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Andrew Mellon Foundation commits $1 million for Phase II of CNY Humanities Corridor

August 29, 2011

Sara Miller
(315) 443-9038

The Central New York Humanities Corridor—an interdisciplinary partnership among Syracuse University, Cornell University and the University of Rochester focused on enhancing scholarship in the humanities—has received a second award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the amount of $1 million over three years. This renewed support will allow the Corridor to foster new connections among faculty, students, programs and resources in shared areas of scholarly interest in Phase II of the project. 

CNY Humanities CorridorThe Humanities Corridor is a Syracuse University-based initiative that began in 2006 with a $1 million, three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, and is centered on the collective work of faculty groups from the three institutions. 

As part of the Corridor’s expansion and new direction in 2008, Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of the Syracuse University Humanities Center, was appointed principal investigator of the Humanities Corridor. Serving as co-investigators and project directors are Timothy Murray, professor of comparative literature and English, director of the Society of the Humanities and curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Studies at Cornell University, and Thomas DiPiero, ex-officio on the board of the Humanities Project, and dean of humanities and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Rochester. As a result of these changes, the Humanities Corridor is now firmly anchored at all three universities by a humanities center or division-wide interdisciplinary program: the Syracuse University Humanities Center, the Society of the Humanities at Cornell University, and the Humanities Project at University of Rochester. 

“The concept and philosophy of a regional humanities corridor connecting scholars and artists in a diverse number of collaborative research projects and cross-institutional activities represents a tangible and very practical response to the so-called ‘crisis of the humanities,” says Lambert. “By combining research missions in areas of overlapping strength, as well as fostering new areas of humanistic inquiry that cannot be supported by one institution alone, the overall goal of the Humanities Corridor is to create opportunities for new kinds of collaboration, including other liberal arts colleges in the region, as one of the goals in Phase II of the project.” 

Phase II of the Corridor focuses more closely on the creation of interdisciplinary “clusters:” digital humanities; literature, language and culture; and archives and media. Work in these clusters will continue the regional collaboration that began in Phase I. In addition, the Corridor will promote new areas of inquiry, such as the “digital humanities,” across the participating universities, maximizing each school’s access to new expertise and resources. Expanding the interdisciplinary conversation even further, Phase II will also increase the number of annual visiting research collaborators. 

“The Mellon Foundation’s exciting validation of the Corridor couldn’t come at a better time as we seek innovative ways to extend the reach of the humanities on our campuses and throughout Central New York,” says Murray. “The Corridor has provided invaluable opportunities for Cornell faculty and graduate students to expand their intellectual horizons in tandem with their peers at Syracuse and Rochester. Our visiting fellows at the Society for the Humanities also embrace the added opportunity to share their work with colleagues in the region. Mellon’s generous award provides welcome resources for intellectual programming and collegial exchange at a moment when humanities centers across the country are turning to the Central New York Humanities Corridor for its exemplary model of regional exchange.” 

“The variety of Humanities Corridor events and projects speaks to the incredible potential of interdisciplinary work, and the importance of collaboration,” says DiPiero. “As new fields emerge, such as the digital humanities, it is critical that scholars come together—as they do in Corridor projects—from across the disciplines to imagine possibilities and consider the best use of shared resources.” 

Over the years, the Humanities Corridor has taken the form of collaborative research and group conversations among participating humanities faculty. Among the notable Corridor initiatives and programs that have been realized by more than 60 faculty working groups since 2006 are: 

  • a 2007 international conference, “Music, Justice and Gender,” which brought together scholars, performers and activists from the world of performance, composition, historical musicology, ethnomusicology and women’s studies to join faculty members and students from participating institutions in the Humanities Corridor;
  • a 2008 symposium, “Music and the Common Good: Listening to Haudenosaunee Voices,” a special ethnomusicology event that aimed to promote dialogue among Haudenosaunee cultural workers, Central New York educators and students, and Central New York arts organizers around issues of musical identity, the media and the common good;
  • a 2008 international conference, “Visible Memories,” hosted at SU and featuring more than 100 faculty participants and a keynote speech by New York-based conceptual artist Ernesto Pujol; the proceedings of which are forthcoming in a collection published by University of Illinois Press;
  • a 2008-10 series of performance studies of the organ, “The King of Instruments,” which conducted special workshops and performances of the historical instrument in churches and in several locations around the Central New York region;
  • a 2009 joint-graduate seminar in philosophy conducted by SU and Rochester faculty and including graduate student participation from all three Corridor institutions; additionally, an Upstate New York Early Modern Philosophy workshop and speaker series;
  • a 2009 international conference on visual and cultural studies, “The Next Twenty Years,” held at the University of Rochester and featuring Corridor faculty in conversation about the future of the field, and interdisciplinary work in relation to more traditional disciplines;
  • a 2010 international conference on “Global Aesthetics” hosted by the Society of the Humanities, Cornell University, which drew participation from faculty in the Corridor in conversation with an international array of artists and curators;
  • a 2010-11 speaker series in the “Digital Humanities,” which featured a number of lectures by national and international scholars at all three Corridor sites;
  • a 2010-11 series of panels on “Digital Witness” in conjunction with the Human Rights Film Festival held at SU; and
  • a 2011 series of fall events and workshops planned around the residency of Kronos Quartet at SU, culminating in a planned symposium with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Center for Electroacoustic Music. 

The Mellon Foundation grant will be counted in The Campaign for Syracuse University’s total. With a goal of $1 billion, The Campaign for Syracuse University is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU’s history. By supporting faculty excellence, student access, interdisciplinary programs, capital projects and other institutional priorities, the campaign is continuing to drive Scholarship in Action, the University’s vision to provide students, faculty and communities with the insights needed to incite positive and lasting change in the world. Officially launched in November 2007 with a goal of $1 billion, the five-year effort has raised a total of over $890 million with less than 18 months remaining to achieve the $1 billion campaign goal. More information is available online at http://campaign.syr.edu.

For more information on the Central New York Humanities Corridor, visit: http://www.syracusehumanities.org/mellon.

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