UC celebrates $15 million Mellon grant to support faculty diversity

The University of California today (July 16) announced the receipt of a $15 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP). This funding will help expand the number of PPFP fellowships at UC and establish a program for hiring faculty whose research and teaching emphasize diversity and equity in the humanities and humanities-inflected social sciences at the University’s six federally recognized Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI). These include UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis.

“Mellon’s generous gift will support our postdoctoral fellows for careers in academia and offer additional mentorship for tenure-track faculty posts at the University,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “This funding from the Foundation bolsters support for those whose earnest work advances diversity, equity and inclusion — all enduring values and priorities for UC. We are so appreciative.”

Mellon’s impactful gift will create the PPFP/Mellon Foundation UC-HSI Initiative for Humanities and help facilitate UC’s comprehensive efforts to assist young scholars whose research, teaching and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity at UC. The initiative will offer promising postdoctoral fellows and early career faculty startup funding, mentorship and career training in their fields of study. The program will also ensure UC-HSI campuses have the resources to effectively recruit fellows in the supported disciplines.

Originally founded in 1984, PPFP is a nationally prominent model program that offers postdoctoral research fellowships, professional development and faculty mentoring to outstanding scholars in all fields whose research, teaching and service contribute to diversity and equal opportunity at UC.

“Nothing is more important for the long-term vitality of the academy nationwide than the mentorship and recruitment of excellent and diverse faculty,” said UC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael T. Brown. “We need a professoriate drawn from all walks of life and experiences. With the $15 million provided by the Mellon Foundation, we can continue to build that scholarly community, which truly reflects the demographics of California and our country.”

The PPFP has a long track record of success. In the past five years the program has supported 309 fellows, 121 of whom obtained tenure track positions within UC. With the grant, the initiative will expand this important work over the next five years by increasing the number of two-year fellowships by 10 per year as well as supporting eight new faculty positions annually at UC-HSI campuses.

“The President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for recognizing the transformative, results-driven work of our program,” said President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Director Mark A. Lawson, who will serve as principal investigator of the project. “President Drake and Provost Brown were key drivers in securing this important funding. UC’s lived values of supporting diverse faculty and striving to make our campuses more inclusive align well with Mellon’s mission. This partnership will expand opportunities for promising scholars in the humanities and enhance UC’s growing HSI campuses as they provide meaningful and impactful education to our students.”

For 30 years, the PPFP has led in promoting equity in faculty hiring across academic disciplines at UC. Fellows selected by the program can be of any race, ethnicity or gender, but must demonstrate work that contributes to diversity and equal opportunity at UC. In the past three decades the program has continued to recruit highly-qualified candidates across disciplines and from around the world.

"The UC system's long-term commitment to its innovative and impactful President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program has long served as a model across higher education, demonstrating the requirement of recruiting and retaining outstanding diverse and inclusive faculty to the creation of a healthy academic ecosystem,” said Mellon Foundation Senior Program Officer Dianne Harris. “With the growth and demographic transformation of the University of California's student body, this grant likewise creates an opportunity to support expansion and transformation of the PPFP to strengthen the humanities and elevate faculty and student success. Notably, it is further clearing pathways to the professoriate for those whose work advances diversity, equity and inclusion, and for forging links that connect higher education access to the creation of a more just society."

You may find further information on the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP) here. Additionally, you may find UC PPFP faculty success stories here and here.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Mellon Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where everyone can express their complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through Mellon's grants, they seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.