Mellon Public Scholars Program

The UC Davis Humanities Institute is proud to offer the Mellon Public Scholars Program, which introduces doctoral and MFA students in the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences to the intellectual and practical aspects of identifying, addressing, and collaborating with members of a public through their scholarship. Twelve successful UC Davis graduate student applicants participate in a quarter-long, two-credit seminar in spring. Each student works 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.

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. The program encourages students to consider faculty mentors outside of their department as a way to broaden their interdisciplinary network. However, applicants do not need to have a faculty member identified at the time of application. The role of the faculty mentor 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 will receive a $2,000 award (i.e., as summer salary).

The Mellon Public Scholars Program welcomes 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 and/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, they only apply for the one that best fits their interests and background. Please contact the program manager (Stephanie Maroney, 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.

Application Materials

  • CV (2 pages max.): Please include contact information, academic department, relevant employment history, academic accomplishments, and academic advisor’s name.
  • Proposal Narrative (3 pages max., at least 11-point font): The narrative should address your interest in this program and your ability to plan and carry out an intellectually grounded, mutually beneficial arts- or humanities-based project with a community partner. Please discuss what role a faculty mentor might play in this effort. If you have discussed this project with a potential faculty partner or community partner, please list them. If you are interested in working on one of the pre-established projects described below, outline your qualifications for that project. Each application should address your general suitability for the program and ability to carry out the project in question (please see criterion below for further guidelines). 

2020 Community Partners and Pre-established Project Descriptions

California State Parks: Developing a California Native American Interpretive Framework at Marshall Gold State Historic Park

Location: Sacramento, CA (Travel between Sacramento and Coloma will be required)
Keywords: State Government – Interpretative Design – California Native American History

California State Parks is developing a pilot interpretive framework for Marshall Gold Discovery Park in Coloma, California. With Governor Newsom’s apology for California Native American Genocide in California, California State Parks is in the beginning stages of reviewing interpretation at Parks with an Indigenous nexus. This project will be the first of several reviews of other Gold Rush-era parks through current interpretation and education standards.

The scholar will assist the Tribal Affairs Program, Interpretation and Education Division, and the Cultural Resources Program at Gold Fields District with engaging and consulting tribes whose history, culture, and traditions interact with Marshall Gold Discovery Park. This includes scheduling and attending tribal consultations, reviewing current interpretive models at the Park, and creating a framework document with recommendations from both the tribes and the Public Scholar for developing an inclusive Indigenous history through interpretive design (panels, tours, digital tools, etc.). California State Parks will mentor the student through close partnership and professional development opportunities.

Sacramento Gender Health Center: Trans Health Storytelling

Location: Sacramento, CA
Keywords: Digital Storytelling – Mental Health – Public Affairs

Working with Gender Health Center staff, the Mellon Public Scholar will collect digital stories of Sacramento-area transgender folks. These narratives will be developed in consideration of the structural barriers that constrain trans folks’ agency to access mental health services voluntarily, and in response to state and nation-wide mental health awareness campaigns that do not approach mental health with consideration to these structural factors, nor in an intersectional way.

These stories will address the complex experiences of trans people accessing health resources, in their own voices. Work on this project will include outreach and communication with the GHC’s trans community, scheduling and attending interviews, and working with storytellers to edit and produce their narratives. Some prior experience with digital storytelling will be helpful in this project. 

Capital Public Radio: Participatory Journalism

Location: Sacramento, CA
Keywords: Research, Communication, Civic Storytelling

Capital Public Radio is the NPR affiliate serving California’s Central Valley and Sierra Nevada. Seven frequencies, hundreds of thousands of listeners, and one mission: to build stronger communities. CapRadio works collaboratively with community partners to understand and voice community needs, concerns and aspirations. Our long-form journalism projects (e.g, podcasts) involve robust community engagement to develop and report powerful stories that explain issues and seek solutions. 

Working closely with Senior Community Engagement Strategist jesikah maria ross, the Mellon Public Scholar will assist in developing and assessing engaged journalism projects at CapRadio that focus on underserved audiences and/or underreported issues ( is a recent example). This may involve doing issue research, generating story ideas, organizing listening sessions, assisting in community media trainings, evaluating impacts, producing a variety of communications pieces and coordinating public events. This summer, CapRadio will likely be doing long form reporting projects related to sexual assault and the 2020 elections. 

California Arts Council: Organizational Evaluation in the Arts  

Location: Sacramento, CA
Keywords: Arts, Racial Equity, Program Evaluation
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. The CAC recently completed an organizational strategic framework that, among other priorities, foregrounds racial equity. Additionally, the CAC is in the process of an extensive external evaluation of their programs, policies, and internal processes. The goal of this revitalizing work is to better align the grant-making practices of the CAC with their reimagined strategic goal of serving California’s communities in a more equitable way.

The CAC invites a Mellon Public Scholar to join in the creative and complex work of aligning their vision and practice. Drawing on an updated field scan of California’s nonprofit arts network, the Scholar will work together with CAC staff to identify new opportunities for outreach. In consultation with the external program evaluation findings, the Scholar will assist the CAC in devising and implementing new internal processes focused on racial equity. Depending on the outcome of the evaluation currently underway, the Scholar may contribute to additional projects.

Imagining America: Learning and Leading Initiative

Location: Davis, CA
Keywords: Public Scholarship, Higher Education, Culture Shift
NOTE: because this partnership is funded separately, Mellon Public Scholars alumni are also invited to apply

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA) invites applications for a Mellon Public Scholar to work on a national research project to shift culture in higher education to better support public scholarship in the arts, design and humanities fields. Called the IA Leading and Learning Initiative (LLI), this national research and action project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and involves action research, national networking, and the production of interactive tools and media for change agents who advocate for institutional change on behalf of public and activist scholarship.

The Mellon Public Scholar will work directly with IA and DHI staff to conduct research and facilitate dialogue about the experiences, hopes, and challenges of engaged graduate students at UC Davis. The fellow will also attend the annual Organizing Institutes of the LLI which will convene leading thought leaders and advocates of public scholarship from across the country, and will present research findings at the annual IA National Gathering. We welcome new applicants or previous Mellon Public Scholars to apply. Ideally the selected fellow will work with IA/DHI on this project for two consecutive summers, 2020-2021.

Evaluation Criterion, Review, and Selection

Review the full call for proposals for additional information about preparing and submitting an application to the program.