Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars

Please see the program webpage for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO). Given the foundation’s focus on social justice, proposals without a social or racial justice component are unlikely to be competitive.

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. The 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, 230 seminars have been funded. Their subjects, which have ranged widely, can be viewed on our website.

As you consider seminar topics it is important that you bear in mind the mission of the Higher Learning program at Mellon. The Foundation is now fundamentally interested in themes of social and racial justice. In terms of scholarly projects such as the Sawyer Seminars we will look for a strong focus on race and ethnicity and related intersectional analyses as well as those that focus on filling in the gaps left by more traditional narratives about the history and culture of the Americas. A more detailed description of the program’s aims, structure, budgetary guidelines, and selection procedures is appended and available on our 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 2, 2022

Sponsor Application Deadline: March 31, 2022

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Summary (must not exceed 8,000 words): Please include the following: 1) a summary description of proposed work; 2) the rationale for raising the central questions to be addressed and the potential significance of the inquiry to be pursued; and 3) a description of the cases to be studied (e.g., nations, regions, time periods, cultural trends, social tensions) and the perspectives to be brought to bear on them; the thematic “threads” that will run through the seminar; and the institution’s resources and suitability for the proposed seminar. Please note that given the foundation’s focus on social justice, proposals without a social or racial justice component are unlikely to be competitive.
  • Principal Seminar Organizer(s) Short CV(s): Please include a short CV (1-2 pages) for the principal seminar organizers.
  • 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.

Award Information

Proposal budgets should not exceed $225,000 for each seminar. 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, rentals of university space, or indirect costs.

Review Process

A panel of distinguished scholars will select ten proposals from the 15 to 20 we expect to receive, and be recommended to the board for funding in December 2022.  Proposals are judged on the significance of the subject of inquiry, the aptness of plans for seminar meetings, the opportunities they present for comparative study, the rationale for the comparisons, and the scholarly accomplishments of the participants.