The Environmental Humanities Graduate program at the University of Utah trains the next generation of environmental leaders and thinkers, positioning them to study climate change, resilience, advocacy and environmental justice in preparation for changing the world. In recognition of the program’s environmental impact, the Mellon Foundation has awarded them with a three-year grant renewal, providing $791,000 to fund graduate fellowships, create leadership pathways for students from underrepresented groups, collaborate with communities directly affected by climate change and environmental racism and work closely with grassroots leaders.
“We are so incredibly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their continued support of our EH program,” said Hollis Robbins, dean of the College of Humanities. “This funding will allow the interdisciplinary program to expand its reach and impact in addressing urgent matters in environmental change. The program is truly an example of how the humanities train students to think critically and creatively to solve our society’s largest problems.”
The Mellon Foundation is the nation’s premier funder for humanities education with a mission to support exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education. As a leader in the field, the U’s program trains its students to solve environmental problems using the tools of the humanities.
“The Mellon Foundation’s continued support is evidence of the great work EH faculty and students have been doing,” said Jeffrey McCarthy, former director of the program. “Mellon recognizes Utah as a leader in the crucial work of environmental justice. I am especially pleased that this new grant foregrounds Native voices as we navigate the unfolding climate emergency.”
The EH program encourages creative and scholarly exchanges toward new forms of environmental leadership and environmental justice. The Mellon Foundation-funded Environmental Humanities Community Fellows program furthers its efforts in environmental justice and community-engaged learning by supporting fellows who form reciprocal partnerships with community organizations and develop projects that address local environmental justice issues. This work reframes the field of environmental justice studies by including historically silenced voices, bridging community work and university work, foregrounding Indigenous voices, and deploying humanities tools toward structural change.
“With a focus on creating a diverse graduate program, we have recruited under-represented students and trained them toward academic leadership and community success,” said Danielle Endres, director of the EH program. “We have also reimagined our curriculum toward community engagement, partnered with American Indian leaders, and helped our Mellon Fellows change the paradigm for community-engaged learning with careful listening and judicious regrants to under-resourced community partners like Outdoor Afro, Art Access, and Asian Pacific Islander Advocates Utah.”
The Mellon Foundation helps support the work of the Environmental Humanities Program in three core areas: environmental justice, Indigenous knowledge, and community-engaged research and learning. This enables the program to build and sustain pathways for historically underrepresented students to become environmental leaders, to learn from and respect the lived experiences of those most impacted by environmental degradation, and to work closely with grassroots community organizations focused on a range of issues including environmental racism, disability access, air quality, equitable access to the natural world, energy transition, and more.
“We have an ambitious plan to shape environmental justice studies in American higher education. This renewal of funds balances our ongoing work with a vision for the future. Given our ongoing success, we will continue recruiting great students, award two Mellon Fellowships per year, advise them closely, support their scholarship, watch them transform the university, and assist as they partner with community leaders. Looking forward, we aim to foreground relationships with American Indian communities, to center environmental justice in the university, and we aim to empower community-engaged learning. In practice, this means affirming our nascent relationships with Ute, Diné, Goshute, and Shoshone partners,” added Endres.
Established in 2005, the Environmental Humanities Program lives in the U’s College of Humanities and draws its faculty from departments including philosophy, communications, languages and English. The program has built stable and deep campus partnerships with contributing faculty from the Law School, Social and Behavioral Sciences and the university’s new School for Cultural and Social Transformation.