Mellon grant will expand Global Georgia Initiative

Wilson center

This article was originally published by UGA Today on April 11, 2018.

Writer: Dave Marr  (AB ’09, ABJ ’09)

A $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enable the University of Georgia Willson Center for Humanities and Arts to expand its Global Georgia Initiative, a public humanities program in place since 2013.

“As a leading public research university, UGA is appreciative to the Mellon Foundation for supporting the university’s goal of expanding its reach to scholars and community members throughout Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the Mellon Foundation in this manner.”

In its first six years, the Global Georgia Initiative has engaged the humanities and arts in exploring global issues of public concern in a diversity of local contexts, serving audiences at UGA and throughout the Athens community. Programs have featured guests from five continents on topics from Chinese film and literature to journalism in the American South, and from hyperlocal agriculture and manufacturing to pan-African cultural criticism.

The expansion of the initiative focuses on three areas: connecting its visiting speaker programs to curricular and experiential learning activities at UGA; bolstering existing off-campus public humanities collaborations; and instituting a statewide symposium for the humanities.

“The humanities play an indispensable role in deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world around us,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “Thanks to the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, the Willson Center will build on its exemplary record of fostering engagement with subjects that touch lives and transcend borders.”

Two of the Global Georgia Initiative’s speaker programs will be produced with input from proposals by UGA faculty, integrating the programs with coursework and involving UGA students in archival research and public engagement.

Global Georgia will also now support public humanities programs built by the Willson Center with public school systems and other partners in three locations: Sapelo Island, Putnam County and UGA’s home of Athens-Clarke County. The grant will strengthen the university’s engagement with these communities by providing research internships, travel funding and other resources.

Lastly, the grant will fund the establishment of an annual Georgia Humanities Symposium to provide a platform for the sharing and dissemination of humanities research and priorities by members of the statewide academic community.

Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and Willson Center director, is the founder of the Global Georgia Initiative and principal investigator. “The idea of a Global Georgia resonates with all kinds of people and enables discussion of complex subjects such as the environment, migration and public memory, by framing our conversations in comparative contexts,” he said. “At the same time, it gestures towards the complex local experiences of our students and of our citizens, experiences that are often the first entry point to the practice of the humanities at large.”

“We look to the Willson Center to help strengthen research in the humanities and arts at the University of Georgia, and this grant from the Mellon Foundation is tangible proof of its success,” said David Lee, vice president for research.

The programs established around Global Georgia are designed to underpin research and outreach long term. “The grant-funded programs will be embedded into institutional structures that will become more diverse, more collaborative and more intellectually interesting because of them,” Allen said. “An enhanced Global Georgia Initiative will deepen the foundations of our public humanities projects, with a particular focus on community-driven, project-led research that has an impact on how the humanities relate to diverse communities of inquiry.”

More information about The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is available online at