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The Importance of Scholarship: Faculty Fellowship Program

September 12, 2019 | Sophia Ramos, IAH Communications Specialist
Hyde Hall Fellows
The Fellows Room in Hyde Hall sits in McCorkle Place. (Jafar Fallahi)

Ruel W. Tyson, Jr., the Institute’s founder, set out to create a space that would foster liberal arts learning and support faculty excellence on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus in 1987. With the creation of what is now known as the Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH), the first initiative launched by Tyson was the flagship Faculty Fellowship Program (FFP).

He understood that Carolina faculty harnessed vast intellectual power and that the pursuit of scholarship benefitted not only faculty but the University as a whole. In the fall of 1988, four faculty members gathered together to become the first FFP cohort at the Institute. 

It makes sense that arts and humanities scholarship was the first pillar of faculty support at the IAH. Our goal is to alter perspectives, open minds, and change lives. It all begins with those who have the greatest ability to do so: our faculty. We recognize that a productive scholar is continuously involved in research, writing, and creative efforts that advance knowledge in his or her particular field. Moreover, scholarship also ties to service. An article by the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that scholarship plays a major role in public discourse, where faculty can provide information solely focused on presenting the facts. An intellectual approach is critical in public discourse, an arena that can become murky in the news and media.

However, diminished resources and increased teaching loads can make it difficult for our faculty members to work toward their scholarship. For this reason, the FFP provides the invaluable gift of time. Carolina faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences are offered a semester-long, on-campus fellowship for dedicated work on projects that lead to publication, exhibition, composition or performance within the Faculty Fellowship Program. The benefits of these fellowships extend past a Fellow’s semester, also enabling faculty to develop new courses, programs, and initiatives. 

This was true for Dr. Ariana Vigil, Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Her research in the field Latina/o literature was supported by a Faculty Fellowship in Spring 2018, generating momentum and making long-lasting impacts on her scholarship. 

“The time to devote to research set the basis for increased productivity in years to come. I made significant progress on several projects that have since been published or are about to be,” said Dr. Vigil. 

In addition to time, a hidden gem of the FFP is the opportunity to forge connections with colleagues of different disciplines. Over the past 30 years the FFP has built a network of over 700 interdisciplinary scholars and artists who receive ongoing support from their new group of colleagues. Each semester cohort is comprised of up to 10 Faculty Fellows that meet during a weekly seminar to discuss their projects as well as broader topics of relevance to UNC faculty. The FFP Program Director — a faculty member and former Fellow — facilitates the weekly meetings. This semester, Interim Program Director Dr. Reneé Alexander Craft, Associate Professor of Communication, oversees the Fall 2019 cohort. 

History Professor Kathleen DuVal
History Professor Kathleen DuVal teaches in Hamilton Hall. (Johnny Andrews/ UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Kathleen Duval, UNC Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of History, initially applied to become a Faculty Fellow in 2013 to have time to pursue research for her book Independence Lost: The Gulf Coast and the American Revolution (2015). She found an added benefit was becoming immersed in an intellectual atmosphere where she could share ideas with faculty from political science, English, communication, anthropology, and even computer science. 

“Between teaching and service, it’s hard to find time to devote to research during the school year. The IAH Faculty Fellowship Program allowed me to make tremendous progress on my book and return to the classroom and the department refreshed,” said Duval.

At Carolina, arts and humanities scholarship starts here at the IAH. The application deadline for the 2020-2021 Faculty Fellows is Thursday, September 26, 2019. IAH Faculty Fellowships support work in which the arts or humanities play a central role, but we also welcome proposals from faculty in the natural and social sciences if the proposed project focuses on the arts or humanities.

For more information about the fellowship, please visit the Faculty Fellowship Program page. To learn ways you can support our Fellows, please visit here.