Humanities Without Walls Opportunities

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The Center for Digital Research in the Humanities is among 15 partners in a $3 million project that seeks to create new avenues of collaborative research, teaching and scholarship in the humanities.

Request for Proposals: The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate

The Humanities without Walls consortium invites applications for funding from cross-institutional teams of faculty and graduate students wishing to collaboratively pursue research topics related to “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.”

This new research initiative continues to link the consortium partners in a common commitment to intellectual exchange and dialogue, this time around a broad question that resonates with many contemporary humanist scholars—namely, what is the work of the humanities in a changing climate? This rubric is intended to be both intellectually focused and capacious. In its narrowest interpretation, it calls for collaborative work on climate change, arguably the most pressing grand challenge of our time. We seek collaborative research in the field of environmental humanities, broadly conceived, as well as the development of new humanities-centered paradigms for thinking through the limits and possibilities of climate change policy. We do so out of a conviction that the current climate crisis has deep historical roots yet to be fully tapped; that it calls for new philosophies and theories of the human and the anthropocene; that its fictions and visual cultures bear mightily on its material consequences, past, present and future; and that collaborative research on these questions and more is indispensable to scholarly expertise on the subject, in the humanities and beyond.

As a metaphor, climate change is pluripotent: it offers humanists the opportunity to think expansively about the meanings of “climate” and “change” as they manifest in their own research, and to bring their contributions to bear on cognate questions in the present. Thus “The Work of Humanities in a Changing Climate” also hails scholars who wish to consider the pressure of other forms of contemporary “climate change” on their fields of inquiry—from a changing racial climate to a changing economic climate to the changing notion of “the public” and what it means for the intellectual work environments of humanists.

Though the urgency of grappling with this variety of ecological and environmental changes is not unique to the HWW partners, institutions of higher education in the heartland are uniquely positioned to lead a national conversation on this given the way that the Midwest has been, and remains, a key site for the shaping of global ecosystems, whether economic, cultural or geophysical. And while proposals for “actionable research” and public policy platforms are most welcome, we also know that curiosity-driven research yields unlooked for insights that can prompt new ways of seeing and inspire innovative ways of approaching problems as well. This combination of research applicable to climate change and research that explores the wider context of “changing climate” allows applicants to identify those entry points that will enhance their current thinking and practice in sustained collaboration with consortium partners. Whether scholars who participate in the “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate” research initiative pursue specifically environmental studies topics or choose to interpret “climate change” broadly, they can do so at multiple scales and across an equally diverse set of times and places.


Qualified project leaders will be tenure-line faculty at any of the Humanities Without Walls consortium institutions, and each collaborating university’s “sub-team” must be led by a tenure-line faculty member who will serve as that sub-team’s project coordinator. Consortial institutions include Indiana University Bloomington, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Notre Dame, and University of Wisconsin‐Madison. “Project leader” refers to the individual responsible for overseeing the entire proposal, i.e., the Principal Investigator or PI. “Project coordinator” refers to the individual responsible for overseeing a particular university’s component portion of the proposal, i.e., the “sub-PI.” All such positions should comprise tenure-line faculty.

In order to be eligible for funding, research teams must include scholars from at least two consortial institutions with participant eligibility being determined by their home university’s policies (contact the Sponsored Programs Office or equivalent on your campus for more information on eligibility). Proposals must include two graduate students from at least one consortial institution as per the instructions on the Grad Lab Practicum above. Research teams may also include collaborators from non-consortial institutions, with the understanding that these participants may not receive any Humanities without Walls funds except as contracted service-providers.

Graduate students may be included as project team members, but they must be included as full research participants and the team must be led by one or more faculty members who will serve as project coordinators.

The project leader and project coordinator(s) must also come from a discipline within the humanities and/or arts, but teams may include scholars from any discipline.

Duration and Awards

All allocated funds awarded to research teams must be expended by no later than December 31, 2018 without exception. A midterm progress report, including detailed financial information, is due by December 31, 2017.

