Dartmouth to Participate in Major Mellon Foundation Grant

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The Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth has been selected to participate in a major new grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), of which Dartmouth is a member.

Colleen Glenney Boggs

Colleen Glenney Boggs is director of the Leslie Center for the Humanities, one of six partners in a new pilot project funded by the Mellon Foundation. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

The $1.35 million grant is awarded for the second phase of Integrating the Humanities Across National Boundaries, an initiative designed to foster new forms of collaborative research and partnerships among the organization’s international members.

The Leslie Center is one of six CHCI member centers and institutes that will lead the research through 2017 on one of the pilot projects, the CHCI Medical Humanities Network Program, which aims to further the development of the medical humanities as a subject of study.

“We are thrilled to be cooperating with the Mellon Foundation and CHCI, as well as with all the other academic partners, on this exciting project,” says Adrian Randolph, associate dean of the faculty of the arts and humanities and the Leon E. Williams Professor of Art History. “The medical humanities, widely acknowledged as an area of extraordinary growth and impact, suit us perfectly. With our ambitious medical school and deep strength in the humanities, Dartmouth is a great site to explore this emerging field.”

The project’s larger goals, says Colleen Glenney Boggs, director of the Leslie Center and a professor of English and of women’s and gender studies, are to contribute to the ways medicine and the humanities are taught and practiced; to provide new models for research within and across fields; and to foster collaborations between academics working in humanities departments and their colleagues in the health sciences.

“At a time when our national discussion about education in general and higher education in particular revolves around STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—Dartmouth as a liberal arts institution, and the Geisel School as a premier medical school are at the forefront of reframing that discussion as one that has to revolve around STEAM—that is, as one that has to include the arts and humanities,” Boggs says. “This exciting grant from the Mellon foundation recognizes and advances those important endeavors.”

The humanities centers in the partnership are the Leslie Center; the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University; the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC); the Centre for the Humanities and Health, King’s College London (KCL); Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, the University of the Witwatersrand (WiSER); and the Research Institute for the Humanities, Chinese University of Hong Kong. Each center will conduct specific research on aging, supported by collaborative reflection on issues of evidence, value, and evaluation.

The Leslie Center will use the funds to convene scholars and practitioners who individually and jointly explore, from the perspectives of both humanities and medicine, who and what constitute the medical “subject.”

The ultimate goal, Boggs says, is that through exploring such questions and bringing together scholars and teachers from different disciplines, the partners will facilitate ongoing conversation and collaboration and begin to develop a shared vocabulary that supports innovative scholarship as well as compassionate and efficacious healing practices.

“This grant will allow Dartmouth to build on ongoing collaborations between faculty in the humanities and the medical sciences in ways that have great potential to improve care of the whole patient through reframing and expanding our approach to the experience of illness,” says the Geisel School of Medicine’s Kathryn Kirkland, a professor of medicine and a professor of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Sienna Craig says the new initiative “promises to not only enrich conversations about medical encounters and the lived experiences of patients and caregivers, but also to provide Dartmouth faculty in Arts and Sciences and at Geisel with opportunities to forge meaningful and sustained connections with each other, and to foster new forms of collaboration.”

The second CHCI pilot project funded by the Mellon foundation this year, Integrative Graduate Humanities Research Education and Training, brings together faculty, doctoral students, and post-doctoral scholars in a series of structured collaborations to undertake jointly mentored international research.

Two three-year projects (2013–2015) were funded in the first phase of the Integrating the Humanities Across National Boundaries program. Humanities for the Environment involves five CHCI-member partners forming collaborative “Observatories”—one each in North America, the Australia-Pacific region, and Europe—to research the role of the humanities in a period of planetary crisis and change.