For Faculty

Sawyer Seminar

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invited the University of Wisconsin-Madison to submit a proposal for the John E. Sawyer Seminars program. The Sawyer Seminars program provides support for collaborative research on historical and contemporary topics of major scholarly significance. The program emphasizes mainly, but not exclusively, scholars from the fields of the arts, humanities and interpretive social sciences. The program aims to engage productive scholars in multi-disciplinary and comparative inquiry. Preference will be given to those proposals that include concrete plans for engaging participants with diverse institutional and disciplinary affiliations.

Each seminar normally meets for one year, and provides support for one postdoctoral fellow and for the dissertation research of two graduate students. The maximum grant award for each seminar is $225,000. Mellon will select approximately ten (10) Sawyer seminars by September 2017.

The proposals should describe: 1) the rationale for raising the central questions to be addressed and the potential significance of the inquiry to be pursued; 2) the cases to be studied (e.g., nations, regions, time periods, cultural trends, social tensions) and the perspectives to be brought to bear on them; 3) the thematic “threads” that will run through the seminar; 4) the institution’s resources and suitability for the proposed seminar; and 5) the procedures to be used in selecting graduate and postdoctoral fellows. Texts of the proposals covering these five components typically range from 3,000 to 6,000 words, but no more than 8,000 words.

In addition, the proposals should be supplemented by three appendices: (1) budget; (2) a well-developed preliminary plan for the seminar that outlines the specific topics to be addressed in each session and provides the names and qualifications of the scholars who would ideally participate; and (3) short CVs (1-2 pages) for the principal seminar organizers. If other participants are identified, the organizers are asked to limit information about them to a few lines of text. Note that the Mellon Foundation recognizes that it can take a year or more to organize the seminars. Meetings need not be scheduled for the coming academic year.

If you would like your proposal considered, please send your proposal information to Laurie Mayberry, Assistant Vice Provost, via e-mail at laurie.mayberry@wisc.edu. Nomination materials are due by noon, March 10, 2017. (Proposals must be submitted in Microsoft Word.)

A committee of senior faculty will review the proposals.

Please see below for more information. If you have any questions, please contact Laurie Mayberry at laurie.mayberry@wisc.edu.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
JOHN E. SAWYER SEMINARS  
ON THE COMPARATIVE STUDY OF CULTURES

Purpose:  The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for collaborative research on historical and contemporary topics of major scholarly significance.  The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation’s long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, bring together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the arts, humanities and interpretive social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.  This program aims to engage productive scholars in multi-disciplinary and comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs.  

Program Activities:  To date, 183 seminars have been funded.  Their subjects, which have ranged widely, can be viewed on our website.

The maximum grant award for each Sawyer Seminar is $225,000 (see budget section below for further details).  Each seminar normally meets for one year (though some have continued for longer periods).  Faculty participants have largely come from the humanities and interpretive social sciences, although some of the most successful and provocative seminars have also drawn on faculty in the arts and in professional schools.  Seminar leaders are encouraged to invite participants from nearby institutions.  As the Foundation reviews proposals, preference will be given to those that include concrete plans for engaging participants with diverse institutional and disciplinary affiliations.

Sawyer Seminar awards provide support for one postdoctoral fellow to be recruited through a national competition, and for the dissertation research of two graduate students.  It is expected that the graduate students will be active participants in the seminars, and the seminars’ contribution to graduate education in the humanities and social sciences will be carefully considered even though they are not intended to be organized as official credit-bearing courses.  Seminars are not expected to produce a written product, though many do. 

Selection and Award Process:  Each year approximately twenty institutions are invited to submit a seminar proposal; the invitation list changes annually, as recent awardees return to the rear of a line of roughly 60 potential invitees.  The Foundation expects university administrators and others who receive copies of the invitation to convey it broadly to members of the faculty and to inform their communities of the way a local proposal will be selected for submission.

Proposals should describe:  (1) the rationale for raising the central questions to be addressed and the potential significance of the inquiry to be pursued; (2) the cases to be studied (e.g., nations, regions, time periods, cultural trends, social tensions) and the perspectives to be brought to bear on them; (3) the thematic “threads” that will run through the seminar; (4) the institution’s resources and suitability for the proposed seminar; and (5) the procedures to be used in selecting graduate and postdoctoral fellows.  Texts of proposals covering these five components typically range from 3,000 to 6,000 words and must not exceed 8,000 words.  Additionally, proposals should be supplemented by three appendices: (1) a budget (using the Mellon Budget and Financial Report template); (2) a well-developed preliminary plan for the seminar that outlines the specific topics to be addressed in each session and provides the names and qualifications of the scholars who would ideally participate; (3) short CVs (1-2 pages) for the principal seminar organizers (if other participants are identified, the organizers are asked to limit information about them to a few lines of text).

Proposals should be submitted with a Proposal Information Sheet (also found on the website) in both hard copy and pdf.  Please send the electronic copy to mgs@mellon.org with a copy to HESH@mellon.org.  All proposals received by the annual deadline will be judged by a committee of distinguished scholars with wide-ranging interests.  The number of proposals selected by the committee will vary from year to year, depending on the funds available.  The selection committee’s recommendations are then put before the Mellon Foundation’s Board of Trustees for its approval, after which the applicants are notified of the outcome.

Following approval by the Foundation’s Trustees, funds will be disbursed to the host institution.  Past experience suggests that it can take a year or more to organize the seminars.  Annual reports on the progress of the seminar are required for the term of the grant.

Budget:  Funding requests should not exceed $225,000 for each seminar.  It is expected that each seminar’s budget will provide for a postdoctoral fellowship to be awarded for the year the seminar meets, and two dissertation fellowships for graduate students to be awarded for the seminar year or the year that follows.  The amounts for postdoctoral fellowship awards and dissertation fellowship stipends should follow institutional practices.  Travel and living expenses for short stays by visiting scholars and the costs of coordinating the seminar, including those incurred for speakers and their travel, may be included.  The grants may not, however, be used for the costs of released time for regular faculty participants, or for indirect costs.