to develop the details of the program, which requires a match of state funds. Martin and Randel approached Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who committed to matching the Mellon Foundation’s grant.

“As governor, I have worked hard to make sure that our young people have the opportunity to get a high quality education at Wisconsin’s world-class universities,” Doyle says. “This funding will allow the great humanities programs at UW–Madison to continue to grow and prosper. I want to thank Chancellor Martin and President Reilly for their dedication and innovative thinking and the Mellon Foundation for making this funding possible.”

Studies in the humanities span almost every college and school at UW–Madison. More than half of UW–Madison students took a course in the humanities in the last year, and more than 60 departments, centers, libraries and programs offer learning, research and study abroad opportunities in the humanities. UW–Madison is an international leader in foreign language education, offering instruction in more than 80 modern and ancient languages.

Among the areas of study that will be augmented through the grant is a traditional one: ancient Greek philosophy. An endowed chair in ancient Greek philosophy will be created from $2.5 million in funds from the grant; the new faculty member is expected to be hired by fall 2011.

Other core areas in the humanities will receive support for the renewal of faculty in the face of retirements and recent departures.

In addition to hiring faculty, the funding will allow UW–Madison to continue a program for postdoctoral students in the humanities and humanities-like social studies to take part in research, teaching and mentoring by senior faculty.

The grant will also fund approximately 65 two-year fellowships for graduate students who are in the proposal and writing stage of dissertations in the humanities and certain social studies, freeing them from the need to serve as teaching assistants during that time. The first round of funding for graduate students is expected for fall 2011.