Humanities at Cornell attracted national attention recently, grabbing a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will be used for postdoctoral fellowships and seminars in the humanities and social sciences.
According to Walter Cohen, vice provost and dean of the graduate school, who co-wrote the grant proposal, the money will be used to help fund approximately 24 postdoctoral fellowships over the next five years.
“We are advertising for four [postdoctoral fellows] next year,” Cohen said.
Many of the fellowships are expected to be in core liberal arts programs of english, history and government.
The grant proposal was written by Cohen and Provost Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin after months of discussion with Cornell administrators beginning last semester. President Hunter R. Rawlings III, Philip E. Lewis, the Harold A. Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Jonathan Culler, senior associate dean of Arts and Sciences were among those involved.
The grant will have a number of benefits for both the postdoctoral fellows and the University. According to Cohen, postdoctoral fellows will have a chance to enhance their career by continuing their research, doing more teaching and having intellectual contact with faculty. At the same time, Cohen said that the University will benefit from teaching and the “young bright vitality” of the postdoctoral fellows.
“The postdocs might teach a Freshmen Writing Seminar that a professor drops,” Culler said.
“[They] might teach a course to make up for it, but not necessarily the same course,” he added.
With postdoctoral fellows doing some teaching, professors will then have more time to do research and attend the seminars that are part of the grant proposal.
The theme of next year’s seminars will be “Race and Ethnicity in the Study of America,” Cohen said. In subsequent years, the seminars will focus on ethics and visual studies.
These seminars will meet weekly and will be attended by postdoctoral fellows, professors and administrators, including Rawlings, Martin and Cohen.
About a dozen faculty members from various disciplines will participate in the series each year, Culler noted.
“It will certainly be an opportunity for faculty members to learn about new topics. In due course, they [students] will have faculty who will offer courses on new topics,” Lewis said.
“This is exactly what students should want,” he added.
By combining disciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking, Cohen said that the faculty will also be able to do better research.
“If we let them think, we will enhance their skills,” Cohen said. “It’s just a chance to make ourselves better.”
Archived article by Luke Hejnar