One of the largest funders of arts and humanities in the United States, the Mellon Foundation has been an essential partner to Princeton in furthering humanistic inquiry through a variety of programs.

New Directions Fellowships

The Mellon Foundation’s New Directions Fellowships advance interdisciplinary research by supporting established scholars to pursue substantial training outside their area of expertise. Fellow Brooke Holmes, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Classics, brought the history and philosophy of science and bioethics to the study of ancient Greece and Rome. Fellow Teresa Shawcross, associate professor of history and Hellenic studies, explored a new interpretation of the Crusades through intensive study of Arabic. Fellow Meredith Martin, associate professor of English and faculty director of the Center for Digital Humanities, studied the history of linguistics to strengthen her work on prosody and poetic form. Martin’s New Directions project built on another grant from the Mellon Foundation that helped establish the Princeton Prosody Archive, a full-text searchable database of over 10,000 digitized records on the study of poetry, grammar, literary history and speech.

Sawyer Seminars

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson speaking to an audience

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson speaks as part of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series. Office of Communications, Maddy Pryor (2018)

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars bring together faculty, visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields to study the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.

A recent Sawyer Seminar at Princeton, “World Order, Global Regimes and Empire”, focused on the study of institutional infrastructures of imperialism and colonialism. It was organized by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), then under the direction of Jeremy Adelman, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History. More recently, “Global Migration: The Humanities and Social Sciences in Dialogue,” also housed in PIIRS, examined the theme of contemporary migration through lectures, conferences, exhibitions and commissioned theater works. This Sawyer Seminar was led by Sandra Bermann, Cotsen Professor in the Humanities, professor of comparative literature, and director of the Program in Values and Public Life.

The Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities

Launched in 2014, the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities has brought together students and scholars from across campus and beyond to promote research and scholarship on cities and the built environment. The program is based in the School of Architecture, and addresses urgent issues such as inequality, conflict, immigration, mass incarceration, and climate change. Reflecting the interdisciplinary heart of this initiative, it is currently co-led by Mario Gandelsonas, Class of 1913 Lecturer in Architecture, professor of School of Architecture, and director of the Program in Urban Studies, and Alison Isenberg, professor of History.

Through the years, the initiative has facilitated public programming, a series of undergraduate and graduate courses, and a yearly fellowship program that brings up to five scholars to campus annually. The Mellon Research Forum on the Urban Environment, in which faculty and students present and discuss their research, serves as the intellectual core of the program.

In 2020, the initiative awarded several summer digital research grants to promote student-faculty collaborations for the study of the urban experience during COVID-19. The grants also supported digital modules for urban-focused courses in Fall 2020 and beyond.

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowships

This national program of the Mellon Foundation is a long-term effort to increase diversity in higher education faculty by supporting students from underrepresented groups in their pursuit of doctoral degrees. Princeton has participated in this program since its launch by Mellon in 1989, offering mentoring, professional development and networking opportunities. 

Support for the Arts

Princeton University Art Museum

A recent grant from the Mellon Foundation enabled the Princeton University Art Museum to support specialist research in overlooked areas of its collections in African, Latin American and Native North American art. This funding expanded on a long history of Mellon Foundation funding, including fellowship support, to promote the use of museum objects in teaching and research at Princeton. The museum is led by James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher-David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director, and lecturer with the rank of professor in art and archaeology.

Lewis Center for the Arts

Funding from the Mellon Foundation helped to establish the Princeton Arts Fellows Program at the Lewis Center for the Arts. This program brings early-career artists to Princeton for a period of two years to teach one course per semester and mentor students throughout the academic year.

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