Rethinking Area and International Studies at the UW-Madison

This 2012 Mellon Foundation grant to the UW-Madison to develop new models of structuring, supporting, and conducting area and international studies was intended to spur sustainable institutional and intellectual innovation. The initial grant expired in 2015 but we are continuing certain grant programs via a no-cost extension, which ends in 2018, and other grant-inspired activities with non-grant funds.

Guiding Principles:
Our intent is to strengthen area and international studies as foundational knowledge for global scholarship broadly defined, hewing to a central premise of the Mellon proposal: Deep knowledge of regional particularities, including language knowledge, goes hand in hand with systemic and theoretical advancement in and across the disciplines. The Mellon proposal argues for redefining area and international studies as a theoretically and disciplinarily attuned cross-regional conversation among scholars who are regionalists as well as globalists, specialists in the particular and the systematic. We want to be attuned to new ways ways of spanning the empirical and the theoretical.
The core of every strong area studies center is an engaged faculty community brought together by research and teaching on a region and by the interest of that community in the varied disciplinary and global contexts of regional work. We wish to bolster area and international studies on the Wisconsin campus by supporting these communities and expanding their membership and academic range.

Key Initiatives:
Area and International Studies Fellowships for Incoming Graduate Students
These fellowships are intended to help departments and other units that admit internationally oriented or area-studies-oriented graduate students recruit their top admissions candidates. The fellowships are one-time awards of $5,000 for field research or the development of language or cultural competence to be used in the student’s first three years of graduate school (typically taken in the summer), timing determined in consultation with advisor. For the purposes of these fellowships, international studies and area studies are broadly construed, but units interested in nominating prospective students should review the Guiding Principles (above) and the more detailed information contained on the fellowship page and determine fit on that basis.

With Mellon Foundation funding during 2013, 2014, and 2015 we awarded a total of about 60 fellowships The award release request form for 2013, 2014, and 2015 recipients is available here. Complete details are included on the form.

Inspired by the success of this Mellon-funded activity, we began the International Research and Training Grants for Incoming Graduate Students in 2016 with funding from he UW-Madison’s International Division. We intend to continue the program as long as funds are available. More information on this program.

Area and International Studies Research Awards
These awards were made in 2013 to support single or multi-scholar research in one or more regions. Projects funded through these awards were intended to have transformative intellectual or institutional potential. UW-Madison faculty and staff members are eligible to apply. Grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 were awarded for a period of one to three years to directly support research and other work whose deliverables might include scholarly publications, teaching and learning, improved public understanding, institution building, and development. Grants did not support faculty salaries or graduate assistantships, but could be used for staff or student hourly support. A list of projects funded in this 2013 competition is available on request.

Inspired by the success of this Mellon-funded activity, we began a program in 2016 of IRIS Incubator Grants for Interdisciplinary Research in Regional and International Studies. The UW-Madison’s International Division has provided funds for it. We made six awards under this rubric to teams of UW-Madison faculty members in 2016, each for $50,000, and we intend to continue the program as long as funds are available. More information on this program.

Area and International Studies Institutional Transition Planning
A portion of the Mellon grant was designed to support the costs of institutional transformation, and it has done so. The creation of IRIS in 2015 and the staffing and organizational transformations of 2015-16 would not have been possible without this funding.

Please Note:

Download a pdf version of this statement of Guiding Principles and Key Initiatives approved by the International Institute Advisory Committee on November 7, 2012.