Fellowships through Institute for Research in the Humanities have helped to foster research in the humanities by creating a stimulating, interdisciplinary community in which fellows can pursue their work, share it with other fellows and members of the campus, and benefit from intensive discussion with scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. Fellows often use this collaborative space to turn their ideas into publications, host conferences and events, or launch digital projects. The following is a list of statements by former fellows about their experiences at the Institute.
Solmsen Fellow, 2015-2016
My year as a Solmsen Fellow, which is now coming to an end, has been enormously productive. I arrived nine months ago with a vast archive of material that was stubbornly refusing to shape itself into a coherent book-length narrative. By late summer 2016, I will have completed the draft of my book, Christ on a Donkey: Palm Sunday, Triumphal Entries, and Blasphemous Pageants.
This progress would have been almost impossible without the support of a Solmsen Fellowship. The discipline of shaping my material into a forty-minute seminar presentation in November was invaluable. The interaction with other fellows, past and present, has been most fruitful. Several current fellows have answered detailed queries or helped me with translation from foreign languages. Former fellows David Loewenstein and Karen Britland have read and been very supportive of my work on James Nayler’s entry into Bristol. Proximity to Memorial Library has allowed me to work more efficiently than I can from home. And, having an office dedicated solely to research and writing has focused my mind in remarkable ways. As an independent scholar, used to working in a more solitary context, I am immensely grateful for the advantages that the Solmsen Fellowship has afforded me.
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, 2015-2016
The time I spent at the Institute for Research in the Humanities as a Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow has shaped my academic career in numerous, lasting ways, and I feel fortunate that my graduate school can offer its Ph.D. Candidates such fantastic opportunities. The fellowship funding itself (for one semester) freed up valuable research time, allowing me to get an article accepted at a top-tier journal while also finishing my final dissertation chapter. In addition, my participation in the Institute’s weekly seminars allowed me to engage on equal footing with a wide range of faculty members, both from Madison and elsewhere. The benefits were immeasurable, and my future success as a researcher and intellectual will come to a substantial degree from the experience I gained in this context. Among the more tangible benefits were learning how to communicate my research to scholars from other fields and disciplines; forming lasting professional relationships with tenured and tenure-track faculty from other institutions; and the confidence coming from the recognition that I am one of the premier experts on a topic with broad intellectual and cultural significance. Even the occasional bad presentation by a tenure-track assistant professor taught me a valuable lesson—to judge ideas on their merit, without feeling intimidated by the author’s rank. These insights and connections provide me with an immense source of confidence as I begin to apply for academic jobs.
Honorary Fellow, 2015-2016
History Instructor and Faculty Advising Fellow, Madison Area Technical College
My first semester at the Institute was a productive one; in addition to completing a book chapter, writing a conference paper that would later be published in another volume, and publishing an article for a popular magazine, I encountered an intellectual climate that reminded me of everything I loved about graduate school. I encountered colleagues from across the UW and around the world, and I found that I could follow and comment on their seminar talks, even when they focused on geographic areas and historical periods in which I had no prior teaching or grad-school experience.
In addition, during that semester I consulted my Institute colleagues about a US Department of Education Teaching American History grant. Their feedback helped me write a $940,000 grant. Because the grant bought me out of teaching time, and because IRH Director Susan Friedman made a generous offer of office space while I worked on it, the IRH awarded me an Honorary Fellowship for the 2008-09 academic year… While managing the grant, I continued to participate in the intellectual life of the Institute. That inspiration helped me write another book chapter, plus two academic journal articles, an entry for a German encyclopedia, and several conference papers.
In my experience, the Institute creates the kind of community that is rare in the humanities. Too often, humanities scholars are left to fend for themselves in libraries and archives. If they are fortunate enough to work in a large department, where a cooperative and supportive atmosphere prevails, then they are able to benefit from the kind of collaborative environment that prevails in the sciences, and especially at science-focused institutes like UW’s Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. However, many humanities scholars, like myself, endure heavy teaching loads and colleagues who are not especially interested in maintaining a research agenda. For us, the Institute is a godsend—a place where humanities scholars from around Wisconsin and around the world can immerse ourselves in research and writing, with constant feedback from people who work in related disciplines. I hope that the Institute will continue to serve this purpose for years to come.
I found my year at the Institute for Research in the Humanities extremely useful. Indeed, of the three residential fellowships I’ve held, this was certainly the best experience –
better than at analogous institutes… The Institute strikes just the right balance between creating space for intellectual community to flourish, with vibrant weekly seminars, and providing the time and resources needed to dig deep into individual research projects. The opportunity to take part in various activities around campus, without burdensome obligations to campus units, was particularly useful for me. I enjoyed attending lectures in the English, religious studies, history, Comparative US Studies, and political science departments and at the Center for the Humanities, and I enjoyed presenting my own work at a lecture for the religious studies department (in addition to the very fruitful seminar at IRH itself). The variety of research methods and questions represented in the fellows was helped me think in new ways about my own work. I found the UW-Milwaukee system fellows and the fellows based outside the US particularly interesting and useful conversation partners.
