In a strong show of support for graduate humanities
programs at Johns Hopkins, the Andrew
W. Mellon Foundation has pledged more than $4 million to
the Krieger School
of Arts and Sciences in
the form of two separate grants for this field of study.
A grant of just over $1 million from the foundation
acts as a renewal of the existing Mellon
postdoctoral fellowship program in the humanities that will
be refocused and restructured around the
burgeoning field of Diaspora studies.
The Mellon Foundation has also created a $3 million
endowment fund for the support of
graduate work in the humanities at Johns Hopkins. The money
will initially be used to provide grants
for research trips, support language training and augment
current stipend levels for graduate
students, which are currently significantly lower than at
Adam Falk, dean of the Krieger School, said that the
endowment fund helps fill a critical need
and sends a strong message.
"It's always gratifying to receive support for work
that is at the heart of the school's mission,"
Falk said. "We have sought for years to enhance the support
of our graduate students and the
recruitment of the very best grad students in the
humanities. Our new partnership with the Mellon
Foundation will help enormously in that regard, and we are
grateful for the confidence that the
foundation has showed."
Gabrielle Spiegel, professor and chair of the History Department,
who wrote both Mellon grant
proposals, echoed Falk's sentiments.
"This is a wonderful confirmation from Mellon of their
recognition of our excellence in graduate
humanities programs," Spiegel said. "They are a wonderful
organization, and they listen to the changing
needs of institutions. There is growing competition for
graduate recruitment, and this money will help
us deal with this changing environment."
In reference to the fellowship program renewal, Falk
said that very few foundations support
the humanities and postdoctoral studies at this level,
which is why the Mellon gift is so important.
"This money will support exciting interdisciplinary
work that is critical for the development of
new programs, such as our Center for Africana Studies,"
The term Diaspora derives from the Greek word
diaspeirein, which means to scatter or disperse
and today commonly refers to the study of dispersed ethnic
populations, whether due to forced
resettlement, expulsion, war, racism or other means.
The five-year fellowship program, which starts in
2009, is designed to explore, test and refine
the concept of Diaspora in contemporary usage. The
university will later this year begin to solicit
applications for postdoctoral fellows whose work addresses
the conceptual complexity of the term and
seeks to advance understanding of the phenomenon. The
program expects to appoint 12 Mellon fellows,
with three appointments to be made annually over four
years. Each appointment will be for two years.
The fifth year of the program represents the final year of
the last class.
The grant from the Mellon Foundation will go toward
stipends, travel and a monthly seminar in
which the fellows can present their work and explore its
potential contribution to continual questioning
and refining of the concept of Diaspora.
The program will build on the work of Krieger School's
Center for Africana
Studies, a major
subfield of which is the study of African Diaspora, but
will also apply to Diaspora studies of many
other ethnic groups, such as Asians, Armenians, Jews and
Southeast Asians, and even classical
Diasporas as originally defined in the Greek world.
Spiegel said that the existing postdoctoral fellowship
program has been incredibly successful,
and that the university each year has received a high
number of applications. Last year, there were
846 for the three spots.
"Clearly, the Mellon Foundation has been very pleased
with the success of the program, too,"
Spiegel said. "The fellowships have helped get jobs for
those in the program, many of the fellows'
dissertations have been revised as books and accepted for
publication, and the fellows have made a
wonderful contribution to teaching here. It's been a great
experience and done everything that we and
Mellon had hoped for the program."