mellon grants to the new school will advance demographic and intellectual diversity for emerging scholars and politically engaged art, scholarship, and public engagement

Combined $5.5 Million Provides Four Years of Funding in Largest Mellon Gift Received by University

The New School

New York, January 11, 2021 -- The New School has received two grants totaling $5.5 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to advance demographic and intellectual diversity and politically engaged art, scholarship and public engagement at the university. Together, these grants represent the largest Mellon Foundation gift to The New School and will significantly impact initiatives that will further its long-held values of equity, social justice and the political agency of art.

Dwight A. McBride, President of The New School, expressed gratitude for the Mellon Foundation’s support and recognition: “The Mellon Foundation has an unparalleled role in funding pioneering programs in the arts and humanities. These awards are a wonderful affirmation of the role of equitable and open scholarship and of The New School’s distinctive heritage of progressive education that directly furthers social justice and empowerment. We are enormously grateful for Mellon’s support, which will strengthen vital scholarly skills in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences, advance equity and inclusion in our faculty ranks, and further our commitments to scholarship and public discourse on the significance of art as an instrument for political engagement.”

The New School was awarded $5 million to establish the Mellon Initiative for Inclusive Faculty Excellence, a university-wide project to increase the demographic and intellectual diversity of the professoriate in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School received $500,000 to advance politically engaged art practices, scholarship, and public engagement.

Mellon Initiative for Inclusive Faculty Excellence
The ambitious Mellon Initiative for Inclusive Faculty Excellence at The New School will foster the essential mentorship and professional development of emerging scholars at the doctoral, post-doctoral, and professorship levels. The program will also seek to deepen social justice work and scholarship throughout the university and with community partners.

The initiative’s activities will unfold over the next four years. Its components include two interconnected efforts: (1) a pathway to full and deeply-rooted establishment in the professoriate for recent PhDs from underrepresented groups and others whose work furthers the diversification of the academy, and (2) a university-wide seminar focused on creating an inclusive, rigorous, and lively intellectual community, scholarship diversification, and the integration of scholarly and community-based research.

“Making progress on inclusive excellence in higher education requires a commitment to diversity and social justice throughout an institution—in pedagogy, policies, and practices—and the faculty, students, and staff must reflect the diversity of thought and identities of our society,” said Stephanie Browner, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Making progress also requires that we revisit and rethink the processes and policies that govern how we identify, recruit, mentor, and support faculty from underrepresented backgrounds.”

Among the new opportunities made possible is the Mellon Fellows Program, a four-year program that seeks to integrate recent PhDs into the academic, social, and professional contexts essential to flourishing and sustained success. “Robust and extensive networks, mentoring, access to research funds, consistent feedback, and occasions to make visible contributions to university intellectual life are key to the success of any faculty member,” said Deva Woodly, Associate Professor of Politics at The New School and Faculty Director of the Initiative. “These opportunities are especially critical for underrepresented faculty who all too often are called on as early-career professors to take on additional service by their institutions, and to provide informal mentoring and network-building assistance to others while receiving little to none themselves.”

Supplementing the usual informal avenues for participation in departmental and university life, the Mellon Transformative Seminar will nurture intellectual community and strengthen support for diverse scholarship across The New School and beyond. The seminar is a vital component of the program, formed each year with continuing and new members from four groups—Mellon Fellows, Mellon Dissertation Fellows, Mellon Community Fellows, and New School faculty—who will develop the curriculum and interrogate topics from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives. With participation across The New School and beyond, the Transformative Seminar will model, cultivate, and apply practices of collaborative interdisciplinarity between fellows, across campus, and within the larger community.

30th Anniversary Project to Bridge Politically Engaged Art Practices, Scholarship, and Public Engagement
Mellon funds will also bolster the university’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, a leader in public scholarship on the political agency of art and a hub connecting local, national, and international communities through shared commitments to art and social justice.

The project will extend the Center’s mission of public education and political empowerment, maximizing the impact of interdisciplinary programs that inform, galvanize, and sustain an ever-evolving network of artists, cultural leaders, scholars, curators, policymakers, institutional partners, students, faculty, and critics. It will employ a three-pronged approach to better serve and elevate the field of art and social justice by strategically bridging artist support, scholarship, and community building that are the core of the Vera List Center’s work. The grant represents an important recognition of the Center’s impact, 30 years after its founding, and the vibrancy of the growing field of politically engaged art practices.

The activities will take place over three and a half years, nurturing artists and art practices through: (1) distinct fellowship commissions; (2) expanded transdisciplinary research, teaching, and mentoring opportunities; and (3) enhanced publishing, community engagement, and partnerships that bring the artists’ work to new audiences in New York City and beyond.

“In this period of intense political polarization and upheaval, in the U.S. and elsewhere — unleashed by extreme economic inequality, racial injustice, climate change on a planetary scale, and now the COVID-19 pandemic — the notion of whom and what has political agency needs to be expanded to safeguard a more equitable future for all,” said Carin Kuoni, Senior Director and Chief Curator of the Vera List Center. “Artists point the way to more inclusive and radical spaces of political engagement that can invigorate the political discourse and galvanize entire communities.”

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.

The Vera List Center for Art and Politics is a scholarly research center and a public forum for art, culture, and politics. It was established at The New School in 1992—a time of rousing debates about freedom of speech, identity politics, and society's investment in the arts. A pioneer in the field, the Center is a nonprofit that serves a critical mission: to foster a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars, and policymakers who take creative, intellectual, and political risks to bring about positive change.


79 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Media Contacts:

The New School
Amy Malsin

The New School
Will Wilbur

Bookmark and Share