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The Humanities Institute is home to the Mellon Research Initiatives


in the Humanities, a series of inter- disciplinary collaborations aimed at building upon core strengths in humanities research at UC Davis. Funded through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foun- dation, the program will underwrite four research initiatives over the next five years. The first two initia- tives, one in early modern studies led by Distinguished Professor of English Margaret Ferguson and As- sociate Professor of English Gina Bloom and the other in environ- ments and societies directed by Louis Warren, the W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western U.S. History, debuted in the fall of 2011. Two additional groups, selected in a competitive call for proposals, are due to start in the fall of 2013. In the program’s first year, it quickly be- came clear that there was no single model for a successful Mellon Re- search Initiative that provides sup- port for programming such as col- loquia, lectures, and workshops, graduate student recruitment and retention, and post-doctoral fellows. Each group approached the chal- lenges of broadening networks and enriching graduate education in its own way, with great results.


The Early Modern Mellon Re-


search Initiative held three events over the course of 2011-2012 each pairing two high-profile scholars presenting on a single theme, such as gender and honor in the early modern world. Gina Bloom, co- director of the early modern group, explained the rationale behind mounting a series of large events versus smaller workshops: “It was about getting people to come to events and building connections among different disciplines.” In- spired by the format of the Agrar- ian Studies Seminar at Yale, the Environments & Societies Mel- lon Research Initiative chose a 10- week colloquium inviting scholars to engage in discussions around a sample of their research, an article, book chapter, or opinion piece that was pre-circulated on their web site. Warren reported that the colloqui- um experience had been “extraor- dinary” and that bringing people together across so many disciplines “was not something I could do in the history department.”


Apart from mounting a robust


program of events around their top- ics, the Mellon directors were equal- ly focused in their inaugural year on the recruitment and intellectual development of a strong cohort of graduate students. The postdoctoral fellow for the Early Modern Studies Mellon group, Ari Friedlander, took on an important mentoring role by convening a seminar for Mel- lon Graduate Fellows in which the students shared their own works in progress. One PhD candidate cred- ited the support of the Mellon semi- nar with enabling her to focus on her writing and garner a prestigious Pacific Rim Graduate Fellowship to conduct research in Spain, Peru, and Mexico next year. In another approach, Louis Warren teamed with Associate Professor of English Mike Ziser to teach a graduate semi- nar on environmental humanities. In the first year, each of the Mellon Research Initiatives successfully re- cruited graduate students who will contribute to and benefit from the groups’ activities.


‘‘It was about getting people to come to events and build connections among different disciplines’’


d h i . u c d a v i s . e d u 25


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