Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is an iconic humanities funder in the United States, supporting everything from general research grants for higher level scholars, to scholarly communication, fellowships, IT projects, and art history and conservation programs. The foundation also features a robust arts grants program that supports higher education visual arts, music, theater and dance programs, and has shown a strong commitment to international higher education as well as diversity in U.S. colleges and universities.

IP TAKE: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a massive organization, which can make navigating its programs difficult for first-time grant-seekers. However, applicants are welcome to contact program staff.

PROFILE: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, established in 1969, “endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.” The foundation focuses almost exclusively on the humanities, art conservation, the performing arts, linguistics, and just about everything in between. Two other key priorities are international higher education and promoting diversity in U.S. academia.

Individuals and organizations may seek grants in each of the following program areas:

Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities helps universities and organizations “respond to the economic, demographic, financial, and technological challenges affecting higher education, supporting initiatives designed to enhance the learning experience of both undergraduate and graduate students in the humanities, and fostering collaborations within and among institutions.” It supports Research Institutions, Liberal Arts Colleges, and Consortia, as well as supporting a number of Fellowships. The New Directions Fellowships and Sawyer Seminars on Contemporary Study of Culture are managed by foundation staff, but the Mellon also sponsors numerous fellowships managed by other groups.

The Arts and Cultural Heritage program “seeks to nurture exceptional creative accomplishment, scholarship, and conservation practices in the arts, while promoting a diverse and sustainable ecosystem for these disciplines.” Its three sub-programs are  Intersections of Performing and Visual ArtsPerforming Arts, and Art History, Conservation, and Museums. Each of these sub-programs in turn has its own particular focus areas. This program is a significant source for both arts and humanities grants. The foundation often supports grantees with endowments for work such as art conservation programs.

Scholarly Communications  provides grants to “research libraries, archives, museums, universities, presses, and arts organizations” in order to “expand and equalize access to cultural and scholarly resources across sectors of society.” It supports Electronic Publishing, Preservation and Conservation, and Access and Use.

The Diversity program has the goal of “extending the benefits of higher education to all, and enabling students of all social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds to experience and value diversity and inclusiveness in their pursuit of learning.” The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program supports “increasing the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue PhDs and by supporting the pursuit of PhDs by students who may not come from underrepresented minority groups but have demonstrated a commitment to the goals of MMUF.” Mellon also supports Tribal and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The International Higher Education program is directed at “countries or regions where the Foundation's commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education could contribute to stabilizing fragile democracies, and create favorable conditions for their participation in global networks of research and culture.” For the moment, this program is only open to organizations that have an existing relationship with the foundation, but it is still in the early stage of development.

Grants typically range from $100,000 to $1 million, but may go as high as $4 million. A look at past grantees shows a number of prestigious schools, yet funding has also been allocated large state schools and lesser known higher education institutions. Grantseekers should make sure to review not only the general Grantmaking Policies, but also the guidelines for individual program areas, which may vary.

Mellon generally does not accept unsolicited proposals, but will respond to promising inquiries with an invitation to apply.

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