In June of 2004, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation approved a grant of one million dollars to the English Department at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
The Foundation is known for its many programs supporting higher education, which have special focus on strengthening research and scholarship in the humanities at select schools.
Barry Qualls, Dean of Humanities for FAS (Faculty of Arts and Sciences), noted that the Mellon Foundation involvement indicates the national stature of the department. "The Mellon Foundation has been supporting departments that they believe can reach an even higher level of national distinction and can make a signal difference in setting the national perimeters of the discipline." The Graduate Program of Literatures in English at Rutgers was ranked 17th nationwide in the last National Research Council study, and English is one of the most popular undergraduate humanities majors at Rutgers, thanks in no small part to a faculty filled with award-winning teachers and scholars.
At the annual Fall Semester Reception for the English Department, Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick congratulated the department on a very successful year in general, including the grant. He cited the Graduate Program’s excellent record of placing Ph.D.s in academic jobs, as well as the unprecedented 2003 "sweep," when English Department professors won every major faculty award, for teaching, for research, and for combining scholarship with teaching. "The English Department is one of the jewels in the crown of Rutgers," he said, adding: "I know that’s a cliché, and I know what you English teachers say about clichés in your student papers, but it’s true." President McCormick’s initiatives emphasizing interdisciplinary research and excellence in education were what first interested the Mellon Foundation in Rutgers University as a possible recipient for a major grant.
According to English Department Chair Richard E. Miller, the grant will fund three major initiatives. First, it will provide support for recruiting distinguished senior scholars in three important fields of cutting-edge study: Medieval, Renaissance, and African-American literature. Second, it will allow the department to begin offering summer stipends for graduate students working on their Ph.D. dissertations, giving them financial support during crucial periods of research and writing. Finally, Rutgers English will host a national conference on "The Futures of English," inviting scholars from around the world to participate in a unique public exploration of the directions literary studies may take in the century to come.
"We’re thrilled to have this grant from the Mellon Foundation," said Professor Miller, "and pleased with the support from President McCormick and FAS that made our proposal possible." Professor Miller noted that preparations for all three initiatives have already begun with the start of the new semester. "It’s been a remarkable year for the department," he said, "and this great news makes it even more exciting."
Archived from June 2004