Mellon Public Scholars Program

The Mellon Public Scholars program introduces graduate students to the intellectual and practical aspects of identifying, addressing, and collaborating with members of a public through their scholarship. Twelve successful graduate student applicants will participate in a quarter-long, two-credit seminar in spring 2019. Each student will work with a faculty partner to develop a community-based research project and receive a $7,500 stipend (with the possibility of supplemental project funds) to support the project over summer 2019.

Because this program is intended to acknowledge and draw on the community-engaged scholarship of our faculty, faculty mentorship is an integral part of the summer projects. Applicants do not need to have a partner at the time of application. The Public Scholars Program encourages students to consider partners outside of their department as a way to broaden their interdisciplinary network. The role of the faculty partner includes: offering guidance as the student develops the community project, helping the student to develop individual goals for their project so that the experience can be integrated into their graduate training, and debriefing on outcomes of the project upon completion. Each faculty partner will receive a $2,000 award (i.e., as summer salary).

The Public Scholars Program invites applications that address the university’s commitment to diversity. This may include: public service towards increasing equitable access in fields where women and minorities are underrepresented; research focusing on underserved populations or understanding inequalities related to race, gender, disability or LGBTQI issues; and applicants who offer perspectives of groups historically underrepresented in higher education.

Pre-established and/or Original Projects

Applicants may choose to propose an original project (of their own) or be considered for a pre-established project with a community partner (listed below). Students may apply to either or both of these tracks. If applying to both, please submit a separate application for each. We ask that, if a student chooses to apply for an established project, she or he only apply for the one that best fits her or his interests and background. Please contact our program manager with questions rather than the host organizations directly.


We welcome doctoral and MFA students in the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences at any stage in their graduate training. Among the criteria for selection is the proposed project’s relevance to the humanities and arts, areas of particular interest to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Anyone with an interest in public scholarship and community-engaged research is encouraged to apply, whether or not that interest is explicit in their dissertation research.

2019 Community Partners and Project Descriptions

Imagining America Community Engaged Design

Location: Davis, CA


The Imagining America consortium (IA) brings together scholars, artists, designers, humanists, and organizers to imagine, study, and enact a more just and liberatory ‘America’ and world. In October 2019, the 20th anniversary IA National Gathering will reflect on the organization’s past and future of promoting public scholarship, cultural organizing, and campus change that inspires collective imagination, knowledge-making, and action on pressing public issues.

The Mellon Public Scholar will work closely with IA staff, national consortium members, and other leaders to develop a national interactive map of community engaged design projects. The Scholar will undertake research along with members of IA’s Commission on Publicly Engaged Design. The Scholar will contribute to the curation of the project at the 2019 IA National Gathering in Albuquerque, NM. IA will support the scholar’s participation at the conference.

California Food Policy Advocates — Faces of California Hunger

Location: Oakland, CA
Travel to the Bay Area is a requirement for this position.


California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) has earned its reputation as the go-to source for policy expertise and advocacy on issues related to improving access to nutritious, affordable food for low-income Californians. As they enter their twenty-sixth year of doing advocacy work, they are seeking to broaden their impact by engaging a larger community of supporters who may not grasp the wonkyness of policy. CFPA invites a Mellon Scholar to help them grow their impact and captivate a wider audience by improving their communications through human-centered narratives.

The Mellon Public Scholar will work alongside seasoned policy advocates to capture the human faces of overlooked hunger in California. The Scholar will work with CFPA’s resources and contacts in community-based organizations to tell thematic, policy-relevant stories that profile the struggles of the working poor through a variety of media. Depending on CFPA’s goals and pressing policy needs, the Scholar will work on storytelling projects about experiences of hunger shared by seniors or undocumented and immigrant communities.

California Department of Education – Native American Model Curriculum

Location: Sacramento, CA


The California Department of Education is developing a Native American Model Curriculum, which, like the 2020 Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, will offer a flexible framework on which districts can build meaningful, interdisciplinary courses relevant to their students’ experiences. The Mellon Public Scholar will work independently and collaborate the CDE’s Curriculum and Instructional Resources Division to research current Native American and Indigenous studies best practices. This will include a literature review centered on the recommended coverage of U.S. and California Native American history and educational best practices.

The scholar will also help engage with Native American education stakeholders throughout the state, including Native American communities across California, university departments and groups that have Native American curricula, and California teachers. 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.


California Arts Council – Arts & Culture Landscape Study Framework

Location: Sacramento, CA
Background in the arts is not a requirement for this position


The California 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. Previous Mellon Public Scholars have evaluated the coverage and reach of the CAC’s grant programs.

The CAC seeks a Mellon Public Scholar to assist in developing an updated portrait of arts and culture organizations across the state. Working with CAC staff, the Mellon Public Scholar will develop a framework for a new study of the California arts and culture landscape, including data on number of active nonprofit arts organizations, organizational sizes, program activity, and staff and board demographics. The framework will propose a timeline for the project, develop a methodology, and evaluate available resources and partners to guide the execution of the study.