F&M Stories

F&M Receives $1.4 Million Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “Reckoning with Lancaster” Humanities Project

Franklin & Marshall College is one of just 10 liberal arts colleges to be named a new recipient of a Humanities for All Times grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The foundation invited 50 institutions to submit proposals for the most recent round of funding.

The Humanities for All Times initiative launched in 2021 with more than $16 million in initial funding from the Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder of the arts, humanities and culture. The initiative is designed to support humanities-centered projects that improve the lives of students; connect liberal arts coursework to social justice and civic and community engagement projects within and beyond the classroom; and develop college curricula alongside community-based partners and organizations. 

Humanities for All Times grant recipients each proposed projects that highlight the humanities' ability to address societal challenges and to demonstrate to students how the humanities are uniquely positioned to advance critical work in social justice and social equity. The Mellon Foundation released an additional round of funding late last year; to date, the foundation has awarded more than $30 million to liberal arts colleges as part of the initiative.

The grant recipients announced Jan. 24 by the Mellon Foundation represent the second cohort of partners for Humanities for All Times. F&M’s grant will provide funding to support the College’s humanities-based curricular project, “Reckoning with Lancaster.”

F&M's proposal leverages the humanities to explore and address the complex history of Lancaster and the College's role in that history; represent and authentically tell the stories of Lancaster's diverse communities; forge community partnerships of learning and creation, shaping a combined future for F&M and the city; and incorporate urgent topics into the College curriculum.

Reckoning with Lancaster’s social justice and historical reconciliation work is grounded in visible community impact, and the learning outcomes woven into the three-year project are designed to foster trust, connection and collaboration between F&M and the city, merging coursework and residents' lived experiences. 

“F&M is grateful for the vision and generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as champions for the humanities,” says Barbara Altmann, president of Franklin & Marshall. “The foundation's support for this project creates new opportunities for F&M to be of service to Lancaster. The grant will further empower F&M and our community partners to explore Lancaster's history, present and future. We are excited to harness everything the humanities can bring to address critical, timely social issues through robust collaboration, critical inquiry and course development.”

The grant's principal investigators include Jon Stone, professor of Russian and Russian studies; Peter Jaros, associate professor of English; Lee Franklin, professor of philosophy; Cristina Perez, assistant professor of American studies; Amelia Rauser, senior associate dean of the faculty and Charles A. Dana Professor of Art History; and Mary Ann Levine, professor of anthropology. Levine and Eric Hirsch, assistant professor of environmental studies, will serve as faculty leaders for Reckoning with Lancaster in the 2024-2025 academic year.

"We are excited to harness everything the humanities can bring to address critical, timely social issues through robust collaboration, critical inquiry and course development."

Barbara Altmann

Reckoning with Lancaster will take place over three years, with each academic year aligning with a specific project and area of focus.

The 2024-2025 year will focus on Settler Colonialism, Indigeneity and the Land Question and will explore higher education's relationship with settler colonialism and the significance of that relationship on F&M and Lancaster's past, present and future. This theme will build upon contemporary Indigenous studies in F&M's curriculum and builds upon existing work by F&M's Land Acknowledgement Committee.

In 2025-2026, From the Auction Block to the Town Gallows: The Question of Abolition will examine the history of slavery and abolition at F&M and in the surrounding central Pennsylvania region and explore how those histories inform our approach to the current challenges of mass incarceration and migrant detention. This theme includes a curricular focus on mass incarceration, slavery and historic and contemporary abolition through a humanist perspective and builds upon the Legacies of Slavery @ F&M study group.

Concluding the three-year project, the 2026-2027 theme Refugees, Migrants and the Question of Welcome will address the tension among Lancaster's media recognition as America’s Refugee Capital, F&M’s robust international student population, and the College and city's proximity to the Berks County and Moshannon immigration detention centers. This theme will include coursework for refugee and migration studies and will build upon the F&M Global Barometers project.

Each of the themes will include:

  • Undergraduate research seminars with community-based learning components;
  • A faculty research colloquium specific to each theme;
  • A non-academic, Lancaster-based leader whose expertise matches individual yearly themes to serve as a community fellow, co-leading the seminar and the accompanying faculty research colloquium
  • Annual programming centered in humanistic experiential learning and in partnership with F&M’s Faculty Center; and
  • A summer curriculum institute on each theme, where faculty will develop new courses, modify existing courses and organize collaborative work and community events, within and beyond F&M.
About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

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