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Simpson Center for the Humanities

UW Invited to Propose Sawyer Seminar Project to Mellon Foundation

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The Simpson Center for the Humanities is pleased to learn that the University of Washington has again been invited to apply for a prestigious Sawyer Seminar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sawyer Seminar grants provide up to $175,000 for a robust interdisciplinary inquiry over a year, sometimes more, among scholars in the humanities, including the arts and interpretive social sciences. The deadline for UW internal review is February 22. For more information, see the letters below from UW Divisional Deans Judy Howard (Social Sciences) and Michael Shapiro (Humanities) and from the Mellon Foundation.


Dear Colleagues,

We write to share with you an invitation from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to UW to submit one proposal for a Sawyer Seminar.

This program aims to facilitate robust interdisciplinary inquiry over a year, sometimes more, among scholars in the humanities, including the arts and interpretive social sciences (see below) on significant scholarly topics, both historical and contemporary. A number of creative Seminars also have included faculty in professional schools. As the nation’s leading funder of the humanities, the Mellon Foundation seeks proposals in which scholars in the humanities and arts play a prominent role. Requested funding may not exceed $175,000. Please see the complete guidelines below.

UW has hosted several Sawyer Seminars, most recently (B)ordering Violence: Boundaries, Indigeneity and Gender in the Americas, led by faculty in English, Political Science, and the Jackson School (2011) and Now Urbanism: City-Making in the 21st Century and Beyond, led by faculty in Landscape Architecture and History (2010). 

Faculty interested in having their ideas for a Sawyer Seminar considered are requested to submit a 5-page titled pre-proposal and preliminary budget (a general estimate of how the funds would be used with approximate amounts—this is intended to help faculty scope their plans to the award amount) to Kim Johnson-Bogart, Senior Director of Foundation Relations, at no later than Monday, February 22, 2016 at 5 pm. The pre-proposal should address the five points outlined in Mellon’s instructions below in the section labeled “Selection and Award Process.”

We will coordinate an internal review to identify one proposal to go forward to the Mellon Foundation where it will be due no later than March 31, 2016.

Please share this opportunity broadly with your faculty and leadership. And please don’t hesitate to let us know your questions. We look forward to seeing some highly creative ideas for this opportunity!

Many thanks,

Judy Howard, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences

Mike Shapiro, Divisional Dean of Humanities 

January 11, 2016


Jerry Baldasty

Interim Provost and Executive Vice President

University of Washington


cc: Brian Reed

    Stuart Lingo

    Janelle S. Taylor

    Anand Yang

    Kim Johnson-Bogart


Dear Provost Baldasty:

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on historical and contemporary topics of major scholarly significance. The seminars provide an opportunity for intensive study of a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities (which we define broadly as including the arts and interpretive social sciences such as anthropology, social psychology, and political theory).

I am writing now to invite the University of Washington, along with a limited number of other institutions, to consider submitting a proposal for a Sawyer Seminar. Grants will not exceed $175,000 for each seminar that is approved. Proposals will be judged on the significance of the subject of inquiry, the aptness of plans for seminar meetings, the opportunities they present for comparative study, the rationale for the proposed comparisons, and, of course, on the scholarly accomplishments of the participants. With the help of a selection panel composed of distinguished scholars, we shall select ten proposals from the group of 15 to 20 we expect to receive and then recommend them to our board for funding. A more detailed description of the program’s aims, structure, budgetary guidelines, and selection procedures is appended. Information is also available on our website at

We anticipate that appropriations for the Sawyer Seminar program will be considered by the Foundation's Trustees in September 2016. This means that final proposals for seminars must reach the Foundation by March 31, 2016, so that the selection panel may review them and make recommendations well in advance of the meeting of the Trustees. This schedule allows revisions to be made should the panel request them. Past experience suggests that it can take a year or more to organize the seminars. They need not be scheduled for the coming academic year.

In the interests of making the program more broadly known among your colleagues, I am sending copies of this email to the department heads of art history, English, history, and anthropology. I encourage you to distribute copies to other chairs and directors of arts, humanities, and social science departments and programs as you deem appropriate.


Eugene M. Tobin

Senior Program Officer