Final Round of Grand Research Challenge Projects Awarded

Researchers, community partners to co-create new forms of knowledge

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – February 8, 2023

reciprocity transparent

The Humanities Without Walls Consortium (HWW) has announced seven new projects funded by the final round of the Grand Research Challenge (GRC). Each of the interdisciplinary research teams will receive an award of $150,000 over a three-year period, provided by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Applicants were prompted to build their proposals around the question of how collaborative humanities research can address the most compelling and urgent questions of our time and how to design a humanities ecosystem that is truly “without walls.” For the past eight years, the HWW consortium has been guided by these questions, creating new avenues for collaborative research, teaching, and the production of scholarship in the humanities.

Headquartered at the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the HWW consortium links sixteen research universities in the Midwest and beyond. By leveraging the strengths of multiple campuses, the consortium has developed a range of interdisciplinary research teams through more than fifty unique collaborative project awards.


Grand Research Challenge Projects

“Listening for the Long Haul: A Living History of Long COVID”
PI: Jennifer Brier, University of Illinois Chicago

“Listening for the Long Haul” joins Long Covid Justice (LCJ), a community-based organization, and UIC’s History Moves, a public history project led by Jennifer Brier, to produce a multifaceted community-centered history of Long COVID. We ask how public history can be useful in producing policies that are more responsive to individual and community needs in the face of pandemics and mass-disabling events, and in the process make us all healthier and more resilient.

“Maya in the Global Midwest”
PI: Laura Horton, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Maya in the Global Midwest” assembles a diverse team of community organizations from two Midwestern communities with speakers of Indigenous Mayan languages. Through a series of workshops, a community-based survey, and community-driven interviews, the project highlights community concerns, experiences, and strengths around issues of language access and language justice. The project is a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Eastern Michigan University, and four local community organizations: Puentes and the Immigrant Worker Project, based in Ohio, and Pixan Konob’ Maya Q'anjob'al Language Justice Collective and The New American Welcome Center, based in Illinois.

“Studying Oak Woods”
PI: Na’ama Rokem, University of Chicago

This project supports the documentation and preservation work done by the Bronzeville Historical Society at Oak Woods Cemetery, a historic site located in Woodlawn, Chicago. The primary focus is on the notable African Americans buried at this site, and on the social and cultural contexts that it is embedded in. Through research, public programing, teaching, and documentation, we aim to create new knowledge and increase public interest in this important site.

"The Flint Water Disaster Public Archive"
PI: Louise Seamster, University of Iowa

The “Flint Water Disaster Public Archive” will re-home public data that has been largely inaccessible to Flint communities—a form of data justice that is of urgent relevance to the history, present, and future of those communities. The project is a collaboration between the University of Iowa, University of Michigan, the Flint Democracy Defense League, and We the People of Detroit.

“Archival Repatriation and Boarding School Healing: The Morris Indian Industrial School and White Earth Nation”
PI: Kevin Whalen, University of Minnesota, Morris

Archival Repatriation and Boarding School Healing” will bring archival records from the Morris Indian School to White Earth Nation, where they will be used in community meetings focused on healing from historical trauma. This project is a partnership between the University of Minnesota, Morris, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Niibi Center, a White Earth-based non-profit supporting tribal people in sharing and processing stories around boarding schools, forced removal, land loss and other historical traumas.

“Black Study and Creative Praxis in the Greater Midwest”
PI: Terrion Williamson, University of Illinois Chicago

“Black Study & Creative Praxis in the Greater Midwest” brings together scholars, artists, and organizers for a series of linked activities that will converge at the Third Biennial Black Midwest Symposium that will take place in Dayton, Ohio in October 2024. This project is a collaboration between the Black Midwest Initiative, Sinclair Community College, Dayton Metro Library, Central State University, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Belt Publishing, and Obsidian Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora.

"Communiversities as education without walls: Building coalitions for liberatory education through the humanities"
PI: Asif Wilson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

This project will create communiversities (community-based, people-centered popular educational spaces) in three midwestern cities (Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit) with long histories of educational enclosure and social movement organizing. In total, the three communiversity sites will bring together close to 60 K-12 students, community activists, and P-20 educators, who will engage in inquiry-to-action projects, co-designed and co-led by teams of university faculty, leaders at community-based organizations, and youth.


About Humanities Without Walls 

Established in 2014 with the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, HWW is a consortium of humanities centers at sixteen research universities throughout the Midwest and beyond—a large-scale experiment in collaboration as a dynamic scholarly practice. Through a variety of programs for faculty and graduate students, HWW aims to create new avenues for collaborative and interdisciplinary research, publicly engaged scholarship, and professional opportunities for graduate students.



Grand Research Challenge web page

Contact: Erin Ciciora, Senior Communications Manager