Trinity University Receives Mellon Foundation Grant for Research in Arts and Humanities

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Feb. 27, 2013

Trinity University Receives Mellon Foundation Grant for Research in Arts and Humanities

Called a “game changer,” the grant will change the teaching of courses in the arts and humanities by funding opportunities for undergraduate research

SAN ANTONIO - Students who would like to dig at an archeological site by the Mediterranean, translate original documents from an international archive, or research and produce an opera will have the opportunity to get funding for their academic projects with the support of a $600,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Trinity University.

The grant, awarded to Trinity, will fund the Mellon Initiative, a new program to bolster and develop undergraduate research opportunities in the arts and humanities and make research part of every student's experience.

Dennis A. Ahlburg, president of Trinity University, said, "Just having the facts at your fingertips, that is, book learning, is not enough. Learning to think like a humanist or artist is also essential. Such learning is most easily acquired by students working closely with faculty."

He added the Mellon Initiative is part of his vision to prepare students who graduate from Trinity with the confidence in their abilities to confront the complexities and problems of modern life.   

The Mellon Initiative will support undergraduate research in departments of:

  • Art and Art History
  • Classical Studies
  • English
  • History
  • Human Communication and Theatre
  • Modern Languages and Literatures
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religion

Ruben Dupertuis, associate professor of religion, has been chosen as the first director of the Mellon Initiative. He said he believed that one of the reasons Trinity received the Mellon Foundation grant was the Foundation's fundamental interest in strengthening arts and humanities curriculum not only at Trinity, but at other colleges and universities as well.  "Some of the ideas we develop at Trinity will serve as a model for other institutions," said Dupertuis.

Dupertuis will work with a steering committee composed of professors from each of the departments involved to oversee the Initiative, which has three components.

Integrating research into the curriculum
Although some classes in the arts and humanities do have a research component as part of the course, the Mellon Institute will help Trinity faculty identify other courses where the teaching of research skills can be added.  And by reviewing all courses in the arts and humanities, faculty members will be able to collaborate in creating new courses that will incorporate research skills throughout the curriculum.

Developing teaching strategies
In order to create the type of courses that introduce students to research skills, the Mellon Initiative will support faculty as they research and develop new courses that will feature a research component.  In addition, faculty can receive training on how to teach the new curriculum.

Promoting summer research opportunities
The largest component of the Mellon Initiative will be the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.  For 10 weeks, students will work closely with a professor from the arts and humanities on projects related to a professor's own research work. The Initiative will pay for summer housing, provide a stipend for expenses, and could help fund travel and supplies directly related to the creative and scholarly project.

Mark Brodl, an associate vice president for Academic Affairs and one of several Trinity faculty involved in creating a framework for the Initiative, said it could be a "game changer" for the future of the arts and humanities. "The Initiative will add a rich dimension to faculty-student interaction that will be pretty powerful," he said.

The Mellon Initiative will select its first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows this spring and the students will take part in projects beginning in May. The Mellon Foundation grant will fund the Initiative for five years.

Trinity University is a nationally recognized liberal arts and sciences institution noted for its exceptional faculty and commitment to the comprehensive preparation of its talented student body. It is a learning community that has charted its course with a steadfast commitment to excellence since it was founded in 1869.

-Russell Guerrero '83