Core Elements | St. Lawrence University Mellon Humanities Grant

Core Elements

In 2012, St. Lawrence was awarded a $700,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for a five-year project, “Crossing Boundaries: Re-envisioning Humanities for the 21st Century,” with the understanding and belief that certain forms of knowledge can no longer be isolated, and that issues we confront today as humans compel us to think across traditional boundaries. In addition, a contemporary liberal education requires competency in multiple modes of discourse, with visual and media literacies increasingly as important as oral and textual literacies. To create a more global humanities curriculum and reassert our role in the intellectual life of the college, we proposed Crossing Boundaries as a discipline-wide project that enables faculty to design new interdisciplinary and collaborative courses and curricular structures. Our aim is to support faculty in their efforts to design new courses, especially team-taught, linked or clustered courses, or to revise existing ones. In support of these courses, the project includes mini-seminars and workshops focused on specific issues or competencies, including the use of digital information and visual and aural texts. The program also sponsors invited speakers, musical performances, and film viewings, all intended to help realize our ambitions for an increasingly global reach for the humanities. To help us frame and focus our efforts, we have identified the following core values:


  • Expand the range of settings where teaching and learning happen to include spaces beyond the traditional classroom:  media labs, workshops, galleries, libraries, and fieldwork experiences.
  • Contexts in which students in one course work alongside those from other courses. 

Intertextuality/ Multi-Modal Literacy:

  • Increased mobility of “texts,” whether they are images, printed texts, music, or sound.
  • Making more kinds of texts available and paying attention to the representational strategies that surround those texts.
  • Extend the forms of information that students encounter in the classroom and the forms of expression available to them as they conduct research and produce work.


  • Creating integrative opportunities that develop curricular “space” for hybrid/cross-disciplinary course offerings to foster in our students a greater sense of cosmopolitanism and global citizenship. 
  • This will require more opportunities for collaboration among faculty from different departments or programs and collaboration among students from different courses within those departments and programs.

Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation:

  • Affinity Courses:  Courses with intellectual and/or theoretical “affinities” will be planned with common events or activities that support all the courses: speakers, gallery events, field trips, and workshops.
  • Linked Courses:  Two or more courses with common interests and, ideally, common meeting times, will include opportunities for collaborative student work. 
  • Course Clusters:  A small number of courses with enough in common will be connected to benefit all involved in various ways.   A way to be connected – and stay connected – is to have a plausible and sustainable cluster ‘theme’ or overarching question(s).  

Projects designed to complement a set of courses, or learning more generally

  • Digital collections development
  • Extension of existing activities and collaborations
  • New activities and collaborations

All proposals should have a strong potential impact on the teaching and learning environment at St. Lawrence University