On February 23, the UC Davis Humanities Institute hosted a reunion event at the U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame in Davis to celebrate the successes of the Mellon Public Scholars Program and to seek feedback from participants and supporters. As a pilot program, one that is already inspiring similar initiatives throughout the UC system, Mellon Public Scholars has built in moments in its yearly cycle to reflect.
The 2016 Mellon Public Scholars, all humanities and social sciences graduate students, were joined by their faculty mentors and supporters among the university administration. Members of the newly selected 2017 cohort of Mellon Public Scholars took the opportunity to learn from their peers’ experiences.
The program opened with lightning-round presentations of the scholars’ projects from last summer – each successfully digesting nine months of planning and work into three-minute talks. In this dynamic form, attendees got a bird’s-eye-view of the common challenges that meet humanities scholars as they put the skills and approaches trained up in their graduate programs to work outside of the university.
The infrastructure of the program, centered on a weekly spring seminar, provided both technical training and moral support as the scholars negotiated the outlines of their summer projects. Many scholars reported an improved sense of focus and purpose in their dissertation work and several will extend their collaboration with their community partner beyond their summer project.
A mentorship roundtable of four faculty-student teams elaborated on the work of guiding publically engaged scholarship. The participation of faculty mentors allows the scholars to tap the depths of the UC Davis faculty’s experience with community partnerships.
The faculty mentors – Elisabeth Rose Middleton of Native American Studies, Desiree Martin of English, Liza Grandia of Native American Studies, and Robert Bayley of Linguistics – reported a satisfying change in their relationship with the scholars. Professor Grandia described the experience of sharing a community partner with scholar Cinthya Ammerman as uniquely “generative” and “collaborative.” Similarly, scholar Mike Mortimer was grateful for Professor Middleton’s guidance in helping him focus on relationships rather than deliverables in his summer project.
Watch the Public Scholars blog for updates from the 2017 cohort.