VCU Monroe Park Campus from above
The new cohort of scholars at VCU's Humanities Research Center includes faculty from the College of Humanities and Sciences and schools of the Arts and Education. (File photo)

Meet the 5 interdisciplinary scholars who will be residential fellows this year at VCU’s Humanities Research Center

The fellowship program provides faculty the opportunity to work on projects around a similar theme.

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The VCU Humanities Research Center fellowship program has broadened its reach with its spring cohort of fellows.

In the past, the annual program awarded fellowships to four full-time faculty members in the College of Humanities and Sciences working on projects structured around a similar theme. This year, the center has launched a new collaborative and interdisciplinary fellowship model.

“In addition to faculty members in the [College of Humanities and Sciences], this year we invited faculty outside the college to apply, and describe the relationship of their projects to this year's theme at the center, ‘Race, Ethnicity and Social Justice,’” said Cristina Stanciu, Ph.D., director of the Humanities Research Center and an associate professor of English. “We are happy to welcome this year's cohort, which includes one faculty member from the School of Education and one faculty member from the School of the Arts in addition to three faculty members from humanities departments and schools in the College of Humanities and Sciences.”

The fellowships, Stanciu said, are “essential for scholars in the humanities, humanistic social sciences and the arts because they provide dedicated time for research and writing, away from teaching obligations for the semester.”

“Time is a very precious commodity in the academy and the residential fellowships in humanities centers and institutes across the world offer a structure and time away from teaching and professional obligations, so that fellows may be immersed in research and writing,” she said. “Additionally, the camaraderie and intellectual company of all the fellows offers an exciting opportunity to rethink, rewrite and develop new ideas and directions for research. The structure of the program also provides an accountability system to assess progress and to ensure the timely completion of projects.”

Here is a glance at this year’s fellows.

Indira Sultanic, Ph.D.: An assistant professor of Spanish translation and interpreting studies in the School of World Studies, Sultanic will use the fellowship to lay the groundwork for a larger study on language access and to do proposal development for competitive state and federal research grants.

For Sultanic, the residential fellowship is an opportunity “to develop a project in a collaborative setting, and to be able to consider different approaches to studying the topic of language justice in the broader context of this year’s theme,” she said.

Jonathan Molina-Garcia: Molina-Garcia, an assistant professor of photography and digital futures in the School of the Arts, will be converting a seminar he taught, “Brown Sadness,” into a comprehensive study of speculative philosophy and art from the global South. He will start drafting a book for young readers interested in art and politics.

“In the space of a writing fellowship, I can spend time deconstructing difficult concepts into their most minute, granular details,” he said.

Michael Hall, Ph.D.: Hall, an assistant professor in the Department of English, is doing research that is strongly connected to this year’s fellowship theme. He recently completed his first book, “Freedom Beyond Confinement: Travel and Imagination in African American Cultural History and Letters,” and is preparing for his second book.

“This is the perfect time to be engaged with an interdisciplinary group of scholars whose projects all converge on a shared theme,” he said.

Michael Dickinson, Ph.D.: An assistant professor in the Department of History, Dickinson teaches courses in African American history and sees the fellowship as way to gain valuable feedback that will aid his goal of “giving voice to those historically silenced,” he said.

“My project is tentatively titled, ‘A Separation Worse Than Death: Richmond and the Domestic Slave Trade during the Antebellum Era,’” he said. “It will examine the lived experiences of captives who became victims of the domestic slave trade, with particular emphasis on forced separations and the brutality of sale in Richmond.” 

Kevin Clay, Ph.D.: Clay, an assistant professor in the School of Education, has been working on an ethnographic book about his experience engaging Black and Latino Upward Bound students in political education and organizing.

“Finding time to sit down and write has been difficult,” he said. “This is an opportunity for time away from teaching. It gives me extra time to write.”

As the Humanities Research Center’s director, Stanciu works closely with current and former fellows and is excited to work with this year’s group.

“As the HRC grows and becomes a universitywide center promoting humanistic inquiry at VCU, becoming really the hub of all work in the humanities on campus, I hope we can continue to support and grow this program into the nationally renowned center it deserves to be,” she said.