Mellon New Directions Fellowships

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Williams College has been invited to submit a nomination in Fall 2020 for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s New Directions Fellowships competition.

The New Directions Fellowships provide support for exceptional faculty members in the humanities who received their doctorates between six and twelve years ago. The fellowships enable them to pursue systematic training outside their own special fields; they are thus intended to support the acquisition of new academic competencies needed for the pursuit of a cross-disciplinary research agenda. Unlike other fellowship awards, this program does not aim to facilitate short-term outcomes, such as completion of a book. Rather, New Directions Fellowships are meant to be viewed as longer-term investments in scholars’ intellectual range and productivity.

The Mellon New Directions Fellowship provides a full academic year of salary, four additional months of summer salary, and tuition and/or other reasonable costs associated with research and training.

Should you be interested, please submit a proposal to the Dean of the Faculty office by August 17, 2020. The CAP will review all proposals internally and then select one for nomination to the Mellon Foundation by mid-September, so extensions beyond the August 17 deadline are not possible. See details below for proposal guidelines. Proposals submitted for the internal competition should include everything listed except the institutional endorsement letter.

Ultimately, the Mellon Foundation will select the New Directions Fellows in the spring of 2021, with award funding available shortly thereafter.


Purpose: Serious interdisciplinary research often requires established scholar-teachers to pursue formal substantive and methodological training in addition to the PhD. New Directions Fellowships assist faculty members in the humanities, broadly understood to include the arts, history, languages, area studies, and zones of such fields as anthropology and geography that bridge the humanities and social sciences, who seek to acquire systematic training outside their own areas of special interest. The program is intended to enable strong scholars in the humanities to work on problems that interest them most, at an appropriately advanced level of sophistication. In addition to facilitating the work of individual faculty members, these awards should benefit humanistic scholarship more generally by encouraging the highest standards in cross-disciplinary research.

Terms of the Awards: Candidates will be faculty members who were awarded doctorates within the last six to twelve years and whose research interests call for formal training in a discipline other than the one in which they are expert. Such training may consist of coursework or other programs of organized study. It may take place either at fellows’ home institutions or elsewhere, as appropriate. Although it is anticipated that many fellows will seek to acquire deeper knowledge of other fields within the broadly defined sphere of the humanities evoked above, proposals to study disciplines farther afield will also be eligible. The principal criteria for selection are: (1) the overall significance of the research, (2) the case for the importance of extra-disciplinary training for furthering the research, (3) the likely ability of the candidate to derive satisfactory results from the training program proposed; and (4) a well-developed plan for acquiring the necessary training within a reasonable period of time.

Fellows will receive: (1) the equivalent of one academic year’s salary; (2) two summers of additional support, each at the equivalent two-ninths of the previous academic year salary, and (3) tuition or course fees or equivalent direct costs associated with the fellows’ training programs. To permit flexibility in meeting individual scholars’ needs, these funds may be expended over a period not to exceed three full academic years following the date of the award. The Foundation also expects the fellow’s home institution to use such budgetary relief as the award may occasion for academic purposes, preferably in the fellow’s department.

Application guidelines: Applications consist of (1) a proposal (maximum length: 2000 words) and a summary of the proposal (no more than 300 words), (2) a concise (no more than five pages) curriculum vitae, (3) an institutional endorsement letter and a letter of recommendation from a senior colleague, and (4) a proposed budget in the Mellon Budget and Financial Report template (found here). The proposal should provide an explanation of the overall significance of the research being undertaken and how the proposed new direction will assist in the development of the field. In addition to the institutional endorsement letter, a letter from a senior colleague (e.g., department chair) should address the candidate’s preparation and the relationship of the “new direction” to the nominee’s research and pedagogy. A letter of recommendation from a colleague in the new field is strongly encouraged. The budget should include items for salary and standard fringe benefits, projected training costs, project-related travel, and in certain circumstances (such as vital professional meetings and short site visits) lodging. Fellows are expected to cover their housing costs during the periods (one academic year and two summers) when they receive salary support from the grant. Requests for housing supplements may be included in the proposed budget when the projected costs for living in a city where study is to be pursued exceed substantially the costs incurred when the fellow is working at the home institution. No overhead or indirect costs are permitted, and no funding for staging conferences, symposia, seminars or events related to the project is allowed. The Foundation assumes that needs for equipment or for research assistants will be met by the fellow’s home institution. Final budgets commonly range from $175,000 to $250,000; the maximum is $300,000. Since our annual budget provides a fixed amount for this program, our ability to accommodate changes in the budgets submitted is quite limited. In recent years we have denied requests for adjustment received after the selection of awardees and have mandated reductions in proposed budgets when certain items appeared not to be in line with the Foundation’s norms. Candidates should make every effort to base their estimated expenses on careful projections of all items in the grant budget. We advise candidates to seek assistance from experienced department and sponsored-research staff in preparing the budget for submission.

Selection Process and the Making of Grants: Institutions will be invited to participate in this program and will be asked to solicit proposals from eligible faculty members in the humanities wishing to further their research through engaging in programs of study in fields other than their own.

It is expected that institutions will communicate the particulars of both the program and the application process to faculty in all the relevant academic departments and programs. Following an internal competition to be overseen by a committee of senior faculty members in the relevant disciplines, each institution will forward the proposal it has selected to the Foundation. The Foundation convenes a panel of distinguished scholars which chooses 10-15 finalists to present to the Foundation’s Trustees. Institutions and individual recipients will be notified and, if necessary, will work with the Foundation staff to develop their final requests. Once the Trustees have given their final approval, grants will be awarded to, and administered by the fellows’ home institutions.