The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminars on the Comparative Study of Cultures Solicitation

Please see the program webpage for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary 

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for collaborative research on historical and contemporary topics of major scholarly significance.  The seminars bring together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.  This program aims to engage productive scholars in multi-disciplinary and comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs. To date, 200 seminars have been funded.  Their subjects, which have ranged widely, can be viewed on the Foundation’s website.

Each seminar normally meets for one year, though some have continued for longer periods.  To allow for planning, seminars need not be scheduled for the coming academic year.  Faculty participants largely come from the humanities and interpretive social sciences, although some of the most successful and provocative seminars have also drawn on faculty in the arts and in professional schools.  Seminar leaders are encouraged to invite participants from nearby institutions, such as community colleges, liberal arts colleges, museums, research institutes, etc.  As the Foundation reviews proposals, preference will be given to those that include concrete plans for engaging participants with diverse institutional and disciplinary affiliations.

Sawyer Seminar awards provide support for one postdoctoral fellow to be recruited through a national competition, and for the dissertation research of two graduate students.  It is expected that the graduate students will be active participants in the intellectual life of the seminar.  The seminars’ contribution to graduate education in the humanities and social sciences will be carefully considered even though they are not intended to be organized as official credit-bearing courses.  Seminars are not expected to produce a written product, though many do.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST February 7, 2019

Sponsor Application Deadline: March 29, 2019

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Summary (up to 4 pages): Please include the following: the originality and significance of the central questions to be addressed, the cases to be compared and the rationale for the comparisons that are selected, the thematic “threads” that will run through the seminar, the institution’s resources and suitability for the proposed seminar, the procedures to be used in selecting graduate and postdoctoral fellows, a preliminary plan for the seminar that outlines the specific topics to be addressed in each session and provides the names/qualifications of the scholars who would ideally participate, identify principal seminar organizer(s).
  • Principal Seminar Organizer(s) Short CV(s): Please attach a short CV (1-2 pages) for each principal seminar organizer.
  • Budget Overview (up to 1 page): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit:

Limited Submission Guidelines

CU Boulder may submit one proposal for the limited submission spring 2019 Sawyer Seminar competition.

Award Information

Number of Awards: A panel of distinguished scholars will select ten proposals from the 15 to 20 the Foundation expects to receive.

Award Amount: Proposal budgets should not exceed $225,000. Each seminar’s budget must provide for a postdoctoral fellowship to be awarded for the year the seminar meets, and two graduate student dissertation fellowships to be awarded for the seminar year or the year that follows.  The amounts for postdoctoral fellowship awards and dissertation fellowship stipends should follow institutional practices.  To acknowledge the sustained intellectual involvement of these graduate students in the seminar, institutions may include tuition support or, for those funded by existing fellowships, supplementary support such as research and travel funds.  Travel and living expenses for short stays by visiting scholars and the costs of coordinating the seminar, including those incurred for speakers and their travel, may also be included.  Funds may not cover released time for regular faculty participants, or indirect costs.