Limited Submission: Andrew W. Mellon SAWYER SEMINAR PROGRAM

01/16/2014, 5:00 PM

To: All Department Heads, Chairs, Dean and Faculty in the Colleges of Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences (ISSR & CRF)


For the first time, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invited UMass Amherst to submit an application for their SAWYER SEMINARS PROGRAM.

Deadline for submitting materials for internal review is Thursday, January 16, 2014. Mellon deadline – March 1, 2014. Please send the requested materials via email to me ( by January 16. For technical questions please contact Linda Sopp in the Office of Corporate & Foundation Relations (; 5.3885)

PURPOSE:  The Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.  The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation's long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.  This program aims to engage productive scholars in 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.  Sawyer Seminars are, in effect, temporary research centers.

Each seminar normally meets for one year.  Faculty participants have largely come from the humanities and social sciences, although faculty members from professional schools have also been key participants in a number of seminars.  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 also to invite participants from nearby institutions.  As the Foundation reviews proposals, preference is given to those that include concrete plans for engaging participants with diverse affiliations. While comparative inquiry tends naturally to be transdisciplinary, seminars proposals that accord prominent roles to scholars in the humanities and the arts have fared better in the competition than those that do not.


Please describe in a maximum of 2 pages, 12point font:

1) the originality and significance of the central questions to be addressed;
2) the cases to be compared (e.g., nations, regions, social aggregates, time periods) and the rationale for the comparisons that are selected;
3) the thematic "threads" that will run through the seminar;
4) the institution's resources and suitability for the proposed seminar; and
5) a preliminary plan for the seminar that outlines the specific topics to be addressed and provides the names and qualifications of the scholars who would ideally participate.


Use below bolded headings in the concept paper:

1) name, department, and department chair  in the header
2) overall significance
3  cases to be compared
4) threads that will run through the seminar
5) resources/suitability
6) preliminary plan

Please see the website for additional detail.