Humanities Corridor

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Overview of the History of The Central New York Humanities Corridor


The Central New York Humanities Corridor is a unique regional collaboration between Syracuse University, Cornell University, the University of Rochester, as well the schools of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium in seven different areas of research and humanistic inquiry.  Each institution brings a vibrant and distinguished humanistic scholarly tradition to the collective work of the CNY Humanities Corridor. In the aggregate, the Corridor’s programs bolster the relationships, productivity, and reciprocity common to the region’s humanities community, as well as heightened visibility, enhancing public engagement in its activities.  The initiative is today regarded as a highly visible scholarly presence in the region, if not nationally, as a new model of collaboration and resource-sharing that can also be adapted to other regions and inter-university partnerships.

Since its establishment in 2006, through a one million dollar award by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CNY Humanities Corridor’s mission has gradually evolved over the last five years to represent the following objectives:

  • To sustain a scholarly network of faculty members and graduate students who share teaching, research, and public engagement across the humanities.
  • To support research in specialized disciplinary areas under fiscal duress.
  • To support emergent areas of interdisciplinary inquiry that are not consolidated or financially supported at the academic level. 
  • To enhance the overall profile, scholarly prominence, and impact of the interdisciplinary humanities in Central New York through the advancement of individual and collaborative teaching, research, and public engagement. 
  • To increase connectivity and collaboration among academic humanists throughout the Central New York region.
  • To foster cross-institutional partnerships and resource-sharing mechanisms in emerging and established scholarly fields through thematic research clusters and faculty working groups.

Under the direction of Dean Cathryn Newton, College of Arts and Sciences, the first phase of the Corridor initiative (2005-2007) was established on three basic principles: overlapping areas of scholarly strength, connectivity of already existing faculty networks, and potential for greater regional collaboration in research activities. The collaboration was not intended to substitute for robust humanities programs at each of the universities separately, but to take fuller advantage of existing strengths and cultivate new synergy. In this context, research areas were defined as thematic “clusters,” where scholars from all three institutions, initially led by a Syracuse University faculty coordinator, engaged in collective research activities (i.e., workshops, colloquia, lectures, and performances). The five original clusters were:

  • Philosophy and Linguistics
  • Cultures and Religions
  • The Interface between Humanities and Science/Technology
  • Visual Arts and Cultures
  • Music History/ Musicology

Furthermore, In the initial phase, technology planning and distance initiatives became imperative, and were implemented to facilitate networked research collaborations and digital events.

Beginning in 2008, the Humanities Corridor underwent significant administrative restructuring when Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The Syracuse University Humanities Center, was appointed as principal investigator by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. One of the first changes Lambert made was to transfer fiscal and administrative oversight from the Dean’s Office of The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University and Cornell University to the humanities center of each institution. Lambert appointed two project directors at Cornell University and University of Rochester who have served as co-principal investigators of the Humanities Corridor from 2008 onward: Timothy Murray, professor of comparative literature and English, director of The Society of the Humanities, and curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Studies at Cornell University and Thomas DiPiero, professor of French and visual and cultural studies, ex-officio on the board of The Humanities Project, and senior associate dean of humanities at the University of Rochester. As a result of this change in leadership, The CNY Humanities Corridor is now firmly anchored at all three universities by a humanities center or division-wide interdisciplinary program: The Syracuse University Humanities Center, The Society of the Humanities at Cornell University, and The Humanities Project at University of Rochester.

Perhaps more importantly, the original organization of research clusters was redefined to accommodate multiple working groups and projects within each area, which importantly served to expand participation and connectivity along the Corridor. As a result, the level of participation and number of faculty working groups from all three institutions increased significantly, and by 2009 there were over thirty  faculty working groups comprising over 160 faculty; moreover, established working groups within each cluster assumed so much of the original cluster coordinators’ responsibilities that this role was distributed to faculty coordinators throughout the Corridor. 

December 14, 2008, following a request outlining a plan for external review of the project under the new administrative and programatic structure, the Mellon Foundation extended the original three year period of the grant 92006-2008) to support continuing activities through the end of 2010. This NCE period was then supplemented by an additional bridging award in spring 2011 following a successful external review in fall 2010 and pending reapplication for a second phase of the Humanities Corridor project.

July 14, 2011, a second award of one million dollars was approved by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for phase II activities and working groups to begin in spring 2012, including the expansion of the CNY Humanities Corridor to include liberal arts colleges and other institutions in the CNY region. Please see 2012 Wprking Groups for current list of activities and projects. 

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Principles of Phase II Planning: The CNY Humanities Corridor 2.0

Following the recommendations from the external review completed in 2010, the principal investigator and project directors began drafting a strategic plan for a second phase of The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor, in accordance with the recommendations of the external review committee, as well as consultation with the Mellon Foundation.

As a result of the assessment of performance and activities that took place during the first cycle of the grant, and upon identification of further strengths and areas of potential collaboration, the five principal goals of phase II are as follows:

  1. To continue to strike a fair and appropriate balance between disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, while stimulating areas of inquiry that are new and/or unevenly distributed across The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor, such as the “Digital Humanities.”
  2. To support areas with traditionally strong inter-­‐‑institutional partnerships (e.g., philosophy and linguistics), as well as areas that have flourished under the auspices of The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor in Phase I (e.g., visual arts & cultures and music history/musicology).
  3. To add three new areas as research clusters—1) digital humanities; 2) literature, language, and culture; and 3) archives and media. These partnerships will enhance the scholarly prominence and impact of the interdisciplinary humanities throughout the region, and will make use of the strong archival resources and collections unique to the region in order to expand research collaboration and exchange.
  4. To broaden participation in the regional collaboration by including faculty members and working groups from other regional colleges and universities into The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor beginning in the first full calendar year of Phase II (2012).
  5. To increase the number of annual visiting research collaborators who are supported by the Mellon Foundation and are housed in anchoring centers to stimulate research in working groups and clusters.

In addition to these areas of focus, participating faculty members and established working groups will continue to nurture existing collaborations that have demonstrated a potential for significant growth. These successful programs provide the foundation for The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor as a nationally recognized leader in inter-institutional humanities scholarship.

Download a Complete Prospectus of Working Groups & Proposed Activities for 2012 and beyond.

Related Article(s): Syracuse University News Release

The Central New York Humanities Corridor received an award of one million dollars from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a second phase of projects and activities beginning in 2012.