Foundation research

Call for concepts | Mellon Foundation

In the interest of maintaining a grantmaking portfolio that supports the inquiry into issues of vital social, cultural, and historical significance, the Mellon Foundation Higher Education Program invites ideas for research and/or Curricular projects focusing on one of the three areas described below:

  • Civic engagement and right to vote
  • Race and Racialization in the United States
  • Social justice and literary imagination

About the 2022 Call for Concepts

The 2022 call for concepts is now open. This call is open to all accredited, nonprofit, four-year degree-granting institutions in the United States that offer liberal arts education. (Full eligibility criteria can be found in the Call for Concepts Guidelines.) As always, Mellon seeks to support institutions that have demonstrated excellence in the humanities, and we especially welcome concepts from Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and/or have not received Mellon funding in the past five years.

Institutions can submit up to three concepts in total, with each submission consisting of an online application form and a project description of approximately 1,000 words. The projects considered are expected to be feasible with Mellon contributions of $250,000 to $500,000, with durations of up to three years. We plan to allocate up to $10 million for this call for concepts; the final number of proposals selected will depend on the number and substance of the submissions.

The deadline for applying for potential applicants is April 20, 2022 and the deadline for submitting concepts is May 16, 2022.

The Mellon Higher Learning team will review all submissions and invite a small number of the most promising to be developed into full proposals for potential grant funding. Invitations for full proposals will be issued in the summer of 2022, and final grant recommendations will be presented for consideration by the Mellon Board of Directors at its December 2022 meeting, for a start date of January 1, 2023 .

Full guidelines for concept preparation and submission can be found here. While Mellon acknowledges and provides final responses on the outcome of all submissions, staffing limitations prevent us from offering comment on those not selected for further review. Additional information about the higher education program can be found on the program website.

Potential candidates must complete a registration form. Once Mellon staff have processed the application, eligible applicants will have access to the application form on our Fluxx recipient portal. On the form, applicants will be asked to provide the following information and documents in support of the project:

  • A project concept of approximately 1,000 words
  • CV for Principal Investigator
  • Approval letter
  • A paragraph description outlining the applicant institution’s track record of excellence in the humanities
  • A paragraph description outlining the applicant institution’s track record of successfully pursuing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts on campus
  • Budget estimate and brief budget description

Please note that the Higher Education Program will not fund through this call items and activities such as tuition, K-12 education, capital projects, travel business class and real estate. Please refer to the Allowed and Unallowed Expenses section of the Call for Concepts Guidelines for a complete list of what the call will not fund.

Refer to our guidelines document for more details on how to apply. If you have any questions about this call for concepts, please contact program staff at [email protected].

Please note that inquiries about the program and applications should be sent to the email address above. We cannot help you over the phone.


Any organization responding to this call for concepts must:

  • To be a four-year, non-profit, accredited, degree-granting institution in the United States that provides liberal arts education. (For a full list of ineligible higher education institutions, see the Eligibility section of the Call for Concepts Guidelines.)
  • Offer multiple degrees in the humanities and/or humanistic social science disciplines
  • Enroll over 1,000 full-time degree-seeking undergraduates

To ensure that your organization is eligible for this funding opportunity, all interested applicants must first complete a registration application form.

Key dates

  • Registration deadline: Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 3 p.m. EST
  • Application deadline: Monday, May 16, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Notified applicants: by mid-September 2022

Grantmaking Areas

Civic engagement and right to vote
Differentiated access to the ballot box has been a defining feature of American politics throughout the country’s history, and contestation of suffrage has only intensified over the past decade. Because broad participation in the democratic process is essential to achieving and sustaining a just and equitable society, it is crucial that we understand the current and historical challenges to its achievement. The higher education program thus invites ideas for academic and/or curricular projects that illuminate the significance of voting rights controversies in any period of United States history, from all angles of approach that characterize work in the humanities. While the proposals may address many different issues related to emancipation struggles, including property requirements, poll taxes, literacy testing, prohibitions based on race and gender, redistricting systems , voter registration and identification protocols, disenfranchisement laws, and recent cases of election interference. from the federal executive – we especially welcome those who focus on the role of college and university communities in expanding voter access, both historically and currently.

Race and Racialization in the United States
Recent national controversies have reminded us both that race is a primary fault line in American society, and therefore a serious examination of its importance remains a matter of extreme urgency. Featured as genetic heritage, physical appearance, historical construct, social custom, cultural practice, and systemic law and politics, among others, race is a complex and incoherent phenomenon that therefore requires multi-pronged analysis. In keeping with Mellon’s mission to build just communities empowered by critical thinking, the graduate curriculum seeks to promote rigorous humanities scholarship and pedagogy about the past and present effects of racial differentiation across the spectrum of national life. We seek new perspectives that can broaden and deepen the national conversation, recognizing that conventional tools used in the analysis of race – e.g., timelines, geographies, linguistics – have inevitably been shaped by the very phenomena that they claim to study, and also recognize that an in-depth study of racialization in the United States may well extend far beyond the nation’s borders. We welcome ideas for collective research, curriculum innovation, and/or program development focused on any aspect of race and racialization in American culture and society, and are particularly interested in projects that would investigate the relationships and the tensions between the socio-structural constitution of race, on the one hand, and the subjective experiences of it, on the other.

Social justice and literary imagination
Poetry “makes nothing happen” and “yet men [sic] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is there. and present. Literature has the power to convey more complete, accurate, and emotionally resonant accounts of human experience than those that tend to circulate in mainstream discourse. In the contemporary context, for example, the fiction of Toni Morrison, the graphic novels of Art Spiegelman and the poetry of Joy Harjo all exploit the artifice of literary forms to make the stories of their communities visceral and clear without sacrificing complexity; comparable effects have been achieved by literary works in all historical periods. Literature can also speculate on what else might be: offering social thought experiments and imagined inventions in science fiction, fantasy and other genres that invite readers to encounter the world with fresh eyes and to challenge the next generation to build systems different from those they inherited. Through the combination of these revelatory, restorative and imaginative works, literature has a role to play in laying the foundations for a more just and equitable future. Surveys could describe curriculum development, new scholarships, community engagement, writers’ meetings, and other efforts that highlight and advance the role of literature – from canonical works to less popular writing. studied – in truth and social change.

* from the poems “In Memory of WB Yeats” (WH Auden, 1939) and “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” (William Carlos Williams, 1955)