Tag Archive for Andrew W. Mellon Fellow

Humanities Secures Endowment with Matching Funds from Mellon Foundation

Funding for the Center for the Humanities will support engagement with the undergraduate curriculum, scholarly research, work with scholars and organizations outside Wesleyan, and the connection of humanities research to public life.

Funding for the Center for the Humanities will support engagement with the undergraduate curriculum, scholarly research, work with scholars and organizations outside Wesleyan, and the connection of humanities research to public life.

Thanks to a matching grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and substantial gifts from generous supporters, Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities has secured $6 million in endowment as it celebrates 54 years of scholarship.

The $2 million Mellon grant was announced in October 2011 (see story here); Wesleyan succeeded in raising the $4 million required for the match in two years, less than half the time required by Mellon when the grant challenge began in 2011. Fifteen Wesleyan alumni, parents and friends supplied leadership gifts to win the matching funds.

“At a time when one hears so much rhetoric about the humanities in retreat, Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities is pressing forward,” said Ethan Kleinberg, director of the CFH. “The case for the importance and relevance of the humanities in the 21st century will not be made by pointing backwards to that which has been done, but instead by pointing to that which we are doing.”

The CFH funds, raised as part of Wesleyan’s $400 million “This is Why” campaign, will support engagement with the undergraduate curriculum, scholarly research, work with scholars and organizations outside Wesleyan, and the connection of humanities research to public life.

Since the establishment of its forerunner, the Center for Advanced Studies, in 1959, the Center for the Humanities has a distinguished record of promoting interdisciplinary scholarship. Collaborations with the College of Social Studies, the College of Letters, the Science in Society Program and the recently adopted Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory will continue that tradition. Yet Kleinberg said the center also will pursue work reflecting the changes and influence of the digital age.

“Support from the Mellon grant and the matching funds has certainly allowed us to build the best of our longstanding traditions … while also reinventing ourselves as a virtual and actual hub for experimentation in new media and the digital liberal arts,” he said.

The signature CFH event this year will take place Sept. 26-28, as the Center hosts a conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The influential and controversial work was completed by political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) while she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies. The conference will reflect on the reverberating repercussions of Arendt’s work, which asks important and abiding questions about personal responsibility under dictatorship, the moral judgment of evil, and the historical conditions that shape our understanding of the Holocaust. Read more about the conference in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

For more information about the Center for the Humanities, visit its website.

Wesleyan Receives Challenge Grant for Humanities Program

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities with a $2 million challenge grant.

Wesleyan has received a $2 million challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help endow the Center for the Humanities. The grant requires Wesleyan to raise an additional $4 million in endowment funds over the next four years.

“This grant is a welcome acknowledgement of the Center’s leadership role in keeping humanities scholarship at the center of the most interesting trends in American intellectual life,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Scores of Humanities Centers across the country have adopted the Wesleyan model, and I am deeply grateful to the Mellon Foundation for affirming the importance of this work.”

The Center — since the establishment in 1958 of its forerunner, the Center for Advanced Studies — has a distinguished record of promoting interdisciplinary scholarship. Now, the Center will build on its tradition by refocusing its mission to support projects that not only advance scholarship but also connect research to pedagogy, and pedagogy to particular problems of culture and society. The Center will be an incubator for new courses as well as research, and it will be a resource for connecting humanities research to public life.

The Center will focus on collaborative projects that permit the sustained investigation of complex problems beyond the reach of a single scholar. For example, a project at the Center, “Fact and Artifact,”

Leah Wright: New History, African American Studies Assistant Professor

Leah Wright, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of African American studies, is an expert on United States history, African American studies and American politics. (Photo by Stefan Weinberger '10)

Leah Wright, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of African American studies, is an expert on United States history, African American studies and American politics. (Photo by Stefan Weinberger '10)

Leah Wright, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of African American studies joined Wesleyan’s staff this summer.

Wright says she loves being part of an interdisciplinary community and “was impressed by the intellectual curiosity and academic excellence of the students at Wesleyan.” Multiple factors attracted her to the university.

“I was also excited about the faculty—there is equal attention paid to teaching and research, and as a result, Wesleyan faculty excel at both. Joining Wesleyan was a major opportunity to join a vibrant and welcoming intellectual community.”

She graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College in 2003 with a bachelor’s in history. Wright went on to obtain a Master’s and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. This summer she defended her doctoral dissertation titled “The Loneliness of the Black Conservative: Black Republicans and the Grand Old Party, 1964-1980.” Wright is currently negotiating with publishers to convert her manuscript into a published book.

Wright’s book proposal abstract reads: “Traditionally, the scholarship on civil rights has assumed that the movement existed solely within the boundaries of liberalism; however, this project argues that black Republicans also attempted to promote a genuine agenda of racial equality, civil rights, and black uplift through the conservative movement and the Republican apparatus. Despite the seeming contradiction of African Americans working for civil rights in a party that appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea, many black Republicans did see themselves as part of the movement. In many ways this story is a comparative project about the vision for black equality and advancement.”

Her research interests include United States history, African American studies and American politics. Her extensive research on Black conservatives in the U.S.—specifically Black Republicans—combines all of her interests. Additionally, she has studied women in the Black Power movement and Marcus Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association

Wright is the author and co-author of several articles, including “Conscience of a Black Conservative: The 1964 Election and the Rise of the National Negro Republican Assembly,” in Federal History.

Wright was awarded with a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Dissertation Writing Fellowship for 2008 – 2009. Notably, she has received three presidential libraries grants (i.e. the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library Research Grant, the Gerald Ford Presidential Library Research Grant and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library O’Donnell Research Grant). Wright received multiple Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Development/Enhancement Grants throughout her scholarship. She was a Andrew W. Mellon Fellow from 2001 to 2003 and is the first Mellon Fellow to join the Wesleyan faculty, according to Krishna Wilson, who is the coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Wesleyan.

This semester, Wright is teaching 20th Century Black Conservatism and The Long Civil Rights Movement in America. In spring 2010, she will be teaching Modern African-American History and U.S. Political History Since 1945.

For her civil rights course, Wright enjoyed working with Valerie Gillispie, Assistant University Archivist, to expose students to the resources within Wesleyan’s archives.

“The Civil Rights Archive at Wesleyan is a wonderful resource,” Wright says.

“Val Gillispie took us through a guided tour of archival resources that allowed the students to better understand Wesleyan’s significant connection to the broader Civil Rights Movement. It was an exciting opportunity for students to ‘get their hands dirty’—and search through interesting, and relevant archival resources—which is a critical component for any historian.”

Wright is a native of Hartford and enjoys traveling, reading, and watching college basketball (her brother plays for Providence College).

Listen to Leah Wright’s recent appearance on WNPR’s Where We Live.