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Leadership Alliance earns Mellon Foundation grant

University-based initiative to increase diversity receives funding for research in humanities, social sciences

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the Leadership Alliance a $1.25 million grant that will fund summer research opportunities in the humanities and social sciences “for underrepresented students,” according to a University press release.

The Leadership Alliance was founded at the University in 1992 and is still based on campus. The organization has expanded into a consortium of 36 academic institutions in order to help fulfill its mission of “develop(ing) underrepresented students into outstanding leaders and role models in academia, business and the public sector” through mentorship, conferences and networking opportunities, among other initiatives, according to the Leadership Alliance website.

The Mellon Foundation grant will fund summer research opportunities for 55 undergraduate students for each of the next five summers, said Medeva Ghee, executive director of the Leadership Alliance and assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences.

Students from across the country will be paired with a professor for research in areas such as anthropology, history or philosophy, and they will spend their summers researching at one of ten participating universities, including Brown, New York University, Stanford University, Harvard or Yale, according to the program’s website.

“Summer research opportunities in the humanities and social sciences are few and far between, and we are one of the few (organizations) that provide research (opportunities) in those disciplines for undergraduates,” Ghee said.

“One of our main goals for our program is to give students a community,” said Barbara Kahn, coordinator for graduate and undergraduate programs at the Leadership Alliance.

Even if they are placed at different universities, “the students who are part of this Mellon group have a conversation together online guided by a graduate student, … so that they have a sense that they’re not isolated,” Kahn said. The program’s participants on the east coast also gather twice during the summer, Kahn said.

The Leadership Alliance and the Mellon Foundation have collaborated in the past. “We cultivated a relationship with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and so the funding from the Mellon Foundation actually started in 2009,” Ghee said. “This is a continuation of that funding that has allowed us to expand opportunities.”

The Foundation aims to bolster “the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies” by supporting “exemplary institutions of higher education and culture,” according to the Foundation’s website.

“It’s exciting that Brown University has taken the lead (in its) partnership with other research institutions and minority-serving institutions to address the underrepresentation of students in graduate training programs, the professoriate and in all career sectors,” Ghee said.