In 1990, the Center’s Resident Faculty Program sponsored three, quarter-long faculty groups the members of which, relieved of teaching for the quarter, met each week with an ambitious plan: to pursue their own research alongside a collective, interdisciplinary agenda. The first year, eighteen scholars attempted to do just that.
At first, results were mixed. Contrasting methods and research ‘languages’ forced the group members to set aside the first few weeks simply to listen. From this deep listening grew a rich, interdisciplinary conversation—a “spirited exchange”—in which “assumptions underlying the different disciplines” were laid bare and participants learned to “shape a dialogue that was both challenging and constructive.” By the end of each quarter’s residency, scholars emerged with a new appreciation for their colleagues, a renewed vigor for their own research and a heightened “awareness of the problems and possibilities” of interdisciplinary collaboration.
Though much changed between the first and last years of the program, its positive impact persisted. In its last two years, twenty fellows from twelve different disciplines coalesced into what one group called a “community of people that support[ed] each other…construct[ed] knowledge together” and whose interactions “created a ripple effect” that reached well-beyond the groups’ members own research and careers.
After 2015, the Center halted the program due to budget constraints. Yet its spirit lives on. For the past four years the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has supported the Advancing Intercultural Studies project, hosting a series of eight interdisciplinary seminars comprised of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates released from teaching and work obligations to pursue collaborative research over a quarter. In addition, a grant from the University of California Office of the President is funding the Center’s Faculty Commons Pilot Project, which supports five faculty workshops on themes of mutual interest, while another Mellon grant, “Investing in Humanities Faculty” is supporting four or five faculty fellows in year-long residencies through 2023, with two additional years of programming through 2025.
Quotes drawn from archived reports and survey responses: Steven Axelrod (1990), Ben Stoltzfus (1991) and Covadanga Lamar Prieto, Elizabeth Davis and Robb Hernández (2014).