University allocates $5 million for humanities

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 5:46pm

The University is allocating more than $5 million to fund a new initiative in the humanities.

The funding will provide University faculty members working in the humanities additional opportunities to collaborate across University departments, the Office of the Provost announced last week.

The Michigan Humanities collaboration aims to create new research opportunities by funding projects that will gather resources from different departments. Projects will pull largely from the study of human culture and thought, including language, literature, philosophy, history and the arts.

Teams of faculty researchers — led by faculty in the humanities — will partner with librarians, undergraduates, graduate and postdoctoral fellows to develop new models of research with the hope of publishing across multiple types of media.

Peggy McCracken, a professor of French, women’s studies and comparative literature, is acting as the collaboratory coordinator.

“I knew that the project had been proposed, and now that the funding has come through we’re getting under way,” she said.

The $5 million University investment will support the project for a projected four years. Depending on the initiative’s success, a potential renewal for another three years would double the amount to $10 million.

Sara Blair, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs and professor of English, said the first task for the advisory board would be developing criteria for project proposals and guide interested faculty toward applying.

“The advisory board will be looking for projects that make imaginative use of collaborative teams, are thoughtful about research and mentoring across faculty, graduate student and undergraduate roles, and ready to experiment with alternative ways of getting humanities research out to our many publics,” she said.

Because preliminary deadlines for project proposals are approaching, McCracken said she’s working with her staff to quickly prepare the criteria before the first deadlines in February.

“I’ve heard from a number of people,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of interest. And I’m excited about that.”

McCracken’s team will also work to provide a series of workshops about how to craft project programs in advance of the deadline.

The workshops will detail successful examples of research proposals to help faculty structure their own requests. They will also provide tips on successfully incorporating student involvement in projects.

Participants in the collaborative will be selected by a faculty board composed of Sidonie Smith, director of the Institute for the Humanities; associate deans for humanities in LSA and Rackham Graduate School; and any additional faculty selected by the coordinator.

Though there are no guidelines in place yet, Smith said an important aspect of projects contending for funding is their method of reaching the public with their results.

“Part of the requirements is the results of the collaboration need to be made available in multiple formats for different audiences,” Smith said.

While the research may end up appearing in either a book or essay format, Smith said the expectation is that the results will be communicated through public events or multimedia platforms.

Smith said the projects would not preempt a new interdisciplinary program or result in any rearrangements of departmental structures.

“They will not be tied to establishing some kind of institutional program,” she said. “They’re meant to be pop-up — that is, they arrived from faculty interest. They’re not tied to a long-term agenda. They are for enabling faculty to have the opportunity to work in collaborative teams and to train doctoral students in this new kind of environment for doing work in the humanities.”

The collaborative efforts will be strategically housed at Hatcher Graduate Library to allow the projects access to research resources as well as public exposure.

“Being in the library, a hub of humanities research, will allow for collaboration with librarians, information specialists and other humanists, and make the work of the collaboratory visible to the campus and community,” Blair said.

Selected projects will begin in the fall of 2016.