secured a permanent endowment that will support the Mellon Postdoctoral
Fellowship Program at the Center for the Americas.
Wesleyan Meets Mellon Foundation Challenge to Endow Fellowships in the
Humanities at the Center for Americas
In 2004, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
challenged Wesleyan to raise $1.5 million over a three-year period. Wesleyan
agreed -- and recently succeeded.
As part of the challenge, the Mellon Foundation matched these funds to endow
a permanent Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in the humanities within the
Center for the Americas. Since 1998, postdoctoral fellows were hired on a
year-to-year basis as grant funding allowed.
“The Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program has become part of the very
rhythm of the Center for the America’s existence, and the endowment ensures
its permanence at the heart of our operation,” says Patricia Hill, professor
of American studies and history. “This means that exciting young scholars
working at the cutting edge of their fields will continue to offer Wesleyan
students the opportunity to encounter new knowledge in areas not routinely
represented in our curriculum.”
The new endowment will support a two-person cohort and offer them
opportunities for scholarly research and professional development. Their
appointments, which begin in July 2008, are renewable for a second year.
Faculty are already reviewing applications, and are seeking a cultural
anthropologist or historian whose research focuses on indigenous peoples in
North America and a cultural anthropologist or interdisciplinary scholar
whose research examines cultural productions in Latin America, with a
preference for a focus on Brazil or the Caribbean.
In the past decade, Mellon Fellows have contributed to the Center for the
Americas in substantial ways, Hill explains. Some have conducted research,
sharing their findings with faculty colleagues and Wesleyan students. Others
have organized the center’s annual Americas Forum to address critical issues
from a hemispheric vantage point. And yet other scholars have delivered
audience-packed talks or participated in faculty colloquia.
Staff in University Relations sought support from a variety of outside
sources, especially from alumni and friends interested in investing in the
intellectual life of Wesleyan, specifically the humanities and Center for
the Americas. The opportunity to add to Wesleyan’s endowment attracted four
trustees to make significant gifts to the challenge.
"We are proud and pleased that our donors and the Mellon Foundation have
joined together to once again support the comparative, interdisciplinary and
international approach that encourages our students to explore the cultures
and politics of the Americas in their hemispheric context,” says Claire
Potter, chair of American Studies, director for the Center for the Americas,
and professor of American studies and history. “The Mellon Postdoctoral
Fellows have made invaluable contributions to our development of this
comparative and hemispheric paradigm; the fellows have, in turn, thrived
within the supportive structure and stimulating intellectual atmosphere at
the Center for the Americas.”
The Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is designed to benefit the
fellows and university alike. The fellows are offered intellectual
interaction and professional development while on campus. Many of them gain
their first teaching experience at Wesleyan, and others develop new
pedagogical interests during the fellowship. Most go on to compete
successfully for tenure-track jobs at prestigious institutions.
“Mellon Fellows have left Wesleyan familiar with a paradigm for the
comparative study of the Americas that they could introduce at other
institutions,” Potter says.
In addition, the fellows teach courses in their own areas of expertise,
important fields that are currently not represented in regular university
offerings. During the first year, each fellow will teach a small,
research-related seminar and a larger lecture course that will offer
students a broader understanding of the field. In the second year, each
fellow will offer a self-designed course and team-teach a course with a
The endowment provides fellows with an annual stipend, health benefits and
research and travel funds. They are given office space in the Center for the
“Our hope has always been to see the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows create a
vibrant intellectual community that supports young scholars, enrich the
university curriculum, and contribute to the development of a hemispheric
paradigm within the academy,” Potter says. “We believe that the program has
exceeded the high expectations we had when we envisioned this productive,
cooperative interaction between the fellows and the Center for the Americas,
and we look forward to the next cohort of fellows to expand the impact of
this successful partnership.”
Additional information on the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection