University of Rochester

Andrew Mellon Foundation Commits $1 Million in Support of Phase II of the Central New York Humanities Corridor

August 29, 2011

The Central New York Humanities Corridor—an interdisciplinary partnership among the University of Rochester, Syracuse University, and Cornell University focused on enhancing scholarship in the humanities—has received a second award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the amount of $1 million over three years. This renewed support will allow the corridor to foster new connections among faculty, students, programs, and resources in shared areas of scholarly interest in Phase II of the project.

The Humanities Corridor is a Syracuse University–based initiative that began in 2006 with a $1 million, three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, and is centered on the collective work of faculty groups from the three institutions.

As part of the corridor's expansion and new direction in 2008, Gregg Lambert, Dean's Professor of the Humanities and founding director of the Syracuse University Humanities Center, was appointed principal investigator of the Humanities Corridor. Serving as co-investigators and project directors are Timothy Murray, professor of comparative literature and English, director of the Society of the Humanities, and curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Studies at Cornell University; and Thomas DiPiero, ex-officio on the board of the Humanities Project, and dean of humanities and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Rochester. As a result of these changes, the Humanities Corridor is now firmly anchored at all three universities by a humanities center or division-wide interdisciplinary program: the Syracuse University Humanities Center, the Society of the Humanities at Cornell University, and the Humanities Project at University of Rochester.

"The concept and philosophy of a regional humanities corridor connecting scholars and artists in a diverse number of collaborative research projects and cross-institutional activities represents a tangible and very practical response to the so-called 'crisis of the humanities,' says Lambert. "By combining research missions in areas of overlapping strength, as well as fostering new areas of humanistic inquiry that cannot be supported by one institution alone, the overall goal of the Humanities Corridor is to create opportunities for new kinds of collaboration, including other liberal arts colleges in the region, as one of the goals in Phase II of the project."

Phase II of the corridor focuses more closely on the creation of interdisciplinary "clusters": digital humanities; literature, language, and culture; and archives and media. Work in these clusters will continue the regional collaboration that began in Phase I. In addition, the corridor will promote new areas of inquiry, such as the "digital humanities," across the participating universities, maximizing each school's access to new expertise and resources. Expanding the interdisciplinary conversation even further, Phase II will also increase the number of annual visiting research collaborators.

"The Mellon Foundation's exciting validation of the corridor couldn't come at a better time as we seek innovative ways to extend the reach of the humanities on our campuses and throughout Central New York," says Murray. "The corridor has provided invaluable opportunities for Cornell faculty and graduate students to expand their intellectual horizons in tandem with their peers at Syracuse and Rochester. Our visiting fellows at the Society for the Humanities also embrace the added opportunity to share their work with colleagues in the region. Mellon's generous award provides welcome resources for intellectual programming and collegial exchange at a moment when humanities centers across the country are turning to the Central New York Humanities Corridor for its exemplary model of regional exchange."

"The variety of Humanities Corridor events and projects speaks to the incredible potential of interdisciplinary work and the importance of collaboration," says DiPiero. "As new fields emerge, such as the digital humanities, it is critical that scholars come together—as they do in corridor projects—from across the disciplines to imagine possibilities and consider the best use of shared resources."

Over the years, the Humanities Corridor has taken the form of collaborative research and group conversations among participating humanities faculty. Among the notable corridor initiatives and programs that have been realized by more than 60 faculty working groups since 2006 are:

  • A 2007 international conference, "Music, Justice and Gender," which brought together scholars, performers, and activists from the world of performance, composition, historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and women's studies to join faculty members and students from participating institutions in the Humanities Corridor;
  • A 2008 symposium, "Music and the Common Good: Listening to Haudenosaunee Voices," a special ethnomusicology event to promote dialogue among Haudenosaunee cultural workers, Central New York educators and students, and Central New York arts organizers around issues of musical identity, the media, and the common good;
  • A 2008 international conference, "Visible Memories," hosted at SU and featuring more than 100 faculty participants and a keynote speech by New York–based conceptual artist Ernesto Pujol; the proceedings of which are forthcoming in a collection published by University of Illinois Press;
  • A 2008–10 series of performance studies of the organ, "The King of Instruments," which conducted special workshops and performances of the historical instrument in churches and in several locations around the Central New York region;
  • A 2009 joint-graduate seminar in philosophy conducted by SU and Rochester faculty and including graduate student participation from all three corridor institutions; additionally, an Upstate New York Early Modern Philosophy workshop and speaker series;
  • A 2009 international conference on visual and cultural studies, "The Next Twenty Years," held at the University of Rochester and featuring Corridor faculty in conversation about the future of the field and interdisciplinary work in relation to more traditional disciplines;
  • A 2010 international conference on "Global Aesthetics" hosted by the Society of the Humanities, Cornell University, which drew participation from faculty in the corridor in conversation with an international array of artists and curators;
  • A 2010–11 speaker series in the "Digital Humanities," which featured a number of lectures by national and international scholars at all three corridor sites;
  • A 2010–11 series of panels on "Digital Witness" in conjunction with the Human Rights Film Festival held at SU;
  • A 2011 series of fall events and workshops planned around the residency of Kronos Quartet at SU, culminating in a planned symposium with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Center for Electroacoustic Music.

For more information on the Central New York Humanities Corridor, visit

About the Andrew Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a private, not-for-profit corporation based in New York City, regularly makes grants that support a wide range of initiatives to strengthen selective research universities in the United States, with particular emphasis on the humanities and "humanistic" social sciences. The foundation's interests in this area include—but are not limited to—doctoral education, postdoctoral fellowships, faculty research support and discipline-related projects.

About Syracuse University
Chartered in 1870 as a private, coeducational institution of higher education, Syracuse University is propelled by the bold idea of Scholarship in Action—education that is not static, but the living expression of insight that drives change. As a leading national research university of more than 19,000 full- and part-time students from all 50 states and 90 countries, it is a place where students become leaders, teachers, and collaborators and where the community is continually impacted by the energy of new ideas.

About Cornell University
With 13,500 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students, Cornell University is the largest and youngest university in the Ivy League. Its campus includes 14 colleges and schools: seven undergraduate units and four graduate and professional units in Ithaca; two medical graduate and professional units in New York City, and one in Doha, Qatar. Cornell is a major research university with strengths in the life sciences, physical sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Faculty members work in collaborative, multidisciplinary teams to extend the frontiers of knowledge in diverse and numerous fields of study.