MLA Awarded $1.5 Million Mellon Grant

Humanities programs and departments frequently lack the money and the time to gather resources and initiate large-scale changes. We’re excited to offer departments the support they need to create more equitable language and literature programs.

—MLA Executive Director Paula M. Krebs

The MLA is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant of $1.5 million by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to promote recruitment and retention of students in the humanities, especially students of color, first-generation college students, and Pell Grant recipients. In 2023, the association will launch Pathways: Recruitment, Retention, and Career Readiness, a program that will equip humanities departments and programs with the tools, networks, knowledge, and resources to help students find success throughout their education and after graduation.

The MLA sees many successful recruitment, retention, and career-readiness interventions, especially at access-oriented institutions, through its MAPS (MLA Academic Program Services) programming every year, and this new funding will enable the association to cultivate and share many more such activities and programs. Over the next three years, the program will provide small curriculum or programming grants as well as gather best practices into a tool kit to be shared with departments, institutions, and individuals across higher education. The tool kit will help humanities programs build more equitable practices. Along with many other resources, it will include models for creating more welcoming environments for students and tips for advisors on students’ career preparation. 

The grant will also fund attendance at the MLA’s in-person summer seminar and virtual leadership institutes for department and program leaders from access-oriented institutions (AOIs). These convenings will offer leaders the opportunity to attend workshops, share strategies, build collaborations, and learn from model programs. In addition, the grant will enable the MLA to expand the MLA Institutes on Reading and Writing Pedagogy, supporting the creation of new institutes that will bring together doctoral students in English and other languages with new faculty members from AOIs to focus on the needs of students and the working conditions of faculty members at AOIs. 

The Pathways program is one element of the MLA’s efforts to make the study of the humanities available to a wider array of students. Too often departments lack structures that would allow them to first reach and then retain students of color, first-generation students, and Pell grant recipients. The Pathways program will support the creation of these structures and, in turn, make language and literature programs more robust and responsive to the needs of all students. “The skills developed by humanities study, including critical analysis, writing, and language proficiency, make it possible for students to engage with key social, political, environmental, and economic issues,” said Paula M. Krebs, the executive director of the MLA. “Many students from underserved populations want to pursue careers that focus on these issues, but they are pushed away from the humanities by anxiety about employment. The Pathways program aims to alleviate some of this anxiety by establishing new structures of support on campuses across the country, offering students encouraging environments and clear pathways to rewarding careers.”

The MLA’s 2023 summer seminar will take place 1–4 June at Georgetown University. The 2023 leadership institute will be held virtually 21–29 June. The MLA is hosting four Institutes on Reading and Writing Pedagogy during summer 2023, to be held in Virginia, Alabama, Utah, and Massachusetts.

View a video message from Paula Krebs, who shares models of humanities programs that thriving by making changes to meet the needs of all our students. Hear about what’s working and how you can share your success stories with us.