Mellon Public Scholars Program

The UC Davis Humanities Institute supports doctoral and MFA students in the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences through the Mellon Public Scholars program. The program introduces graduate students to the intellectual and practical aspects of identifying, addressing, and collaborating with members of a public through their scholarship. Ten successful graduate student applicants participate in a quarter-long, two-credit seminar in spring 2022. Each student works with a faculty partner to develop a community-based research project and receives a $7,500 stipend (with the possibility of supplemental project funds) to support the project over summer 2022. Call for proposals.

Congratulations to the 2022 Cohort of Mellon Public Scholars 

This year’s cohort represents seven departments from across the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences. They have proposed a range of projects focused on Indigenous-led language recovery, Arab American Studies K-12 education, Hmong language education, Punjabi Sikh food and land practices, historic Chinese cookbooks, Quinault sound protocols, and much more.

Mellon Public Scholars will create museum exhibits, curriculum, digital oral histories, cookbooks, multimedia websites, and help organize community events. Two scholars were selected to work specifically with DHI community partners the City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and International House Davis (see project descriptions below). 

  1. Harleen Bal (Anthropology) Dharti Ma, “Earth Mother:” Cultivating Digital Narratives of Punjabi Sikh Human-Land Conceptions and Food Practices in Northern California
  2. Aaron Benedetti (Cultural Studies), A Digital Oral History of Sacramento’s Lavender Library
  3. Benjamin Fong (Comparative Literature), Home Style Cooking: The Chinese Cookbook Collection Project
  4. Rosemary Hannon (Performance Studies), International House Davis: Artist Liaison for 2022 International Festival
  5. Tory Johnston (Native American Studies), Putting a Song on taptaanǝ: Quinault Musicking for Sound Protocols
  6. Beshara Kehdi (Cultural Studies), Arab American Studies K-12 Curriculum
  7. Cole Manley (History), City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs: Community Engagement with the Davis Centennial Seal
  8. Kimberly Morales Johnson (Native American Studies), Developing a Tongva-led Archive for the Kuruvungna Springs Collection
  9. Ingrid Sub Cuc (Native American Studies), Ruk’ux ri qawinaq: Indigenous-led Language Recovery in Kaqchikel Communities
  10. Sun Ny Vang (Music), Seev Suab [Sing Out!]: Kwv Txhiaj and Lug Txaj [Chant Stories] Concert with, by, and for Hmong in the Greater California Area

This year’s program is supported in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, but was ultimately made possible with the generous contributions of UC Davis Graduate Studies, the DHI Humanities & Arts Advisory Council, the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement, and the College of Letters and Science.

2022 Community Partners

City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs: Community Engagement with the Davis Centennial Seal

Location: Davis, CA
Keywords: Public Art — Interpretive Design — Curriculum — Programming

The City of Davis Arts and Cultural Affairs Program supports community-based arts projects, cultural opportunities, and education initiatives that foster excellence, diversity, and vitality in the arts. In commemoration of the City of Davis Centennial in 2017, local artist Susan Shelton has created a bronze seal, 6 feet in diameter, installed in front of the historic Hunt Boyer Mansion in downtown Davis, CA. The Davis Centennial Seal represents the city in a multi-faceted way through a circular, ringed design that tells ongoing human and natural histories through the themes of aspiration, community, cooperation, leadership, innovation, engagement, global citizenship, stewardship, vision, and optimism.

Building on the work of the 2021 Scholar, the 2022 Mellon Public Scholar will engage the archives and stories in the Davis Centennial Seal to create either A) curriculum materials for K-12 educators, B) online interpretive materials, or C) public programming based on the applicant’s skills and interests. Materials and programming will engage the storytelling dimensions of the seal and address the many themes within the design such as natural history, political and cultural history, key figures, and/or environmental justice.  


International House Davis: Artist Liaison for 2022 International Festival 

Location: Davis, CA
Keywords: Performing Arts — Festival Organizing — Community Engagement

International House Davis (I-House) is a social gathering space where people from all over the world come together. It is a place dedicated to embracing differences, cultivating joy, combating isolation, and creating a better future grounded in cultural equity.  For 10 years, I-House has celebrated culture and community with the annual International Festival in Davis’ Central Park, including six hours of music and dance, delicious international food, childrens’ activities, artisan wares, and informational booths. The artists and culture bearers participating in the festival represent the diasporic cultures living here in our region that contribute to our communities and ways of living.

I-House invites a Mellon Public Scholar to join the organizing team for the 2022 International Festival on October 2, 2022 as Artist Liaison to work directly with the artists participating in the festival. The Artist Liaison will be an excellent communicator, have experience or interest working with artists and in public art events organizing, and apply attention to detail regarding logistics and administration.

Importantly, the I-House seeks a Mellon Public Scholar who can help to contextualize the performances of the artists and culture bearers; they ask, “How can we deepen and center the contexts, histories, and meanings of artistic expressions beyond a one-day performance festival?” This might include running social media campaigns to highlight the artists, generating interpretive materials to deepen understanding of the art practices, creating community engagement experiences at the festival, or other possibilities.