Provost Butler 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, foreign 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 $175,000. 

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (OVPRED), in partnership with the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 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.

Competition Process  The internal deadline is Tuesday, January 27.  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, Assistant Vice president of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Joe Kearney, associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, or Ann Knudson, Grants Administrator for the arts and humanities.

Step One: Attend an Information Session at the Obermann Center  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: Thursday, January 15, 3-4 pm, Obermann Center Library (111 Church St.)

Session 2: Thursday, January 22, 9-10 am, Obermann Center Library (111 Church St.)

Step Two:  Internal application (DEADLINE TUESDAY, JANUARY 27 by 5 pm).  In single-spaced, 12 point type, submit the following:

  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.

Send as a single PDF to Erin Hackathorn at

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.

Step Three:  An internal peer review panel will select the proposal to move forward.  The final proposal is due no later than the internal deadline of Wednesday, February 25.  The Obermann Center will secure an institutional letter of support and ensure that the support letter and your proposal reaches the Mellon Foundation by the Foundation's March 1st deadline.

For more information, please see the Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars website.