Wednesday, October 12, 2022

UNCF/Mellon: "Answering the Call to Transform the Academy"

Gabrielle Wallen and Cynthia Spence preparing for a presentation 

October 6 - 8, Cynthia Spence, the director of UNCF/Mellon Programs, along with her resourceful staff Ada Jackson and Gabrielle Wallen, hosted approximately 75 attendees for the conference, "Answering the Call to Transform the Academy" in Atlanta. The event showcased a wide range of exciting projects and gave educators opportunities to share ideas about extending their work.

Historians, sociologists, literary scholars, poets, scholars of Black studies, scholars of gender and sexuality studies, philosophy professors, scholars of music, and program coordinators and officers attended the conference. 

The gathering included workshops and panel discussions on:
teaching for a globalized, digital world
book publishing 
grant opportunities 
special upcoming and ongoing collaborative projects 
teaching gender and sexuality studies
Teaching on the subject of "Africans, Their Descendants and Native Americans" 
The closing keynote was a discussion on "the poetry of mentoring" featuring poets Opal Moore, Mona Lisa Saloy, and Jericho Brown--the winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Jericho Brown and Maryemma Graham

The most visible component of the UNCF/Mellon Programs is its Undergraduate Fellowship program, which is designed to increase the number of undergraduates who enroll in Ph.D. programs in the humanities and select social sciences. The program was founded in 1989, and has involved hundreds of students. Today, approximately 155 of us who participated in the Undergraduate Fellowship program hold Ph.Ds..

The UNCF/Mellon Programs also include an array of opportunities and programs for faculty. Those opportunities and programs have supported dozens and dozens of faculty over the years.  

The "Answering the Call to Transform the Academy" gathering reminded me of another singular contribution of the UNCF/Mellon Programs. Few conferences involve such an interdisciplinary group of African American educators and scholars, many from HBCUs, to discuss support for black students and a variety of projects.    


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