Mellon Sawyer Seminar 2016-17

Provost Kevin Kregel is pleased to announce the University of Iowa's invitation from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to submit a proposal for the John E. Sawyer Seminars program.

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for collaborative research on historical and contemporary topics of major scholarly significance. The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation’s long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, bring together faculty, international visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields—mainly, but not exclusively, in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences—for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants. This program aims to engage productive scholars in multi-disciplinary and comparative inquiry that would in ordinary university circumstances be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs. The maximum grant award for each Sawyer seminar is $225,000. 

The Foundation is now fundamentally interested in the themes of social and racial justice. In terms of scholarly projects such as the Sawyer Seminars, Mellon will look for a strong focus on race and ethnicity and related intersectional analyses as well as those that focus on filling in the gaps left by more traditional narratives about the history and culture of the Americas. A more detailed description of the program’s aims, structure, budgetary guidelines, and selection procedures is appended and available on Mellon's website.

The Office of the Vice President for Research, in partnership with the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has established a process for identifying the proposal that will go forward from the University of Iowa.  Please see the following information for details on how to apply. 

For further information, please contact Teresa Mangum ( / 319-335-4034), Director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.

Internal Competition Process  The 2021 internal deadlines are Monday, March 1 (letter of intent), and Monday, March 29 (final proposal). Therefore, potential applicants are encouraged to begin thinking now about intellectually compelling topics that build on the strengths in the arts and humanities of the University of Iowa.  Applicants are welcome to seek advice and assistance in the preparation of the grant from Teresa Mangum, Director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies; Ann Ricketts, Associate Vice President, Office of the Vice President for Research; Roland Racevskis, Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; or Ann Knudson, Grants Administrator for the arts and humanities.

Step One: Attend an Information Session  We encourage potential applicants to bring a draft of a one-page letter of intent to the information session you are able to attend that includes the title of your proposed seminar, a brief description, and a list of University of Iowa faculty members who will be involved.  We will offer advice before you invest time in the longer application. Also, it might be possible to combine proposals with promising intellectual connections. We will provide sample budgets at the information session.

Session 1: Tuesday, February 9, 8:30-9:30 am (Zoom session). Click here for more information.

Session 2: Friday, February 12, 8:30-9:30 am (Zoom session) Click here for more information.

Click here for a copy of the information session PowerPoint presentation (pdf file) 

Click here to view a recording of Session 1.

Step Two:  Internal letter of intent (deadline: Monday, March 1, 5:00 pm).  Submit a one-page, single-spaced letter of intent to apply for a Mellon Sawyer Seminar including the theme, brief rationale, University of Iowa faculty members likely to be interested, project director or co-directors with their contact information, and year in which the Seminar would be held. Send as a single PDF to Erin Hackathorn at

Step Three:  Internal proposal (deadline: Monday, March 29, 5:00 pm.)  In single-spaced, 12 point type, submit the following as a single PDF via the online electronic application linked here:

  1. a detailed project description (no more than 4 pages in length) that addresses the following criteria:
    1. the thematic "threads" that will run through the seminar
    2. the rationale for raising the central questions to be addressed and the potential significance of the inquiry to be pursued
    3. the cases to be studied (e.g., nations, regions, social aggregates, time periods) and the perspectives to be brought to bear on them
  2. a one-page budget (including postdoc salary [typically approximately $50-60K] and two graduate dissertation fellowships [typically approximately $22K each]).  Each seminar’s budget will provide for a postdoctoral fellowship to be awarded for the year the seminar meets and two dissertation fellowships for graduate students to be awarded for the seminar year or the year that follows. 
  3. a two-page CV for each project director.

Note: 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.

An internal peer review panel will select the single proposal to move forward from the University of Iowa.  The Obermann Center will secure an institutional letter of support and ensure that the support letter and the successful internal proposal reaches the Mellon Foundation by the Foundation's May 3rd deadline.

For more information, please see the Obermann Center's website.

For information regarding the successful spring 2018 seminar application titled Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging, please link here: