Simpson Center Announces Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public

Barclay Simpson

The prize highlights one of Barclay Simpson’s key convictions and one of the center’s core missions: to foster scholarship in the humanities as a public good.

The Walter Chapin Simpson Center mourns the passing of the visionary philanthropist Barclay Simpson on November 8, 2014. The generosity of Barclay Simpson is legendary among our faculty, students, and staff at the University of Washington and among leaders in the humanities across the country. His transformative gift in endowing the Simpson Center in the name of his father, Walter Chapin Simpson, was followed by contributions that expanded our view of the humanities.

In honor of his memory, the Simpson Center announces the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public. The prize highlights one of Barclay Simpson’s key convictions and one of the center’s core missions: to foster scholarship in the humanities as a public good.

Our conviction—it has increased steadily over the last fifteen years as public support for higher education has declined—is that we must find ways to take the humanities to publics beyond the academy even as we maintain our commitments to our scholarly professional circles and to research addressed to academic audiences. UW faculty members may be nominated for he prize, which carries an award of $10,000. 

Scholarship in public can take many shapes. Scholars may write for audiences beyond strictly defined academic circles and may deploy new media to render their work open, accessible, and inviting to a larger public. They may work in teams as they pursue community-based inquiry, collaborating with cultural institutions, curating exhibitions and festivals. They may form partnerships with other institutions of higher education, forging strong curricular ties across the higher-educational landscape. They may design and lead programs that advocate for and produce scholarship in public, with documentary work an example. They may create experimental modes of presentation and dissemination of their scholarship, producing work for radio or live performance. They may establish new and ongoing forums for community debates on challenging matters of public policy. They may build digital archives and databases of cultural artifacts, interviews, and other material that will be foundational for present as well as future inquiry, presenting and preserving texts and testifying to historical conditions, social injustice, and a wealth of diverse individual experiences.  Such sites might be multilingual and multimodal, extending the reach and affective dimensions of the scholarship; they might be translocal and even global. Many public scholarship projects—often referred to as scholarship in action—are hybrid, integrating research with teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels along with contributions to the public good. 

We encourage the nomination of UW faculty from disciplines and departments in the humanities, broadly speaking, where this kind of work—scholarship in public—has not been the norm. We also encourage the nomination of faculty who have been immersed in excellent and intellectually challenging project-based public scholarship and have written about it for an academic audience or a public audience, expanding the impact of the work. For the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public we put the stress on scholarship, not service, although the two may well be intertwined.

Nominating letters by members of the UW faculty should include a description of the public scholarly project undertaken by the faculty member and an evaluation of its influence, which may include serving as an imaginative model for other scholars in public. Letters of nomination should not be more than two single-spaced pages long. Nominations may be accompanied by two additional one-page letters of support. Nominations must be received by Friday, January 9, 2015.  Please submit your nomination and accompanying letters of support via email attachment in a single document as an Adobe PDF to: Kathleen Woodward at

Update April 2015: Historian James Gregory Receives Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public (We are delighted to announce!)