Grant to boost humanities studies at UNC

Posted March 26, 2009 11:29 a.m. EDT

— The University of North Carolina has received a $4.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a graduate fellowship program in four humanities departments.

The university will match the grant with $2.76 million in private funds to create the Mellon Graduate Fellowship Program. It will support graduate students in the departments of English and comparative literature, history, philosophy, and religious studies.

"Our ability to attract outstanding graduate students is absolutely essential to our academic reputation and prominence," Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement. "They inspire our faculty to do their best work, and they produce first-rate scholarship in their own right. As teachers, they enhance the quality of our undergraduate education. So, we're very grateful for the Mellon Foundation's generosity. Providing more support for graduate students ranks among our top priorities."

Starting in the 2009-10 school year, the program will fund 12 fellowships in an initial five-year pilot phase, with four Mellon Graduate Fellows enrolling every other year, officials said. After that, five fellows will enroll every other year on a permanent basis.

The fellowships will be shared evenly among the four departments. Each fellowship will be worth $33,000 per year for five years, including stipend, tuition, fees and health insurance.

During their first year, Mellon Fellows will focus exclusively on coursework, and they will spend their final year solely on their dissertation. In the three middle years, fellows will develop experience as undergraduate teachers while also pursuing their doctoral studies.

"This program will enhance our ability to compete for the best graduate students in the humanities from around the world," Bruce Carney, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement. "We've been at a competitive disadvantage with some prominent universities because we didn't have as many fellowships that offer relief from teaching duties during the crucial first and final years of graduate study.

"At the same time, Mellon Fellows will teach in our classrooms, giving them valuable experience and exposing our undergraduate students to exceptionally bright young minds," Carney said.