News: Animating Conversations: University of Florida receives $400,000 Mellon Grant to address “grand challenge questions”

News: Animating Conversations: University of Florida receives $400,000 Mellon Grant to address “grand challenge questions”

News from the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere!


Animating Conversations: University of Florida receives $400,000 Mellon Grant to address “grand challenge questions”

Date: October 14, 2017

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —UF has received a three-year $400,000 grant award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the integration of humanities perspectives and methodologies into general education and advanced courses that address “grand challenge” questions. “We want all our students to have an exceptional college education, and that means engaging with the humanities in meaningful ways throughout their time at UF,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “I am so pleased that we will expand these opportunities through this Mellon Foundation-supported effort. This will not only greatly enrich their experience here, but also their lives and their careers long into the future.”

Organized by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, Animating Conversations will shape undergraduate general education in the humanities and highlight the contribution of humanities disciplines to solving local and global problems. Grand challenges address such issues as Building a Diverse Society after Jim Crow, Adapting to Climate Change, and Translating in a Global World. Distributed through competitive awards, grant funding will enable faculty members and their graduate students in the humanities and related fields to form Intersection Groups with scholars from other fields. Members of these groups will collaborate by sharing research, organizing events, and developing projects. Working together as teams, awarded Intersection Groups also will develop innovative courses and map out class clusters for undergraduates that address grand challenge questions.

“We are proud of our Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere for establishing an innovative and ambitious program,” said David E. Richardson, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “This grant will allow us to create deeper collaborations that will ultimately better prepare our students for navigating a complex and rapidly changing world.  Our economy increasingly requires exactly the type of cross-disciplinary communication and outreach that is at the core of the Center’s mission and the goals of this grant.”

This program will allow participants from UF to explore complex issues at a moment when cross-disciplinary collaboration is crucial to addressing shifting domains of knowledge in a rapidly changing world. “We—at the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere—are thrilled to have been awarded resources to support faculty members deepening their research through cross-disciplinary conversations and launching new undergraduates courses that will be enhanced by such collaborative scholarship in the humanities,” the Center’s Interim Director Barbara Mennel explained. She elaborated further that “this will be an exciting opportunity for faculty members in the short run. But in the long run, it will enrich the learning experience of our undergraduates, and not only those who major in the humanities, such as History, English, Philosophy, Classics, Religions, and the Foreign Languages. The courses also will cater to undergraduates in STEM and other fields who understand that the humanities offer important tools to address the challenges facing current and future societies.”

With the aim of developing a research-based undergraduate curriculum that integrates scholarly approaches to complex issues, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere will sponsor and facilitate Intersection Groups as laboratories in which scholars exchange ideas. Beginning in fall 2019, these Intersection Group courses will engage first-year students who will enroll in them as part of the required UF humanities general education courses. These innovative interdisciplinary courses focused on essential questions will become an enduring part of the UF curriculum and provide a bridge to broader clusters of courses that reflect the topics, questions, and methodologies developed by the Intersection Groups.

Animating Conversations will enhance the content of humanities general education courses and promote innovative and broadly conceived research in humanities disciplines and interdisciplinary topics.