(June 26, 2019) -- As a knowledge enterprise, UTSA is committed to training the next generation of researchers and to addressing society’s grand challenges. To diversify the nation’s academe and to address challenges related to the nation’s growing population and changing demography, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded UTSA a $500,000 grant to support its Mellon Humanities Pathways Program.
The funding will advance the work of 36 student fellows from underrepresented and other backgrounds pursuing graduate studies and conducting research related to the theme Latinos in a Changing World. A dozen students per year for three years will receive support. They come from diverse racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
UTSA students will explore the impacts of this population growth by conducting qualitative and quantitative research in literature, art, music, history, communications, anthropology, sociology, philosophy and other humanities fields.
“The core goal of the program is to contribute to a more inclusive professoriate, thus one of the key strategies is to demystify academic careers one step at a time, from the initial steps of applying for graduate school to the skills and practices for a successful career beyond the Ph.D.,” replied Jerry Gonzalez, principal investigator (PI) of the grant, UTSA associate professor of history and director of the UTSA Mexico Center.
The UTSA fellows will be paired with a faculty mentor who is conducting research in the student’s area of interest. The mentors will work with the fellows one-on-one and share research and writing best practices.
“Many first-generation college students, low-income, community college transfers, military veterans, post-traditional or any combination of those groups have a difficult time navigating the process to prepare for an academic career. Many are not trained to craft a competitive graduate application packet even if they possess all the outstanding qualities that graduate programs seek,” explained Gonzalez.
The UTSA fellows will visit humanities Ph.D. programs in Texas, attend professionalization workshops and learn how to prepare their applications for graduate programs. Mentors provide guidance and letters of recommendation for the graduate school applications. Fellows also receive assistance writing their curriculum vitae and personal statements at the UTSA Writing Center on campus.
Prominent humanities scholars will visit UTSA to work directly with the fellows. The scholars will host workshops that will include research presentations followed by discussions about research methods, the scholar’s academic journey and how to prepare for a career in academia.
The Mellon Humanities Pathways Program is housed in the UTSA Mexico Center, which is part of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA).
UTSA launched the program with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in September 2016 under then PI, Harriett Romo who retires in August of this year. Currently wrapping up its third cohort, the program has been a significant educational resource for 36 fellows pursuing academic careers in the humanities.
The majority of those fellows have presented their research at local, state or national conferences and have applied and been accepted into post-baccalaureate programs.
Sarah Vegerano ’18, a post-traditional student, was a fellow in the Mellon Humanities Pathways Program. She is a disabled Navy veteran and mother who is originally from St. Peters, Missouri.
While at UTSA, Vegerano completed a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in political science and had her research published in the UTSA Journal of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Works (JURSW) in the fall of 2018.
This fall, she will begin a five-year Ph.D. program at Texas A&M University in College Station to continue her studies in U.S. history specializing in the development of the education system here in Texas starting in 1850.
Vegerano said the Mellon Humanities Pathways Program allowed her to explore her love of research and history.
“I grew academically by the involvement of my mentor, Jerry Gonzalez, and the amazing resources the program provided. I met my now Ph.D. TAMU advisor through my mentor because of our similar research interests and one of the many campus visits,” explained Vegerano. “I don't think I would have had the courage to apply let alone pursue a graduate degree if it had not been for this program, the amazing support and people within it.”
The Mellon Humanities Pathways Program enhances students’ subject matter knowledge of the humanities fields, develop students’ qualitative and quantitative research skills, strengthens fellows’ oral and written communication skills and prepares undergraduates to apply and succeed in humanities graduate programs and future careers in academia with the goal of diversifying higher education institutions across the nation.
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