Application FAQ

2020–22 Guidelines

Deadline for Application: Friday, January 31, 2020.

A general information and interest meeting was held on Thursday, January 16, at 12:30 pm in conference room D of the Humanities Center, Rush Rhees Library.

Why should I be interested in the Mellon fellowships?

There are many good reasons. You may want to explore how digital tools can enrich your primary program of research. You may want to participate with others in the creation of important scholarly resources. You may want to mentor others through university programs that feature outreach to the community at large. You may want to attend offsite summer workshops at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria (or any of its associated workshops elsewhere). You may want to improve your professional qualifications for the academic job market and/or for alternative jobs that (frequently) call for digital skills in addition to the background you’re acquiring in your academic specialty.

Who can apply?

Any PhD student in good standing in English, History, Philosophy, or Visual and Cultural Studies is eligible. Students may apply during any year of their tenure as PhD students, and they may submit applications while they are working on any major milestone of their graduate careers (exam preparation, dissertation prospectus, dissertation writing). Different departments have different requirements for students in the various years of their studies; the Mellon fellowship program is flexible enough to take these differences into account.

The application calls for a writing sample. What should it be? How long should it be?

The writing sample should be whatever writing you think represents the quality of your best work. It can be on any topic at any length (although ideally something in the 15–30 page range).

The instructions say I need a letter from my advisor. I don’t have an advisor yet.

You should ask a faculty member familiar with your work to write a confidential letter of support. (Ask the faculty member to send the letter directly to

What will Mellon fellows be doing?

The fellowship lasts for two years, and includes additional support for attending workshops, conferences, etc., that are relevant to your Mellon work: $3000 per year for offsite training at workshops in the summer, for instance, and $2000 per year for travel to conferences. Fellows will spend roughly 10 hours/week engaged in fellowship activities (analogous to other fellowships in which students are engaged in academic service). Here is a very rough breakdown of fellowship activities:

  • Participation in Digital Media Studies (DMS) 501, the official Mellon seminar, which meets weekly for a mix of planning, reading and discussion, presentations, and brief training sessions. The fellows conceive and execute a very successful series of Digital Lunches; visits by scholars known for their work in the digital humanities; and, every other year, a national colloquium of some sort. Decisions are made as a group—by you in collaboration with the other fellows.
  • Year 1 and Year 2 include some combination of:
    • 1. Research assistantships in collaborative digital projects at UR.
    • 2. Participation in collaborative projects and initiatives that may or may not be at based UR but face outward toward the larger community (academic and otherwise).

What if my principal area of research—the topic of my dissertation—is not digital? What if the digital humanities are a secondary interest for me?

If you are interested in learning broadly about technology in the humanities, then you should apply to the Mellon fellowship program. You will need to articulate in your application the potential relationship between your humanities research and expertise in technology that you would like to cultivate, and you should also indicate ways in which you think technology might inform your future thinking. You do not need to describe a digital project for yourself. And prior digital skills aren’t required.

Is DMS 501, “Seminar in Digital Humanities,” a 4-credit course?

No. It is a 1-credit discussion course co-directed by faculty and students. In this as in all other respects, the Mellon program encourages both a high degree of autonomy and an equally high degree of collaboration among the fellows.

Is there any special reason why is the Mellon fellowship program is based in the Humanities Center and the Rush Rhees Library? Is there a special relationship?

We’re glad you noticed. There are several reasons, so here’s a long answer. From the start, Mellon fellows have participated in the development of new curricula and training programs. As opportunities for digital work at UR have increased, so have interdisciplinary partnerships across (and beyond) the university. The River Campus Libraries, though, have been a key to the Mellon program’s success. The Humanities Center in Rush Rhees Library provides a home for the fellows’ training and research, generously providing carrels, meeting spaces, and administrative support. The Library itself provides the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL), without which the Mellon program could not exist. The DSL provides vital support for the fellows’ training and research—through the generous ongoing technical consultation, that has consistently supported our Mellon fellows at all stages of training, project design, and execution. Conversely, Mellon fellows have been involved in many of the Lab’s projects.

More broadly, UR’s River Campus Libraries, including their impressive range of staff with skills directly relevant to the digital humanities and a strong desire to serve the academic community, have further benefited our projects. The fellows have on multiple occasions used the VISTA Collaboratory, for instance, an advanced imaging facility in the Carlson Science & Engineering Library (Studio X, one of the three new teaching/learning programs in prospect, will be located in Carlson). Altogether, these additions have contributed to a highly creative and supportive context for our Mellon fellows and their work, and vice versa. Indeed, the Mellon program’s openness and extreme interdisciplinarity fit well with the Library’s progressive orientation and its commitment to (and long history of) academic partnership and innovation.

Past fellows have worked with every member of the staff of the Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab, led by Emily Sherwood, PhD, director of the lab and a close collaborator in the expansion of DH at UR. Fellows have also contributed to projects coordinated/sponsored by other Library staff, such as the venerable, highly respected Medieval English Texts project (Robbins Library, directed by Anna Siebach-Larsen, PhD). The latest developments in the Library’s plans, which stand to provide significant new opportunities for the Mellon fellows, are Library Carpentries, a collaborative digital skills-sharing program with Colgate, Cornell, and Syracuse Universities; Tinkerspace, an entry level training program for all UR students; and Studio X, a program devoted to augmented and virtual reality. Each of these programs will provide a new range of opportunities for the Mellon fellows.

Definitions and Explanations.

Project-based courses are those in which students engage in hands-on work in addition to studying traditional humanities materials. Graduate students co-teaching with faculty in these courses will learn the relevant technologies and assist undergraduates in developing their skills and applying them to the humanities materials. They will also help students understand how digital forms of materials they may already be familiar with inflect those materials with new kinds of meaning. A number of such courses have been offered in the past, and indications are that the number and diversity are increasing. Mellon fellows will not be serving as TAs—they are expected to be co-teachers, mentors, and research associates.

A Faculty Humanities Lab is an ongoing faculty-led research project, generally one that is complex and that benefits from the participation of several people. FHLs typically consist of a faculty Principal Investigator (sometimes two or more PIs); at least one graduate student working with that faculty member; and, often, undergraduates to whom the graduate student serves as mentor. In this scenario, graduate students serve as both apprentices and mentors, learning as much as possible from the faculty PI(s) about the project, and then (a) doing his or her own work on the project and (b) mentoring undergraduates who work on the project. Some Faculty Humanities Labs are occasionally associated with academic courses; others are not. (See list of projects below.)

Examples of ongoing FHL’s have included Morris Eaves’s William Blake Archive; Thomas Slaughter’s Seward Family Papers project; Michael Jarvis’s Virtual St. George’s [Bermuda]; Joel Burges’s Visualizing Televisual Time; Joanne Bernardi’s Reenvisioning Japan; Peter Christensen’s Architectural Biometrics; the Robbins Library’s Middle English Text Series; and Gregory Heyworth’s Lazarus and R-Chive projects—among others. Interest, activity, and resources in the digital humanities at UR have increased sharply since the program began in 2013-14. Mellon fellows at UR have a remarkable track record of participation and accomplishment in a very diverse array of initiatives across the university and region, including those in the Warner School of Education and Human Development, the Eastman School of Music, and the Mellon-funded Central New York Humanities Corridor (where Mellon fellows helped to found the Global Digital Humanities group).

Further questions should be directed to Morris Eaves (

Note that the new fellows selected for 2020-2022 will redesign and update the site to suit their aims and aspirations.