Four UF Mellon Intersections Groups receive Intersections Research-Into-Teaching Grants totaling $120,000 (2018-2020)

The University of Florida (UF) announces its inaugural Intersections Research-Into-Teaching Grants, organized by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere and made possible with $400,000 in funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Awards of $30,000 to four Intersections Groups will support UF faculty and staff working together across disciplines on research addressing major challenges, such as ethical decision-making, global Blackness and Latinx identity, mass incarceration, and technologies of space and time. Together, these collaborative, interdisciplinary groups unite 24 faculty and staff members and seven affiliate faculty, from 20 disciplines and six colleges across UF.

Intersections Groups demonstrate the urgency for scholars to mobilize interdisciplinary collaboration with the humanities in order to respond to grand challenges,” says Prof. Barbara Mennel, Interim Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere. “Importantly, the Intersections Groups will translate scholarship into teaching to expose first-year students to the significance of the humanities in multiple thematic contexts.”

The groups will connect cultural, historical, and ethical inquiry based in the humanities to fields and professions including law, journalism and telecommunications, computer science and engineering, leadership and service, and education. Each awarded group has developed plans for research activities, such as studying common readings, hosting speaker series, partnering with community members for activities, and creating digital apps and other resources for UF students. The resulting research will inform the creation of innovative interdisciplinary undergraduate courses for the new UF Quest general education curriculum. Groups also will identify clusters of existing UF courses related to their research topics for undergraduate study and organize creative activities for students across these courses that engage them beyond the classroom.

The four Intersections Group awardees are described below:

Intersections on Ethics in the Public Sphere

Responding to the complex moral challenges facing our society, this Intersections Group will examine contemporary ethical issues that dominate conversations in the public arena, such as gun control, climate change, freedom of speech, and reproductive rights. The group will devote special attention to the question of how these issues influence undergraduate students and develop a course for students to learn ethical thinking and reflect on moral challenges. In order to connect ethical decision-making to community service, the group will create a set of resources for students and teachers. The project’s ultimate goal is to enable students to think critically about ethical issues and to develop skills to be effective moral agents in their professional, personal, and public lives.

  • Convener: Anna Peterson, Professor, Religion
  • Co-convener: Jaime Ahlberg, Assistant Professor, Philosophy
  • Members:
    • Elaine Giles, Assistant Director, Brown Center for Leadership and Service
    • April Hines, Librarian, Journalism and Mass Communications
    • Whitney Sanford, Professor, Religion
    • Kim Walsh-Childers, Professor, Journalism


Intersections on Global Blackness and Latinx Identity

As migration and telecommunication transform communities around the globe, this Intersections Group will examine the role of art for the identity formation in the African diaspora in the Americas. In particular, the group will study how Black identity changes as it moves from the Americas, focusing on the connections between Blackness and Latinidad in the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The group asks how diasporic cultural practices can serve to connect Black and Latinx communities. The group will emphasize how popular culture, the visual arts, and performance reverberate globally through media consumption and thereby (re)produce Black and Latinx cultures. Planned research activities include the organization of a speaker series in African diaspora and Afro-Latinx studies, common reading, and community-partnered global Black arts events that connect UF and the local Black community. Through this research, the group will develop a course that navigates social and cultural differences to provide a nuanced understanding of the intersections of Blackness and Latinidad. Through culturally sustaining pedagogies, the group will offer tools for higher education to support the cultural practices of communities of color, improving over-all campus climate and the retention of students and faculty members of color.

  • Convener: Tanya Saunders, Associate Professor, Center for Latin American Studies and Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research
  • Co-convener: Manoucheka Celeste, Assistant Professor, Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research and African American Studies Program
  • Members:
    • Benjamin Hebblethwaite, Associate Professor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
    • Bryce Henson, Visiting Assistant Professor, African American Studies Program
    • Michael Leslie, Associate Professor, Telecommunication
    • Paul Ortiz, Associate Professor, History and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
    • Nick Vargas, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Criminology & Law and Center for Latin American Studies
  • Affiliates
    • Sharon Austin, Associate Professor, Director, African American Studies Program
    • Efraín Barradas, Professor, Romance Languages and Center for Latin American Studies
    • Christopher Busey, Assistant Professor, Teaching and Teaching Education
    • Coco Fusco, Professor, Banks Preeminence Chair in Art, School of Art + Art History
    • Lillian Guerra, Professor, History
    • Jillian Hernandez, Assistant Professor, Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research
    • Agnes Leslie, Senior Lecturer, Center for African Studies


Intersections on Mass Incarceration

In response to the fact that the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country and disproportionately incarcerates people of color, this Intersections Group will explore what a future without mass incarceration in the United States could look like. The group will study the causes, consequences, familial impact, histories, and lived realities of mass incarceration and chart innovative paths to reduce our reliance on prisons. The group’s activities include bringing speakers to campus, organizing a research symposium, curating an exhibition, and holding a forum featuring community groups working on related issues, such as restorative justice, prison abolition, sentencing reform, mental illness, and disability. This research will result in identifying and developing undergraduate courses that will educate students about the crisis of mass incarceration, its larger social and cultural contexts, and how mass incarceration impacts us all.

  • Convener: Jodi Schorb, Associate Professor, English and Affiliate Faculty, Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research
  • Co-convener: Stephanie Birch, Librarian, African American Studies
  • Members:
    • Elizabeth Dale, Professor, History
    • Lauren Pearlman, Assistant Professor, History and African American Studies Program
    • Katheryn Russell-Brown, Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law, Levin College of Law, Director, Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations
    • Heather Vrana, Assistant Professor, History and Affiliate Faculty, Latin American Studies


Intersections on Imagineering and the Technosphere

In the face of our growing technological dependencies, this Intersections Group will explore how humans use technology intentionally and unintentionally to alter our physical world. The group will study the accelerating pace of social technologies, such as the Internet and Artificial Intelligence. The group aims to discover what the lessons of past inventions can teach us about how to address the problems facing humanity today, particularly as they emerge in the “technosphere,” the landscape shaped by human hands. The group will develop an interactive website, host a regular research workshop, and organize events with speakers and filmmakers about technoscience. To engage students with questions of space, place, and time, a faculty member will work with students to build a mobile app for time travel in augmented reality to examine the hidden role of technology on the UF campus. This work will lay the foundation for team-taught and other new courses that will give students the tools to envision how they will “imagineer” the future of the planet while harnessing the power of technologies in environmentally and socially sustainable ways.

  • Convener: Betty Smocovitis, Professor, History and Biology
  • Co-convener: Eleni Bozia, Assistant Professor, Classics and Digital Worlds Institute
  • Members:
    • Angelos Barmpoutis, Associate Professor, Digital Worlds Institute and On-Line Learning Institute
    • Will Hasty, Professor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
    • Morris (Marty) Hylton III, Assistant Professor, Program Director, Historic Preservation Program, College of Design, Construction and Planning,
    • Ken Sassaman, Professor, Anthropology and Laboratory of Southeastern Archaeology
    • Ying Xiao, Assistant Professor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures