By Margaret MacDonald
A $1.65 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will strengthen UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative. The program, initially launched by a $2 million award from the Mellon Foundation in 2013, is dedicated to studying contemporary issues in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai and Mexico City.
The new funding will help UCLA provide graduate and undergraduate students with vital scholarly skills, support curricula and new faculty research on historical as well as contemporary urban issues, and pay for scholars to travel to cities around the Pacific Rim.
Together, the two Mellon grants are the largest received by UCLA for curricula that span the School of Arts and Architecture, the Division of Humanities, and the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The grant continues UCLA’s participation in the Mellon Foundation’s Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities initiative, which since 2012 has provided funding to a total of 16 institutions in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
At UCLA, urban humanities scholars use innovative means to study cities, merging approaches from architecture and urbanism with historical-critical approaches from the humanities and, in particular, cutting-edge film and mapping techniques from digital humanities.
“The study of urban life in the Pacific Rim embraces global issues that are particularly situated and made visible through the overlapping lenses of design, history, ethnography, visual and literary studies, and spatial analysis,” said Dana Cuff, a UCLA professor of architecture and urban design.
Cuff is the project’s lead principal investigator, along with Todd Presner, a professor of digital humanities; Maite Zubiaurre, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese; and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning.
In its first three years, the Urban Humanities Initiative engaged 75 graduate students from across campus in a certificate program, supported more than 30 faculty members, held symposia and produced numerous publications. The program will be extended to undergraduate students in the next three years. After the Mellon funding concludes, it will be administered jointly by the deans of the schools of arts and architecture and public affairs, and the humanities division in the UCLA College.
“We are immensely gratified that the Mellon Foundation is continuing to support our efforts, ensuring that this excellent program will continue to serve our students for many years to come,” said David Schaberg, dean of the humanities division.
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.