News
Mellon Foundation awards WFU $650,000 grant
Photo courtesy of WFU News
By
Senior Writer
Thursday, February 4, 2016

Recently, Wake Forest was awarded a three-year, $650,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help the university expand its liberal arts and humanities programs.

The grant will support the university and its partners in a variety of efforts in the Humanities Institute, Information Technology Services, Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Reynolda House Museum of American Art and the Reynolda estate.

The Dean of the College, Michelle Gillespie, who will play an integral role in the allocation of the grant, is excited that the university was given this opportunity to expand the humanities.

“In particular, [the foundation awards grants] to schools that it feels have strong humanities programs,” Gillespie said. “The Mellon Foundation is an academically superb foundation, so the fact that they reached out to us and encouraged us to do a proposal is exciting in-and-of itself.”

One major project the grant will focus on is the Z.S.R. Library. The grant will fund two new positions in the library: a web developer and a digital humanities designer.

“One position is a web developer, who will be working with faculty to develop web-based projects that might be course-related, research-related or a fusion of both faculty research and teaching,” said Mary Foskett, Director of the Humanities Institute. “The other position is a digital humanities research designer, who will be working with faculty on research projects.”

The new positions will help launch a digital design studio in the library. The digital design studio will be part of the Collaborative Learning Spaces, the Z.S.R.’s future renovation plans.

“We have faculty members who are really interested in making student and faculty scholarship and community work more accessible through websites, databases and analyses,” Gillespie said. “But faculty often don’t have the bandwidth in terms of expertise or time to develop the digital platforms to share this information. We are fortunate to get the funding for these positions, so we will have expertise to help us do that.”

According to Gillespie, students will benefit greatly from this grant through the interdisciplinary teaching that it will allow.

“The faculty in the humanities have already been doing some really interesting interdisciplinary work in both their scholarship and their teaching, and they’re going to be able to get more support to explore interdisciplinary teaching and interdisplinary scholarship,” Gillespie said.

Interdisciplinary teaching, especially in the humanities, allows for students to learn material with the help of real-life events. Gillespie says that this increased ability to support interdisplinary teaching will help students connect their classes to the greater community.

“[Interdisciplinary teaching] leads to more public engagement and scholarship that has a connection to what’s happening in the world, but providing the resources for faculty to do more of their own research in this area and to include students in that research that will [allow] more of that connectedness. I think students will be the ultimate beneficiaries,” she said.

Greater public engagement will not only take the form of interdisciplinary teaching. There are other ways, too, students and faculty will have the opportunity to reach out to the community outside of the university.

“Some of this will happen through the Medical Humanities Initiative where faculty and doctors at the medical school will work with humanities faculty to talk about how we understand the personal narratives of people experiencing disease and healing and share that knowledge with each other, both within Winston and beyond,” Gillespie said.

With this opportunity to expand the humanities programs at Wake Forest, there are benefits to all students, even those who do not plan to declare a humanities major.

“We know that liberal arts education, humanities in particular, really help our students develop incredibly important skills for the world of work,” said Foskett. “The ability to deal with really complex questions, multi-faceted problems that are tied to different historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts are skills that come from the humanities and those are real-world skills that are needed in many kinds of jobs.”

The Mellon Foundation Grant will allow the university to advance its liberal arts and humanities programs to prepare students for their futures through the skills they will learn and the connection of their courses to real issues in the world.

“The faculty in the humanities have already been doing some really interesting interdisciplinary work in both their scholarship and their teaching, and they’re going to be able to get more support to explore interdisciplinary teaching and interdisplinary scholarship,” Gillespie said.

Interdisciplinary teaching, especially in the humanities, allows for students to learn material with the help of real-life events. Gillespie says that this increased ability to support interdisplinary teaching will help students connect their classes to the greater community.

“[Interdisciplinary teaching] leads to more public engagement and scholarship that has a connection to what’s happening in the world, but providing the resources for faculty to do more of their own research in this area and to include students in that research that will [allow] more of that connectedness. I think students will be the ultimate beneficiaries,” she said.

Greater public engagement will not only take the form of interdisciplinary teaching. There are other ways, too, students and faculty will have the opportunity to reach out to the community outside of the university.

“Some of this will happen through the Medical Humanities Initiative where faculty and doctors at the medical school will work with humanities faculty to talk about how we understand the personal narratives of people experiencing disease and healing and share that knowledge with each other, both within Winston and beyond,” Gillespie said.

With this opportunity to expand the humanities programs at Wake Forest, there are benefits to all students, even those who do not plan to declare a humanities major.

“We know that liberal arts education, humanities in particular, really help our students develop incredibly important skills for the world of work,” said Foskett. “The ability to deal with really complex questions, multi-faceted problems that are tied to different historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts are skills that come from the humanities and those are real-world skills that are needed in many kinds of jobs.”

The Mellon Foundation Grant will allow the university to advance its liberal arts and humanities programs to prepare students for their futures through the skills they will learn and the connection of their courses to real issues in the world.