Considered to be one of the most ethnically and economically diverse universities, UCR was recently recognized with a $208,000 grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a private organization dedicated to supporting institutions of higher education and culture. The grant will support a two-year seminar series to further humanities studies in diversity at UCR’s Center for Ideas and Society.
“The purpose of this series is to advance intercultural studies and to strive to capture the value of diversity through the collective research (from a) team of professors, graduates and undergraduates in each seminar,” said Georgia Warnke, political science professor and the director of the Center for Ideas and Society, and who has been the main advocate for the project.
The seminar series, “Advancing Intercultural Studies,” will consist of a total of four seminars, one each quarter, respectively: “Beyond Diversity: Are We There Yet?” in the winter 2015; “The Public Practice of Immigrant and Minority Religions” in the spring 2015; “Civic and Political Engagement” in the fall 2015; and “Migration, Displacement and Movement” in the winter 2016.
“This series is a uniquely made project,” emphasized Katharine Henshaw, the financial director of the Center for Ideas and Society. Henshaw said the seminars were based on the research interests and ideas of all participating faculty members.
Each seminar will be comprised of four faculty members, along with four graduate students and four undergraduate students, who will work to produce research on their respective emphases, receiving feedback on their seminar papers during weekly discussion.
Henshaw explained that faculty and students participating in the seminars will also be released from teaching to provide them with additional time to work on their corresponding research; most of the grant will go toward supporting their release from teaching. “The undergraduates, on the other hand, will benefit by receiving course credit and research experience alongside distinguished professors and graduate students while developing their own independent research papers,” Henshaw said.
The funds will also assist with a spring conference at the Culver Center in 2016, marking the end of the seminar series. The conference will allow all seminar participants to present their research to those involved and will be opened up as an interactive segment to the public.
“No one really lives in a self-contained cultural environment anymore,” expressed Warnke. “We are constantly being exposed by other very diverse people, even just by being in a classroom here at UCR.” Student diversity was also a central factor into opening up this research opportunity to undergraduate students.
Warnke furthered that, “This series is meant to understand how our interactions with different people affect and change our individual identities, who are are. We live in this wonderfully diverse world, and with this research, we will be taking steps into understanding what makes it so wonderful.”