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Mellon Grant Supports Major New Global South Initiative

Published August 18, 2015 in News

By: Jane Kelly / University Communications

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University of Virginia $3.47 million to launch a major humanities initiative dedicated to the study of the Global South. The funding will go toward the creation of new courses and research focused on the connected histories and cultures of Africa, Latin America, South and East Asia and other world regions.

The College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences will match the grant, making the initial five-year investment to launch the initiative about $7 million.

“The Mellon grant will allow the College to continue to open new areas of interdisciplinary inquiry and to expand research and teaching initiatives,” Arts & Sciences Dean Ian Baucom said. “Studying the humanities has never been more essential to understanding the world our students will inhabit. An integrated focus on the Global South is one of the ways we can prepare students to succeed in a shared world of varied cultural perspectives and realities and to prepare them for lives of engaged cosmopolitan citizenship.” 

The grant comes at a pivotal time for the College, which is undertaking a major revision of its undergraduate curriculum that aims to build on the traditions and strengths of its commitment to a liberal arts education. The initiative will support the creation of new courses and programs of study in the Global South to extend exchanges between scholars working in history, literature, philosophy and other long-standing humanities disciplines and faculty working in emerging fields such as the medical and environmental humanities. At the same time, the Global South initiative aims to connect faculty and programs from across the University. That includes colleagues in the School of Architecture working on development and the built environment in sub-Saharan Africa and South America, as well as colleagues in the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing working on global public health and education initiatives in various parts of the Southern Hemisphere.

As part of the new effort, the College will hire a cluster of 10 tenure-track faculty members by 2020.

“We are looking to hire faculty who are experts in their fields and who are able to relate to scholars beyond their disciplines,” said Francesca Fiorani, Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities, who oversaw the development of the grant application. As an example, she offered the medical humanities. “It is a huge, emerging field where scholars in the humanities are looking at ways to work in medicine in different parts of the world,” Fiorani said. “Studies in medical humanities have included biomedical ethics and narrative medicine and have influenced new clinical practices, including the contributions of anthropology to understanding how culture shapes experiences of trauma and post-traumatic stress.”

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