The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has a reputation for moving in mysterious ways. For 45 years, it has steadily handed out money—lots of it—to sustain the humanities and the performing arts. As times have gotten tougher, Mellon’s deep pockets have become increasingly important. The foundation tends to attract an unusual level of anxiety and interest, like a rich uncle whose quirks and whims keep poorer relations on their toes.
Some observers worry that Mellon is too opaque in its operations and guarded about its intentions. It’s not unusual for potential grantees to scramble to put together grant proposals in response to an unexpected call from Mellon, as happened with university presses in 2007, when the foundation invited them to submit ideas for multi-press first-book collaborations. Unlike many other grant makers, it rarely promotes its activities, preferring to stay out of the spotlight. Critics say—usually off the record—that its circle of grantees is too small and that it has disproportionately favored elite colleges and universities. A Chronicle analysis of the last decade and a half of Mellon grants supports that claim. Still, the foundation is widely admired for using its money and clout to reinforce the idea that, in an age of “disruption” and the veneration of science and technology, “the humanities and the arts are central to any life that one should want to live,” as Mellon’s then-president, Don M. Randel, wrote in his 2012 annual report.
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Adding to the basic understanding of electron scattering processes will be the focus of a three-year National Science Foundation grant awarded to Illinois Wesleyan University Assistant Professor of Physics Bruno deHarak. The grant will fund 12 undergraduate research assistant positions in addition to equipment and supplies.
Washington, DC—January 22, 2014—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) released today a new report on earnings and long-term career paths for college graduates with different undergraduate majors. In How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment, authors Debra Humphreys and Patrick Kelly analyze data from the 2010-11 US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and provide answers to some common questions posed by students, parents, and policy makers who are increasingly concerned about the value of college degrees.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — On the first floor of Jordan Hall at the University of Virginia School of Medicine is a 12-by-8 room that, at first glance, looks like a rundown storage space. The floor is a mix of white, teal and purple tiles, in a pattern reminiscent of the 1970s. Trash cans are without tops and half filled. There are rust stains on the tiles, and a loose air vent dangles a bit from the ceiling.
Inside these incubators Dr. Anindya Dutta stores cell cultures that he believes hold the key to a massive advancement in health care. He has identified the specific strands of microRNA, the molecule that plays a large role in gene expression, that are responsible for promoting the formation and fusion of muscular tissue.
Thomas Paine heralded the age of American self-governance with his ringing call for “common sense.” Today, those who want to discourage humanities majors are welcoming the age of global interdependence with ringing calls for uncommon idiocy.
The humanities include disciplines—history, religion, philosophy, cultural and comparative studies, languages, etc.—that are basic to democracy and indispensable to global and cross-cultural engagement. Given the global challenges we face on all fronts—from social unrest to religious and cultural conflicts to basic challenges of development in all parts of the world—we need more people, not fewer, with a solid grounding in the humanities.