Inaugural Mellon Grants Promote the Power of the Arts, Humanities

Dr. Eve Manning presents poetry

Writer and sociologist Eve L. Manning was brought to campus for Poetry in Context, one of this semester's Mellon grant recipients.

In an effort to a build a more inclusive community, the President’s Office has announced the seven inaugural recipients of a newly-created grant program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A selection committee created by the President’s Office selected seven proposals from diverse groups of students, staff, and faculty. The seven selected groups will explore the power of the arts and humanities to engage the imagination and enable communication across different viewpoints, experiences, and perspectives.

"These grants allow us to raise the profile of the arts and humanities on campus by fostering nuanced reflection on the importance of these disciplines,” says President Valerie Smith. “The range of proposals that received funding reflects some of the ways in which we are already doing this work across campus. The proposals have also inspired new and innovative collaborations,” she says. “Ideally, we would like to use this funding to help pilot some initiatives to build upon in the future."

The winning projects that will receive up to $10,000 in funding include:

Compass - Casey Lu Simon-Plumb '18, a neuroscience major from Hampden, Mass., Christopher Malafronti '18, a critical mixed race studies major from Newark, Del., and Sydnie Schwarz '20 of Raleigh, N.C.

Multi, an SGO club and member of the Intercultural Center, aims to create a space on Swarthmore’s campus to celebrate and explore what identifying as multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural is and can be. Compass: Navigating Multiness, a three-day undergraduate conference, is designed primarily for undergraduate students to explore the navigation of multiple identities, particularly those that are unaddressed or marginalized in mainstream society.

Poetry in Context - Meghan Kelly '18, a social & anthropology and educational studies major from Wolcott, Conn., and Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Edwin Mayorga

​During a well-attended encuentro on Feb. 21, Dr. Eve L. Ewing read several poems from her book Electric Arches as well as other work, while also drawing on her knowledge and work as a sociologist to make connections to topics in race, history, gender, and current events. More than just a poetry performance or an academic lecture, the format brought together art and society for an engaging experience.

VISIBILITY - Jasmine Rashid '18, a peace and conflict studies major from Oyster Bay, N.Y., Emma Walker '20 of Kingston, Jamaica, Samira Saunders '18, a peace and conflict studies major from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Olivia Robbins '21 of New York, N.Y., James Howard '18, a linguistics major from Atlanta, Ga., James Garcia '19, an art and mathematics major from Elizabeth, N.J., and Shreya Chattopadhyay '20 of Newbury Park, Calif.

VISIBILITY Magazine, a digital zine first published by the Intercultural Center in 2016, centers the work of Swarthmore students — particularly those of historically marginalized identities. This project plans to use the grant to sustain and expand the publication by printing more physical copies and sharpening its mission by organizing more intentional programming with the organizations and centers across campus.

Resisting Dystopia: Creative Writing for Social Change - Assistant Professor of Linguistics Jamie Thomas, Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English Literature Nathalie Anderson, and Visiting Instructor of English Literature Gregory Frost

In collaboration across departments in English Literature and Linguistics, this project aims to illuminate the power of speculative fiction, from zombies to vampires, dictators like Big Brother, aliens, and everyone and anything in between, in questioning our present realities, and challenging audiences to take up alternative vocabularies and equality-seeking stances. It approaches creative writing as a critical and empowering act, and an outlet for scholarly engagement with diverse publics.

Searching for Sanctuary: Borders, Migration & Human Rights - Associate Professor of Political Science Ben Berger, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Elaine Allard, Assistant Professor of English Literature Sangina Patnaik,  Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Programming and Outreach at the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility Katie Price, College Librarian Peggy Ann Seiden, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Osman Balkan.

This project will bring students and faculty from four different courses together to foster an ongoing conversation on the complex issues surrounding forced migration. A dinner series will address questions of declining global support for refugees and the role of the arts in in understanding political crises, among others. An additional speaker series is intended to build a shared engagement with major figures writing about migration and to provide opportunities to see how the issue of forced migration is explored in a variety of disciplines.

Migration Stories and the Refugee Crisis: A Reading and Discussion with Mikhail Shishkin - Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian Jose Vergara, Charles Aprile '18, an urban studies major from Turin, Italy, Irina Bukharin '18, a political science honors major from Kensington, Md., and Director of Language and Media Centers Michael Jones.

To highlight the ways in which literature and the arts might positively inform our perspective on the global refugee crisis, this project will invite Mikhail Shishkin, a contemporary Russian writer who has addressed these questions. While the refugees portrayed in Shishkin’s novel may not be “real,” they are based on his own encounters with migrants when he worked as an interpreter at the Swiss border, and he conveys their traumas, struggles, and daily existence in ways that have resonated with readers around the globe.

Writing In Public: From Academic Prose To Public-Facing Forums - Colette Gerstmann '18, an English literature major from Brooklyn, N.Y., Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Scholarship Nabil Kashyap, Assistant Professor of English Literature Sangina Patnaik, Katie Paulson '18, an honors English literature major from Madison, Wis., and Bobby Zipp '18, an honors English literature and political science and educational studies major from Dover, Del.

“Writing in Public” grapples with topics that are difficult to include in a course syllabus. For instance, the speed at which the #MeToo movement has developed leaves little time for academic courses to keep pace with the changes that produce our culture. Developing the tools to more effectively produce public-facing nonfiction will open space for students’ intellectual engagement in ways not feasible in a formalized, credit-bearing course setting.