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(Last Updated On: June 6, 2017)

The Mellon Undergraduate Research grant is designed to support the development of a research intensive curriculum in the Arts and Humanities. Three key components of the grant are the integration of community based research, digital humanities tools, and undergraduate research. These three building blocks  are aimed to be inclusive of underrepresented students, providing them the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research in the Arts and Humanities.

To support the goals of the Mellon Undergraduate Research grant the Occidental College Center for Digital Liberal Arts organized the Mellon Undergraduate Research Institute, a four day intensive gathering of Mellon funded departments in the Arts and Humanities. The objectives were to come together and workshop syllabi, think of innovative ways to incorporate dissimilar discipline pedagogy, and develop a support network.  Each day had an overarching theme and featured presentations from previous Mellon grant recipients, workshops, and discussions.

Day 1: Undergraduate Research as Knowledge Production

The first day of MURI began with addressing course design and undergraduate research. After a workshop to define the learning goals of their courses, Mellon Fellows were given time in discussion to think through the challenges of incorporating undergraduate research into their courses due to the nature research in their discipline. Some Fellows were proponents of creating a sub-discipline, giving students the ability to conduct a form of undergraduate research within the field. Others favored creating research groups within their courses enabling students to learn the tools and methods of research in the field. Overall, there were many ideas proposed on how to incorporate undergraduate research into the various Arts and Humanities disciplines. The day was closed with an Ignite session, where Mellon Fellows were invited to set their intention for the week by sharing what they wanted to accomplish at MURI.

Day 2: Community Based Learning (CBL)

Day two focused on Community Based Learning and Research with an introductory presentation and discussion led by Celestina Castillo, Director of the Center for Community Based Learning. At times Mellon Fellows expressed concern with  the very nature of their discipline and the goals of the grant to incorporate CBL. To address this concern Celestina laid out the foundational principles and the possibilities that exist within CBL and CBR courses. This dialogue was followed up by workshop time, where Mellon Faculty Fellows and Post-Docs could think of creative ways to make Community Based Learning an integral part of their course.They then articulated their vision for Community Based Learning in the Ignite session. Philosophy Post-Doc Fellow, Santiago Mejia, summed up his vision beautifully stating “Community based learning has the potential to rekindle our communities’ interest in the humanities and remind them of their value for society.”

Day 3: The Digital Liberal Arts

On day three MURI explored the Digital Liberal Arts and Undergraduate Research. To exemplify the intersection of the two grant goals, Professor Donna Maeda of the CTSJ department presented on her Mellon course, Diversity at Oxy, and its effective use of Omeka as a digital archive and a way to exhibit her students research in the course. Professor Maeda’s presentation was followed up by discussion time on public scholarship and digital tools, where Mellon Fellows thought about the different digital tools they would be incorporating into their courses. The day ended with another thoughtful Ignite session where Fellows reflected on what undergraduate research is in their department. American Studies Post Doc Fellow Amy Tahani shared with the group that American Studies undergraduate research “ is a combination of textual analysis and applied theory/practice.”

Day 4: Building Intellectual Community

The final day of MURI was spent defining and building intellectual community for Mellon Fellows. This included a  feedback session where participants could share their opinions on how the institute went over the course of four days. Constructively the fellows agreed  that the sessions should have started at a very basic level of inquiry asking questions like: What are the methods and pedagogies of each discipline funded by the Mellon grant? What do they already do with their students in regards to undergraduate research and community based learning? The CDLA team echoed this sentiment and expressed the desire to address these questions in the Mellon Working Group. Moreover a resounding positive sentiment from all Mellon Fellows was a new found sense of camaraderie and interdepartmental intellectual community.

MURI was successful at creating a solid foundation for CDLA, CCBL, and Mellon Faculty and Post-Doc Fellow collaboration and support. Thank you to all those who organized and participated in MURI.

MURI Guest Speakers


Patty Ahn, Assistant Prof. Department of Communication, UCSD

Mellon Post-Doc Fellow 16’

Day 2: Community Partnerships and Inclusive Pedagogy, Media and Social Movements


Donna Maeda, Professor of CTSJ, Occidental College

Mellon Faculty Fellow 16′

Day 3: Digital Liberal Arts,  Diversity at Oxy

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-19-55-amSharla Fett, Professor of History, Occidental College

Mellon Faculty Fellow 16′

Day 4: Building Intellectual Community, Colored Conventions

MURI Arts and Humanities Fellows


Professor Clair Morissey, Mellon Faculty Fellow 17′

Santiago Mejia, Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow 17′

Mellon Fall 2016 Courses

PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy

CSP 17: Equality as a social ideal

Comparitive Studies in Literature and Culture

Professor Damian Stocking, Mellon Faculty Fellow 17′

Professor Chris Gilman, Associate Director CDLA

Professor Debra Freas, Mellon Faculty Fellow 17′

Brian Klausmeyer, Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow 17′

Mellon Fall 2016 Courses

CSLC 241: Spectacle and Stage in Ancient Rome

CSLC 109: From Kafka to Twitter: Small Forms of the Literary

CSP 4: “To Be Continued…”: The Serial Impulse in Literature and Other Media

American Studies

Amy Tahani, Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow

Mellon Fall 2016 Courses

American Studies 101: Intro to American Studies (Sandy Pattison)

CSP 26: In the Process of Shattering Their Chains: Modern Literatures of Resistance in the US & Middle East

Embedded Participant & Mellon CoPI

Professor Amy Lyford

MURI Inspired Course

ARTH 389: Modern and Contemporary Art