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Helping the Humanities

Furman University has received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support eight new faculty positions in the humanities and interpretive social sciences.

The three-year grant will help the university further implement its plans to both improve diversity, inclusion and equity throughout the campus and grow its faculty to maintain an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio while increasing student enrollment from about 2,800 to 2,900. The diversity effort is part of The Furman Advantage, which promises each student an individualized experience that connects them with a team of mentors and engaged learning opportunities.

“We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its support of The Furman Advantage and our goal of developing a more diverse faculty and student body,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “Increasing faculty and staff diversity will allow us to continually improve the educational experience for all students and deliver on the promise of The Furman Advantage. This generous grant will allow us to move significantly toward that important goal.”

Furman will hire three tenure-track faculty in the first year of the grant (2017-18), three in the second year (2018-19) and two in the grant’s final year (2019-20). Each of the new faculty members will be designated as Mellon Fellows for their first three years.

“These new faculty members will enhance the university’s curricular offerings and diversify the breadth of the academic experience at Furman,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost George Shields. “We will hire in areas where growth is likely to occur and where diverse perspectives are woven into the fabric of the disciplines, which include communication studies, Middle East and Islamic studies, Latin American studies, and African American and African diaspora studies.”

The initiative is part of Furman’s larger diversity efforts. The university hired its first Chief Diversity Officer, Michael Jennings, this summer, and this fall’s freshman class is expected to be the most diverse in the university’s history. The new faculty members who will join the university in 2017-18 are also among the most diverse group in history.

“Furman has a rare opportunity to diversify the breadth of students’ academic and cultural experiences and to bring greater socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and ideological diversity to the curriculum and faculty pedagogy,” said Eugene Tobin, Mellon’s senior program officer in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities. “The university’s use of its home city of Greenville as a laboratory to explore the issues of poverty, community health and sustainability will also create robust undergraduate research opportunities.”


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