The fellowship year allowed me to make significant headway on my own research. I completed two monographs (currently under review at Columbia University Press and Fordham University Press, respectively), and I made significant progress on my IRH/ACLS project, about religion and mass incarceration. The IRH-supported conference I was able to organize is making its way toward publication, and I was able to put significant work into a September conference, in Boston, that I am co-organizing on “Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics.” During the fellowship year, I completed edits, proof corrections, and indexes on two books that have been published this spring, an edited collection and a monograph, one by Columbia University Press and the other by Oxford University Press, and I wrote or edited several articles, book reviews, blog posts, and other scholarly contributions. During the fellowship year I applied for and received a $25,000 grant for research on prison education, and I am a finalist for two other major ($50k+) grants that I applied for while at IRH, both still pending. Overall, my experience at UW-Madison’s IRH was everything I was looking for, and more: a stimulating intellectual environment with just the right amount of collegial activity and research resources.
Solmsen Fellow, 2015-2016
Fellow, University of Warwick
I’d also like to add that I have had an amazing time here at the Institute. It has really been a pivotal and priceless event in my career, and I have begun to write my book at full speed as I benefited so much from my own seminar and the lunch but also from discussions and debates over other colleagues’ research. I think I have learnt to ask myself better questions on what I’m doing, and to problematise research issues in a more rounded way.
UW Resident Fellow, 2012-2013
Jean Wall Bennet Professor of English and American Studies, UW-Madison
What made it such a rare and incredible resource was that every week the seminar generated a rigorous discussion of scholarly work in ways that made it useful not only to the week’s presenter but to the seminar at large. Speaking for myself, I found the lively Q&A that followed each presentation as insightful and as generative as the first week when I presented my own material. The IRH gives us the freedom to think freely, both beyond and outside departmental and disciplinary pathways.
Stacy S. Klein
Solmsen Fellow, 2012-2013
Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University
Everything, from the wonderfully collegial and positive atmosphere, to the extremely stimulating weekly seminars and discussions, was simply terrific! I had a wonderful year and will always treasure many excellent memories of my time in Madison.
UW System Fellow, 2012-2013
Professor of Spanish, UW-Whitewater
I had a wonderful semester as a fellow and was so fortunate to meet many inspirational scholars who really challenged me to think of new ways of envisioning my work. I also greatly benefited from the access that the IRH provided to the UW-Madison library system and in particular, the Chazen Museum, where I had the opportunity to meet with the research librarian, who helped me find quite a few hidden resources! I am also indebted to Laurie Beth Clark, who took the time to personally meet with me and has connected me to with several of her colleagues and collaborators in Latin America. Without the IRH fellowship, that relationship would never have been formed and it would have taken much more effort to find the resources that she provided, if ever! My time at the IRH allowed me to conduct a significant amount of research and begin drafting 2 articles from that research, which I will be presenting this fall at 2 different conferences. I am tremendously grateful for the support, resources, and collegiality of the IRH and hope to have the opportunity to participate in IRH events and fellowships in the future.
Solmsen Fellow, 2011-2012
Assistant Professor in Department of Classics, The University of Nottingham
I’m really grateful to have had this chance to think and write. The Institute has been a marvelous place to spend time – full of interesting people and inspiring ideas – wonderful!
Solmsen Fellow, 2010-2011
Professor of History, Iowa State University
The wide-ranging interdisciplinary discussions here allowed me to refine the book I’ve just finished in a way that would only be possible in an environment like this. For me, the Institute seminar was virtually an ideal audience, because I wanted this book to address a general academic readership, not just historians or medieval specialists. I want also to say that you have really created something special here. The openness and friendliness, but also the real deep critical engagement of this group with each other’s work is something I have not seen elsewhere–and I know it is a remarkably difficult balance to strike. I don’t know exactly how you’ve managed it, but I’d love to bottle it and carry it back to my campus.
Honorary Fellow, 2010-2011
Assistant Professor of History, Princeton University
I truly could not have hoped to find such a great community of scholars outside of my graduate program. I feel like I grew a lot at the institute and, specifically, learned how to conceive of my project as a future book. I think it was also very helpful to not work in isolation.
UW Resident Fellow, 2009-2010
Professor and Chair of Sociology, University of California at Berkeley
In general, the discussions on Monday and Tuesday were incredibly generative, helping me see certain strengths, weaknesses, and exciting possibilities for the project with greater clarity than before. What a gift to have all those minds thinking with me about my project at this stage in this process.
Senior Fellow, 2009-2010
Evjue-Bascom Professor of Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
This was by far the most dynamic, intellectually stimulating semester I’ve spent at UW (and I’ve been here for 11 years), in part because of the wonderful synergy created by the intersections of so many of the projects, and in part because the people at the institute this year were so smart and interesting. I’ve always known that the disciplines in the humanities were strong, vital, and important, but this semester has refreshed my sense that we have a great deal of importance to say not just to other disciplines outside the humanities but to the public: everything I learned had very public – not to say instrumental – consequences.
UW System Fellow, 2008-2009
Associate Professor of English, Director of African American Studies Program, UW-Oshkosh
This year has been a real boost for me personally, professionally, and as a budding scholar.
Solmsen Fellow, 2007-2008
Associate Professor of Medieval History at California State University, Long Beach
I started my fellowship year with a good idea and half of a book, and finished the year with a review-ready manuscript. It wasn’t just a matter of having the time and resources to complete the book; the intellectual community that the institute provided was essential to making my book (published 2010) better than I ever thought it could be. And the professional relationships and personal friendships I forged while an Institute Fellow have continued to this day.