New RDE Cluster Grants boost graduate studies innovations

The Redefining Doctoral Education in the Humanities (RDE) initiative, supported by the Mellon Foundation, has launched a new funding scheme that aims to deepen and widen the scale of its interventions. The first years of RDE-funded grants facilitated individual faculty members in their efforts to develop innovative courses and/or new skills. Now, RDE’s new Cluster Grants operate at the department level, with multiple faculty members collaborating around shared concerns in areas such as curriculum, dissertations, mentoring and diverse career outcomes. 

Cluster Grants take a combination approach, allowing departments and programs to select multiple grant types in their proposal to support their graduate program aims. Multiple grants (even within the same category) are encouraged. Those grants are:

  • Cross-Training Grants,
  • Curricular Innovation — Standard Grants, and
  • Curricular Innovation — Bridge Grants.

All Washington University humanities departments and programs that support graduate students are eligible to apply. Efforts that RDE funding could support include (but are not limited to): workshops and trainings, working groups, community partner relationships and other public engagement, site visits, guest speakers, symposia or other forms of program development. 

Two RDE Cluster Grants have already been awarded. Earlier this year, Lynne Tatlock and colleagues in the Comparative Literature program and the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures were awarded a Curricular Innovation — Bridge Grant to support departmental efforts to enhance mentoring, develop internships (local and international), and host a series of virtual conversations with professionals in non-academic careers. Specifically, the award supports:

  1. the implementation of individual development plans (IDPs); 
  2. the establishment of local, national and international networks with entities such as publishing houses, museums, archives, festivals, government and NGOs supporting the arts, and the development of internships through these networks; and 
  3. the cultivation of connections with professionals who present successful models of university-adjacent careers — alternative models, that is, to the traditional university faculty appointment. 

In the previous academic year, Shanti Parikh and colleagues in the Department of African and African American Studies (AFAS) were awarded a package of all three types of grants (Cross-Training Grants, Curricular Innovation — Standard Grants, and Curricular Innovation — Bridge Grants) to support the design of a new AFAS graduate certificate program through site visits to leading Black studies programs, faculty trainings and a 2024 symposium. 

New proposals for cluster grants are being accepted on a rolling basis. Chairs, directors and directors of graduate studies are encouraged to contact humanities center assistant directors Meredith Kelling and Laura Perry (; to discuss how their plans could align with the goals of RDE funding.