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Mellon Foundation Awards $100,000 to UMass Amherst’s Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

The offices of the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
The offices of the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $100,000 to the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies (WGSS) in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts (HFA) as part of its “Affirming Multivocal Humanities” initiative to advance the study of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

WGSS will use the funding to support both established and novel curricular programs and co-curricular activities ranging from undergraduate internships and guest speaker series to microgrants for programs to promote clear understandings of the fields to the public.

“Affirming Multivocal Humanities is an initiative that champions the insightful scholarship and teaching taking place in these disciplines—those that are too often undervalued and even undermined in American society today,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Mellon Foundation president. “We are proud to support colleges and universities in the United States that are advancing deep research and curricular engagement with the stories and histories of our country’s vast diversity and the modes of inquiry that race, gender and ethnic studies explore and expand.”

Among the first women, gender and sexuality studies programs established in the U.S., the department is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of lectures, panels, book discussions, community events and more.

"We look forward to extending our existing programs and imagining new directions for how we can support our vibrant student community,” said Svati Shah, associate professor in WGSS. “We feel that Gender and Sexuality Studies is more vital than ever and deeply appreciate seeing this supported by the Mellon Foundation.”

A pilot version of the program was officially inaugurated at UMass Amherst in 1974. Called the Women’s Studies Program, it was developed from the rich terrain of feminist organizing, anti-war and anti-imperialist activism, racial justice and other social change work that took place in the region, country and world. In 2009, the program officially changed its name and became a department.

“The Mellon grant will help us amplify and celebrate the work of WGSS faculty and studies,” said Kiran Asher, professor and WGSS department chair. “Our work truly embodies and exemplifies feminist interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, and principles of abolition justice". 

For more information about the award and the WGSS program, visit the Mellon Foundation website and the HFA News webpage