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Mellon Foundation awards $1.5 million to Vanderbilt for new Center for Digital Humanities

Mar. 28, 2016, 6:30 AM

Vanderbilt University has received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a new Center for Digital Humanities. The trans-institutional initiative will further Vanderbilt’s commitment to becoming a national hub of innovative digital humanities scholarship.

Provost Susan Wente (Vanderbilt University)

“Trans-institutional initiatives and immersive experiences for students are key goals in our Academic Strategic Plan,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Wente said. “This project will provide those experiences and more by bringing together experts in the digital humanities from across the campus and also laying the groundwork for a hub of digital scholars working in global humanities.”

In addition to the three-year Mellon grant, the center will receive additional support from the provost’s office and the College of Arts and Science.

“I’m thrilled that the College of Arts and Science has been able to take the lead in creating a state-of-the-art center that can serve the whole university community,” Arts and Science Dean Lauren Benton said. “We imagine the center as a place where faculty and students can come together to learn about new digital tools and invent new ways to study culture, music, film and other media, history and literature.

Dean Lauren Benton (Vanderbilt University)

“Arts and Science faculty are already deeply involved in digital humanities, and their varied projects — in media analysis, digital archives and more — will anchor the activities of the new center,” added Benton, who also holds the Nelson O. Tyrone, Jr. Chair in History. Current digital humanities projects include digital databases, online research portals, open source tools and digital oral projects.

The center also will cultivate interdisciplinary digital humanities across the university, with participation of faculty and students from Arts and Science, Peabody College of education and human development, the Divinity School, the Blair School of Music and the School of Engineering.

Faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will have funding opportunities through new competitive Mellon Fellowships in the Digital Humanities. The center also will host a new joint degree Ph.D. program and a creative media lab. The Ph.D. program, Comparative Media Analysis and Practice, will advance the critical investigation of modern media culture and the innovative design of media objects. The lab will feature open space for researching, teaching, meeting and tinkering and serve as a hub for faculty and students interested in the intersections of art, technology, science and culture. The center, set to open in Buttrick Hall this fall, also will host conferences, workshops, lectures and demonstrations.

This Mellon Foundation grant will complement the work already being done through a Mellon Partners for Humanities Education grant that links Vanderbilt with Berea College, Tennessee State University and Tougaloo College. This initiative supports specialized training for new Ph.D.s to prepare them for teaching at liberal arts colleges and historically black colleges and universities, as well as provides opportunities for faculty exchanges among partner institutions.

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