UCR Mellon Workshop Sparks Interest in the Humanities

By Stephanie Wejbe, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

University of California Riverside Mellon WorkshopThe UCR Mellon Workshop Program in the Humanities hosts over ten events every quarter and plans to continue its success in the future by its call for proposals for next year’s workshops. The UCR Mellon Workshop began in the Fall of 2002. The college was awarded a three and half year grant by the Mellon Foundation, calling for workshops in the Humanities and extending to the Arts and Social Sciences.

This year’s workshops are: The Abuse of Ideals; The American Founding; Empire, Gender, and Violence; Intellectual Activity Outside of the Academy: Self-Trained Thinkers, Activists, and Artists in the African Diaspora; and Improvisation Studies Workshop. Twelve out of CHASS’s nineteen departments of have been actively involved in the workshops, particularly English, Ethnic Studies, History, Sociology, Political Science, and Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages as well as CHASS research centers and interdisciplinary programs, including the Center for Ideas and Society.

Dr. Thomas Scanlon, Chair of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, serves as the overseeing chair of the Workshop Program and is greatly assisted by Mellon Graduate Research Assistant Ian Chambers and Mellon Staff Assistant Karen Selsor, both of whom the director recognizes as instrumental in the success of the workshops.

The Fall Quarter featured ten events and has proven to be highly successful. According to Mr. Chambers, “The success has gone beyond what we thought it would be. Eeach event has reached maximum seating capacity and has been very successful.” Chambers also noted how visitors outside the university, including an independent film company and members from various community platforms, have joined the “public discussion of Humanities and related issues.”

Those interested in the workshops can anticipate even more events throughout the academic year including a performance arts group and a conference during the 2004 Winter Quarter with participation by the Department of Dance as well as musical presentations and discussions.

Dr. Scanlon commented about the workshop’s success, “We are delighted it has gone so well. It has become one of the bright spots on the college and the campus, enriching intellectual life, student mentoring, and inspiring faculty research.” Dr. Scanlon also encourages those interested in the workshops to keep their eyes open to next year’s call for proposals.

The UCR program is modeled primarily after a similar, long-running program at Stanford University. Others exist at the University of Chicago and elsewhere in the US. Dean Patricia O’Brien served as the primary author of the grant and Dr. Thomas Scanlon, Chair of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages also contributed.

Each year, five workshops are selected for funding, based on theme and topic selection. Each workshop consists of half graduate students and half faculty, the latter includinge faculty from various departments. A faculty sponsor and a graduate student coordinator lead each group. Each workshop has an allocated budget of $5,000 to support the group's activities and implement the topic as it chooses. The budget can be used toward the costs of bringing national and international visitors to UCR to give public lectures and to participate in group seminars. Groups meet regularly, at least three times per quarter, throughout the year.

Workshop activities include discussions of readings, individual presentations, guest lectures with question and answer sessions, and discussion of screenings or performance media. Activities pursue a wide range of topics in diverse formats, including writing, reading, viewing, critique, and presentation of one's own or others' works, articles, books, dissertation chapters, theories, creative writing or poetry, cultural analyses, critical theory, films, and music.


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