The amount of each award will vary according to the budgetary requirements detailed in each application, and we strongly encourage proposal teams to think expansively in budgetary terms. The upper award limit for a single team is $100,000, not including the amount ($10,500 stipend per student per year, up to $42,000 for two students for up to two years) allocated to support graduate student stipends.

You are strongly encouraged to work with your home university’s Office of Proposal Development or equivalent to ensure that your proposal meets all of the requirements in this RFP and also complies with your home university’s policies on sponsored research.

Project leaders and project coordinators should contact Kay Walter no later than October 1, 2016 with an email indicating intent to apply for this challenge, the project title, and all external collaborators and their institutions. Proposals with an international component should be reviewed by your home university’s Office of International Programs or equivalent. Proposals which involve human subjects should contact their Institutional Review Board or equivalent to ensure compliance and receive approval. All project leaders/coordinators should also work with their university’s Office of Sponsored Programs or equivalent to ensure that their application is in compliance with all relevant policies and procedures. We strongly encourage project leaders to begin working with these offices no later than fifteen business days before the submission deadline, in order to obtain all necessary approvals and signatures in a timely fashion. As well, we strongly encourage project coordinators to begin working with their home universities offices with even more lead time, to ensure that all approvals are obtained in a timely fashion.

Recipients must submit a signed agreement form indicating the project leader’s responsibility for managing and reporting on the use of all grant funds, before award funds will be released. Recipients (and sub-recipients) should work with their departmental business offices to establish anticipation accounts to ensure that funds are available during the award issuing process to begin research. Recipients must also be prepared to work closely with those administering subaward grants on their campuses, typically the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Grants and Contracts Office, or equivalents.

Application Requirements

  • Completed application Cover Sheet and Signature Page (available here)
  • Abstract of proposal (no more than 200 words)
  • Proposal narrative of no more than 2,000 words. This must include:
    • Description of project
    • Detailed plan of work
    • Plans for collaboration across the life of the grant
    • Plans for the Graduate Humanities Lab Practicum
    • Detailed work schedule including detailed list of activities
    • Role(s) and expected intellectual contributions of project participants
    • Significance of project and its relationship to the “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate”
    • Statement of proposed outcomes, including plans for undergraduate outreach
  • Detailed budget and budget narrative explaining and justifying all items in the budget. Download model budget and model budget justification narrative.
  • List of names and contact information for everyone participating in the project for whom you are submitting CVs, along with a brief description of their individual intellectual contributions to the collaboration
  • CV for project leader and all research participants, including all graduate students (2-pages maximum per CV, should include publications and activities relevant to the proposed project)
  • Letter of Intent from the Project Leader University (the project leader university may in turn require Letters of Intent from all collaborating universities)
Application Deadline

October 31st, 2016
5:00 p.m. CST


Request for Proposals (print version)

2017 Humanities Without Walls Consortium Pre-Doctoral Summer Workshop

The Humanities Without Walls is a consortium of humanities centers and institutes at 15 major research universities throughout the Midwest and beyond. Based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In summer 2017, this consortium will sponsor our first national summer workshop for graduate students interested in learning about careers outside of the academy and/or the tenure track system. This 2017 PreDoctoral Summer Workshop is a continuation of the original workshop series in the summers of 2015 and 2016 organized by, and presented in partnership with, the Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF). Guided by one of the leading public humanities organizations in the nation, these workshops encourage humanities doctoral students to think of themselves as agents of the public humanities and showcase opportunities beyond the walls of the academy in an uncertain academic job climate.

We invite applications for fellowships from pre-doctoral students to participate in a three-week intensive, residential summer workshop for individuals who are working towards but have not yet received a PhD in a humanities discipline, and who plan to continue their degree programs while also considering careers outside the academy and/or the tenure-track university system.

The summer workshop will instruct students in the various ways they can leverage their pre-existing and developing skill sets towards the pursuit of careers in the public humanities and the private sector (also sometimes referred to as “alt-ac” careers). Familiarity with the vital connections between academic and public worlds can also enrich traditional scholarly endeavors.

