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WSSU receives $600,000 Mellon Foundation grant for humanities

Spring flowers at WSSU's clocktower
WSSU is the first public North Carolina-based HBCU to receive a prestigious Mellon Foundation grant in more than 40 years.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) a $600,000 grant to strengthen its programs in the humanities. WSSU is one of the few public HBCUs – and one of only five University of North Carolina System institutions – to receive a grant over the Mellon Foundation’s 50-year history.

The three-year grant will provide the infrastructure to support faculty development and curriculum redesign for courses in art and visual studies, English, history, and music.

“We are thrilled that the Mellon Foundation recognizes the incredible work being done here at WSSU and the potential for us to deliver transformative change,” said WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson. “We are honored to be among the few schools to receive a significant award from an organization as prestigious as the Mellon Foundation.”

Over the next three years, WSSU faculty will restructure at least 54 humanities courses – from introductory courses to the senior capstone course – to support student success.

“Our strategic plan calls for a high-touch approach to bridge the gaps between students and their abilities to engage their education,” said Anthony Graham, provost and chief academic officer. “This grant will provide us with the resources to introduce these equitable practices throughout our humanities offerings. Research has found that this high-impact approach fosters student success and ensures that students obtain the essential skills they need to thrive in an ever-changing economy.”

The redesigned curriculum will focus on learning outcomes and introduce high-impact practices such as undergraduate scholarship, internships and creative endeavors.

Graham said WSSU will serve as a model for other minority-serving institutions, with faculty sharing what they’ve learned through presentations and publications.

The redesign also aims to:

  • Develop strong and relevant programs that attract faculty who are scholars in their fields.
  • Increase the number of WSSU students who major in humanities.
  • Develop a sustainable faculty leadership structure that supports a “teacher-scholar model” that brings curiosity and discovery into the classroom.
  • Create support structures to increase the number of students who pursue graduate studies in the humanities.

“The generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will reach beyond the College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education (CASBE),” said Darryl Scriven, CASBE dean. “It will elevate the level of humanities scholarship campuswide for both students and faculty.”

According to the proposal, three cross-disciplinary faculty learning communities (FTC) will be created to redesign courses based on established best practices. The project will be overseen by a leadership team consisting of administrators from the Provost’s Office, the Center for Innovative and Transformative Instruction (CITI), CASBE Dean’s Office, and Institutional Assessment and Research; and a faculty member in humanities.

The curriculum redesign will begin in the summer with the first of three faculty institutes and nine faculty members. Faculty will receive a stipend for participating in the institutes.

According to the proposal, faculty teaching foundational humanities courses in philosophy, world languages and African American culture also will be engaged as part of the curriculum redesign.

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WSSU has had recent success instituting curriculum reform in existing courses. In 2017, through a grant from the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), faculty began infusing an undergraduate research experience into its introductory biological science and chemistry courses.

This is WSSU’s first Mellon Foundation grant. The university becomes the first public North Carolina-based historically Black college and university (HBCU) to receive a prestigious Mellon Foundation grant in more than 40 years.

The announcement comes just three months after WSSU reported a record $2.3 million in new National Science Foundation (NSF) research grants.

WSSU ranks no. 9 in the nation on CollegeNET’s Social Mobility Index (SMI), which evaluates colleges and universities on how well they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into promising careers.

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment. 

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