The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Organization of American Historians a two-year, $300,000 grant to increase participation of underrepresented groups at the OAH Annual Meeting. The grant award honors Mellon Foundation President and Historian Earl Lewis on his retirement from the foundation. Dr. Lewis will become OAH’s 112th President after the 2018 Annual Meeting in Sacramento (April 12 -14).
Today a growing number of historians specializing in American history work outside the academy, or if they work at universities, they no longer have traditional tenure-track positions. Keeping up with the field requires membership in and attendance at academic conferences which often means that adjuncts, independent historians, and graduate students are not able to participate in these conferences and therefore find it difficult to compete in the market with other historians.
Edward L. Ayers, OAH President and Tucker Boatwright Professor of Humanities and President Emeritus of University of Richmond, notes, “This grant in honor of Earl Lewis is a fitting tribute to a historian who has devoted his life to promoting the importance of the humanities and has fought to ensure equal access to opportunities within the historical profession.” Ayers adds, “Through this grant, the OAH will be able to provide much needed support to these underrepresented groups so they, too, can benefit from the professional and academic opportunities afforded at our annual conference.”
The grant will allow the OAH to provide travel assistance to these underrepresented groups and allow it to establish a travel fund to provide travel grants once the grant period ends. The grant will also make available travel funds so these underrepresented groups can participate in voluntary positions within the organization (i.e., service on the executive board and various committees). These grants will be available starting with the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting.
To increase participation in the annual meeting, OAH plans on making several improvements to the annual conference. Among these improvements, the OAH will hold three one-day workshops to address the specific needs of each group. For example, the graduate student workshop will focus on career development; the adjunct/part-time workshop will focus on career development issues, as well as how to improve the status of this growing group of individuals; and the independent historian workshop will focus on opportunities for doing historical research and making oneself marketable to companies and organizations that employ outside researchers. Other improvements will include “lightning round” sessions and a theme visualizer to make the conference easier to navigate.