Mellon Public Scholars Program

A team of interdisciplinary faculty members from across the arts, humanities, and social sciences at UC Davis selected the second cohort of Mellon Public Scholars. This year, the cohort represents nine departments and programs, and their interests address issues and problems in environmental justice, gentrification, healthcare, and access to the arts.

Each of the ten members of the 2017 Mellon Public Scholars cohort will participate in a quarter-long, two-credit seminar in spring 2017 taught by Robyn Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, that will introduce students to the intellectual foundations of public scholarship and provide guidance on working with community partners. Each public scholar will work one-on-one with a faculty mentor to develop a community-based research project to be carried out over summer 2017. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the UC Davis Humanities Institute $400,000 to inaugurate the program, which introduces graduate students to the intellectual and practical aspects of identifying, addressing, and collaborating with members of a public through their scholarship.

The 2017 Mellon Public Scholars and their projects are listed below:

  • Alana Haynes-Stein (Sociology) – Yolo Food Bank: Barriers to Access
  • Jeanelle Hope (Cultural Studies)  –CA Department of Education: Ethnic Studies Curriculum
  • Genesis Lara (History) – A Dream Not Deferred
  • Deepa Mahadevan (Performing Arts) – Cal Arts Council: Program Evaluation
  • Brittani Orona (NAS) – Oak Park Neighborhood Association: Digital Storytelling and Mapping Tool
  • Crystal Richardson (Linguistics) – Culturally Responsive Karuk Language Curriculum Development
  • Mayra Sanchez (Human Ecology)  – Digital Storytelling: Stories of Disability and Environmental Justice in Salinas Valley
  • Roy Taggueg (Sociology) – Living on the Edge: Healthcare Empowerment Among Undocumented Asian Americans
  • David Tenorio (Spanish and Portuguese) – TransCuba: Transgender Studies in Post-Soviet Cuba
  • Jennifer Tinonga-Valle (English) – California Humanities: Mapping the Field

This year, students had the option to either develop their own projects or join an established project developed for the Mellon Public Scholars Program by one of four community partners. For example, the California Department of Education invited a scholar to work on the first-in-the-nation statewide ethnic studies curriculum. Another scholar will join Yolo Food Bank to address the gaps in Yolo County’s emergency food system.

In response to the successful involvement of the other UC campuses in 2016, this year’s UC Davis cohort will be joined by scholars from four other UCs: Berkeley, Irvine, Riverside, and Santa Cruz.

  • Andrew Hedding (Linguistics, UC Santa Cruz) –Narratives and Songs of the Mixe people
  • Grace Kuipers (Art History, UC Berkeley) – Bauhaus Legacy: A Public History of Pond Farm Pottery
  • Carly Maris (Ancient History, UC Riverside)  – Helping to Preserve Syrian Heritage: Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Ancient Palmyra
  • Jason Ostrove (Linguistics, UC Santa Cruz) – Documenting and Recording the Mixtec Language of San Martín Peras
  • Leopoldo Peña (Spanish and Portuguese, UC Irvine) – Laguna Art Museum

* February 23, 2017 Mellon Public Scholars will host its first reunion event from 3 to 5 p.m. at the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in Davis. Former Public Scholar fellows will give presentations with their community partners while meeting and mingling with this year’s fellows. We invited interested graduate students to attend as well. Please RSVP to Rachel Reeves at

Established Projects with Community Partners:

Community Partner: Yolo County Food Bank
Project Title: Hidden Hunger

The Mellon Public Scholar will design and implement a data collection method to assess the gaps in Yolo County’s emergency food system. The goal of this project is to identify populations and areas within the county not receiving/accessing food assistance resources. Additionally, this project will identify barriers that prevent food-insecure residents from accessing services (e.g., scheduling conflicts, transportation, stigma, lack of awareness).
Community Partner: California Arts Council
Project Title: Arts Program Evaluation

The CA Arts Council (CAC) is a state agency dedicated to advancing California through the arts and creativity. One of the primary ways that it serves the arts and culture field is through its eleven competitive grant programs. The CAC has a standard evaluation process for all of its grant programs, and invites a Mellon Scholar to dive deeply into an evaluation of one of its grant programs, based on expertise and interest of the scholar. Potential projects could focus on: CAC’s arts education program, a creative placemaking grant program, or CAC’s support for rural and underserved communities.
Community Partner: California Department of Education
Project Title: High School Ethnic Studies Resources

This September, the California Department of Education became the first statewide agency in the nation to start developing a model for a high school ethnic studies curriculum. This guide will offer a flexible framework on which districts can build meaningful, interdisciplinary courses relevant to their students’ experiences. The MellonPublic Scholar will join this effort by reviewing current high school and undergraduate course offerings in ethnic studies and identifying appropriate teaching resources. Strong candidates will be familiar with ethnic studies and curriculum development, and be adept at analyzing online resources. The CDE will help the Scholar develop a working familiarity with state statutes that govern the use of instructional materials in California’s public schools.
Community Partner: California Humanities
Project Title: Humanities Field Mapping

California Humanities is an independent non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. To illustrate the rich landscape of humanities organizations and their work throughout the state, California Humanities seeks to elaborate on efforts to “map” existing networks of humanities-related organizations. The PublicScholar will define and identify humanities hubs and then map the networks among these organizations in a publicly accessible, easily maintained form. This project will involve planning, review of existing lists of humanities organizations, evaluation of available mapping databases and software, and visualization and design for illustrating California’s humanities networks.