Guest speakers—including leaders from the non-profit world, the private sector, federal and state government offices, public media, arts administration, NGOs, and more—will make daily presentations to workshop fellows. Field trips to relevant sites will supplement the instruction that takes place in the workshop. The workshop will conclude with a 2-day National Public Humanities Summit featuring an evening plenary session and a day of lectures and discussions focused on developments in the Public Humanities.

Graduates from the workshop will emerge with a network of contacts in a range of professional realms; a significantly broadened sense of the career possibilities that await humanities PhDs; a cohort of “alt-ac” fellows from whom they may draw support and advice; and a set of resources aimed at helping them advance into the various realms considered under the broad rubric of “the public humanities.”


All applicants must be enrolled in a doctoral degree program in a humanities discipline at a PhD-granting institution within the United States. Applicants may be at any stage of their doctoral work, but they cannot have already received the doctoral degree at the time the workshops take place. Ideally, applicants will have completed some coursework towards the PhD, and they may have been advanced to candidacy but are not yet finishing their dissertations. International students are eligible to apply, but are responsible for confirming their registration and eligibility status at their home universities; HWW is not responsible for issuing visa paperwork.

Fellowship Award

Each fellow will receive a $5,000 stipend intended to cover travel to and from the summer workshop, housing, and most meals and all incidentals. Using the funds from this stipend, fellows will be expected to arrange and pay for their own travel and housing. (CHF will provide a list of possible housing options.) All fellows will be expected to attend the entire workshop for the entire three weeks.

Application Requirements

  • A completed application cover sheet (available here).
  • A narrative of no more than 1,000 words explaining the applicant’s intended career trajectory and addressing the following questions:
    • Why do you want to attend the workshop?
    • What are the most important pieces of information you are seeking?
  • A 2-page cv; and,
  • Two letters of recommendation. One letter should be from the applicant’s primary adviser/dissertation chair; both should emphasize the applicant’s fit for this workshop.

Summer 2017—Dates to be determined, most likely July 17th through August 5th. The workshop will take place all day, five days/week for three weeks. There are no events scheduled during weekends, but CHF will circulate a list of interesting and exciting activities happening around Chicago that students are welcome to explore on their own.


Chicago, Illinois. Most weekday workshop events will take place at the Genevieve and Wayne Gratz Center at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St (at N. Michigan Ave.). Some will take place at sites in and around Chicago.

Application Procedures
  • This is a limited-submission application. Eligible doctoral students must be nominated for this Fellowship by their home institutions, and only one nomination may be made to HWW by each university. Interested students must submit the application materials to Kay Walter by September 30th, 2016, at 12:00pm CST.
  • Announcement of fellowship awards will be made in January 2017.

Call for Applications (print version)

Humanities Without Walls AnnouncementJuly 2, 2014

The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and will be administered by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Urbana-Champaign. About $1.5 million is being shared with partnering schools through an additional competitive grant process. Katherine Walter, co-director of the CDRH, is overseeing the project at UNL.

Humanities Without Walls was created with a mission of “forging and sustaining areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation,” according to a statement from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Humanities Without Walls includes 13 universities from the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of the Big Ten member universities plus the University of Chicago.

The project has two prongs. The first is “The Global Midwest,” a research commitment that aims to establish the Midwest as a force within today’s globalized society, as well as demonstrate how the applied humanities continue to aid in solving global challenges. The second is a series of workshops for doctoral students to prepare them for careers outside of academia.

Walter served on the planning committee for more than a year before the project was officially funded. She said UNL would receive a modest seed fund from the partnership to promote new cross-institutional projects. This fall, Humanities Without Walls will select and fund new scholarly research projects that foster a collaborative, multi-institutional approach. Walter said that a smaller, internal competition grants would be announced in August.

“Humanities Without Walls addresses many issues raised in the 2013 American Academy of Arts and Sciences report, ‘The Heart of the Matter: Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive and Secure Nation,’” Walter said. “Through this program, UNL faculty will have the opportunity to engage in exciting research challenges, and graduate students will learn about alternative and rewarding academic careers.”

Dianne Harris, director of Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, is the project’s principal investigator. The other partners are Indiana University, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University, the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Illinois at Chicago and UNL.

By Deann Gayman, University CommunicationsPublished July 2, 2014, UNL Today