(CLOSED) Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: New Directions Fellowships 2020

Sponsor Name: 
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Description of the Award: 

Penn State has been invited to nominate one candidate for the fall 2020 New Directions Fellowship competition. These fellowships provide support for exceptional faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who received their doctorates between 2008 and 2014. Fellows pursue systematic training and academic competencies outside their own special fields in order to advance a cross-disciplinary research agenda. This fellowship does not aim to facilitate short-term outcomes, such as completion of a book. Rather, it is a longer-term investment in the scholar’s intellectual range and productivity.


Serious interdisciplinary research often requires established scholar-teachers to pursue formal substantive and methodological training in addition to the PhD. New Directions Fellowships assist faculty members in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who seek to acquire systematic training outside their own areas of special interest. The program is intended to enable scholars in the humanities to work on problems that interest them most, at an appropriately advanced level of sophistication. In addition to facilitating the work of individual faculty members, these awards should benefit scholarship in the humanities more generally by encouraging the highest standards in cross-disciplinary research.


  • Priority will be given to applications that manifest 1) a strong focus on issues of race, ethnicity, and migration, or 2) a focus on filling in the gaps left by more traditional narratives in the history of the Americas.
  • In an effort to recognize and address travel and access constraints related to the COVID-19 global pandemic, supplemental funds up to $15,000 will be available for scholars who require access to collections that have not yet been digitized and cataloged, or who require the paid support of a librarian or archivist to assist with research where collections are closed to outside visitors because of the pandemic. For example, payments from this supplement may be budgeted for library or special collections partners who would work closely with the New Directions fellow to identify and define archival or library collections that can be digitized and made available for study by the fellow and—when feasible--to members of the general public.
  • All applicants should include a concise plan of no more than two paragraphs outlining alternative arrangements should research activities be constrained by the long-term continuation or a resurgence of the COVID-19 or other pandemic.


Eligible candidates will be faculty members who were awarded a doctorate in the humanities or humanistic social sciences within the last six to twelve years and whose research interests call for formal training in a discipline other than the one in which they are expert. Such training may consist of coursework or other programs of organized study. It may take place either at fellows’ home institutions or elsewhere, as appropriate. Although it is anticipated that many fellows will seek to acquire deeper knowledge of other fields within the broadly defined sphere of the humanities and humanistic social sciences, proposals to study disciplines farther afield are eligible. The principal criteria for selection are: (1) the overall significance of the research, (2) the case for the importance of extra-disciplinary training for furthering the research, (3) the likely ability of the candidate to derive satisfactory results from the training program proposed, and (4) a well developed plan for acquiring the necessary training within a reasonable period of time.


The budget should include items for salary and standard fringe benefits (including yearly increases), projected training costs, and project-related travel. Lodging may only be included for vital professional meetings and short site visits; fellows are expected to cover their housing costs during the periods when they receive salary support from the grant. Requests for housing supplements may be included in the proposed budget when the projected cost of living in the city where study is to be pursued exceeds substantially the costs incurred when the fellow is working at the home institution. No overhead or indirect costs are permitted, and no funding for staging conferences, symposia, seminars, or events related to the project is allowed. The Foundation assumes the need for equipment or research assistants will be met by the fellow’s home institution. Final budgets commonly range from $175,000 to $250,000; the maximum is $300,000. The term of the grant should cover a minimum of two years. We do not make adjustments to the grant amount after the grant is awarded, so candidates should make every effort to base their estimated expenses on careful projections of all items in the grant budget. We advise candidates to seek assistance from experienced department and sponsored-research staff in preparing the budget submission.

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Sep 28, 2020
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should notify the Office of Limited Submissions by uploading the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (filename: [last name]_newdirections_2020 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

  • Proposal: no more than two pages providing a summary of the project and an explanation of the overall significance of the research being undertaken and how the proposed new direction will assist in the development of the field.
  • A letter of recommendation from the candidate's department chair or other senior colleague which should address the candidate's preparation and the relationship of the "new direction" to the nominee's research and pedagogy.
  • A concise curriculum vitae, no more than two pages in length.

Format Guidlines:

  • Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
  • Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
  • Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)



Mellon has awarded 190 New Directions Fellowships since 2002 (list of awardees). In particular, we recommend reading the interview with Cristle Collins Judd, former program director.

What do you look for in candidates? "Above all, we want the idea of a 'new direction' to be prominent. We try very hard not to prescribe what that might look like. We seek a candidate who already has a demonstrated capacity for producing important work in their home discipline, who has imagination and creativity, and who has a thoughtful plan for systematic training in another field. A New Directions Fellow is someone whose intellectual spark is matched by incredible persistence."

The Office Foundation Relations is available to consult on proposal narrative elements and answer other foundation-related questions. Please contact Sophie Penney, Director of Foundation Relations at University Park (swp2@psu.edu or 814-867-0547) for additional support.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 4:00pm
Julie Reed (Liberal Arts; 8/31/2020)