Pomona College Humanities Studio Receives an $845,000 Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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As part of Pomona College’s commitment to provide a balanced liberal arts experience, the College recently announced the establishment of the Pomona College Humanities Studio, a dynamic, collaborative faculty-student workshop that will foster research across the humanities disciplines. 

The studio, to be launched in Fall 2018, will promote conversations among an interdisciplinary group of Humanities Studio faculty, postgraduate and undergraduate fellows, as well as with the larger campus community, around an annual theme. Its innovative concept of modeling research in the humanities to undergraduates was recently recognized with a grant award by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The $845,000, three-year Mellon grant will support interdisciplinary humanities research among both faculty and students at the College. Through faculty modeling and mentoring, the Humanities Studio will involve students in intensive research experiences and will showcase humanities research on campus. 

“Given the qualitative nature of the majority of the work, as well as the central role of writing in both the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, humanities research is not easily adapted to the traditional model of a lead faculty member working with a group of student researchers,” says Kevin Dettmar, W. M. Keck Professor of English, who serves as the inaugural director of the Humanities Studio. 

Grant funding will help the College to establish a sustainable infrastructure for humanities programming, including hosting visiting speakers and events, sponsoring professional development workshops for faculty and student fellows and for programming student and faculty-development activities during the summer. Public-facing humanities programming will also make up an important element of the studio’s work in order to share the value and the excitement of humanistic study with a broader public. 

The launch of the Humanities Studio at Pomona College is timely and deeply relevant to the College’s commitment to educating leaders for a changing world, according to Dettmar. In the age of fake news and alternative facts, where the ancient concepts of truth and honor are challenged in the civic sphere and in the media, the humanities are more relevant than ever. We strive to educate students to think deeply, critically, and empathetically, to seek truth, to acknowledge and be comfortable with difference, to understand and embrace nuance and complexity in a multi-layered world: these are skills and mindsets that are central to the humanities.

Pomona College faculty from all disciplines with humanities-facing research interests are eligible to participate in the Humanities Studio. The inaugural cohort of faculty fellows include members from across the disciplines: Mathematics Professor Gizem Karaali, English Professor Jordan Kirk, Anthropology Professor Joanne Nucho, Art Professor Michael O’Malley, German and Russian Professor Friederike von Schwerin-High and Philosophy Professor Julie Tannenbaum. With majors ranging from politics to classics to history, the Humanities Studio undergraduate fellows include seniors Peter Brown, Jacob Lubert , Natalie McDonald, James McIntyre, Natalie Slater and Candice Wang. Students and faculty are appointed as fellows for one year.

The inaugural theme the studio will explore is failure. “We’re dedicating our first year to our colleague Arden Reed’s memory; and the Phi Beta Kappa address that he gave in May 2017 that addressed the theme of failure—'Fail Better.’”

“There’s a stupid saying out there, ‘Failure isn’t an option,’” he adds. “Arden’s argument, I think, would be that failure isn’t optional—it’s part of the fabric of all of our lives, and we refuse to acknowledge it only at our peril. If we’re not failing, we’re perhaps not risking enough to really succeed,” explains Dettmar.

The Pomona College Humanities Studio will open its doors on the second floor of the Seeley G. Mudd building in September 2018.

About Pomona College

Located in Claremont, California, Pomona College is widely regarded as one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges. Established in 1887, Pomona College is known for small classes, a challenging curriculum, close relationships between students and faculty and a range of student research and leadership opportunities.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. To this end, it supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.