Mellon Foundation backs new paradigm for Area Studies

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A gift of $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, announced in July, will help the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s eight Area Studies centers deal with challenges they will face as the U.S. Department of Education dramatically reduces funding for National Resource Centers (NRCs) across the country.

UW-Madison is one of only three institutions in the U.S. – along with the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Washington – to have eight NRCs on its campus, the largest number of such centers in the nation.The eight NRCs are: the African Studies Program, the Center for East Asian Studies, the Center for European Studies, the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program, the Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia, the Center for South Asia, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and Global Studies. All are housed in the College of Letters & Science.

UW-Madison’s strengths reflect a distinctive approach: basing international research and training programs in departments, where graduate students are exposed to new frontiers in scholarship. As a result, strong links have been developed and promoted among the departments and the cross-disciplinary area studies centers, corresponding to the University’s long tradition of encouraging and rewarding interdisciplinary collaboration. This has supported the core mission of the departments while giving faculty and students a second intellectual community where they belong.

The Mellon Foundation gift will provide “bridge funding” over several years to allow the university to prepare for the future, developing new ideas on how area studies and language instruction can be conducted and how international experiences will be offered to students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels – a major campus priority. It will help the university to deal with the negative impact of 47 percent federal budget cuts, enabling UW-Madison to create “A New Paradigm for Area Studies” and reformulate what the University has always been best at: research and training that fosters interdisciplinary and cross-regional conversations among faculty members and students inside and outside the classroom.

Story by University of Wisconsin Foundation