Tulane Receives Grant from Mellon Foundation to Support Graduate Fellowship Program for Community Engagement


Dr. Agnieszka Nance, Executive Director for the Center for Public Service

Community engagement is something Tulane does well. The Princeton Review recently ranked Tulane as the top university in the country for it. And Tulane’s undergraduate experience is defined by the school’s commitment to public service. But, until recently, opportunities to get experience in community-engaged teaching and research were limited for Tulane’s graduate students.

Ryan McBride and students
Administrative Associate Professor for the Center for Public Service, Ryan McBride (pictured left) developed and directs the pilot program for Tulane graduate students interested in community-engaged research or teaching.

Tulane’s Center for Public Service launched a pilot program just over two years ago for graduate students in any discipline who are interested in community-engaged research or teaching. The pilot program, which is now starting its third iteration, lasts one year and includes weekly readings and seminar meetings as well as a portfolio project and a mentorship component.

Now, thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the pilot program will take a giant leap forward. The $1.5 million grant will allow Tulane to develop a robust certificate program aimed at supporting graduate students in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences who want to pursue community-engaged research or teaching. The program design is a result of a collaborative effort of the School of Liberal Arts, the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning, and the Center for Public Service. 

“The grant is a game changer in terms of what we can offer graduate students here at Tulane,” says Agnieszka Nance, Executive Director of the Center for Public Service.

The grant will also have implications for the university and the School of Liberal Arts in particular. The new program breaks down traditional disciplinary boundaries. With mentorship and support from Tulane’s faculty, graduate students will expand their traditional education and explore different paths for careers after graduation.

“Part of the beauty of the pilot program has been that we have graduate students from a wide range of disciplines and practical experiences all working together to complicate, deepen, and rethink our ideas about what community engagement is and what it can be,” explains Ryan McBride, an Administrative Associate Professor who developed and directs the pilot program.

The support of the Mellon Foundation will also help Tulane recruit a new wave of talented graduate students. 

“Some of the most exciting work taking place on our campus is already being done by graduate students,” says McBride. “They enrich their departments and everyone working with them.” 

The more we can offer them in terms of resources, new perspectives, and challenging conversations, adds McBride, the more they will be able to accomplish both academically and in the wider community.