Curriculum Grants

In 2018, The Graduate Center, CUNY received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation focused on transforming doctoral education in the humanities for the public good. As part of this initiative, the PublicsLab distributes annual Doctoral Curriculum Enhancement Grants (DCEGs).

Proposed new courses or other curricular changes under a DCEG must actively respond to students’ intellectual and professional needs and prepare them for a variety of careers. Possible approaches include but are not limited to:

  • Re-conceiving the dissertation and exploring alternative dissertation formats that take into consideration new technologies and multiple career tracks, building on major advancements made by GC Digital Initiatives and the Futures Initiative
  • Restructuring examinations so that they align with professionalization activities and open career options for students (as, for example, the English department has done with its first exam) 
  • Integrating preparation for non-faculty positions for all students from Day 1 so that they understand that training for R-1 research jobs is not exclusive of training for other professions
  • Incentivizing interdisciplinary clusters of programs to share courses in subjects as diverse as data analysis, archival studies, and public scholarship
  • Modifying existing introductory courses by creating career / professional development modules to be blended with conventional and new methods research training
  • Including visits by lecturers with PhDs that have non-academic careers in introductory courses in doctoral studies and on dissertation committees

Beginning in the 2019–2020 academic year, $8,000 DCEGs were given to support the development and implementation of new curricular methods and strategies that approach the following question: How can our program support graduate students in doing public scholarship and preparing for careers both inside and outside the academy?

2021-2022 Recipients


The doctoral program in Classics is committed to increasing diversity among applicants, improving its guidance and retention of admitted students, and exploring changes to make its curriculum more inclusive of students’ varied backgrounds and interests, as well as more open to engagement with the public and the possibility of pursuing opportunities both inside and outside of the academy. With the DCEG, the program will create opportunities for conversation to discuss what is working, what isn’t, and what concrete steps should be taken to achieve its curricular goals.

The project will appoint a graduate student coordinator to organize a series of six focus groups, each one centered on a particular theme, such as: 1) opening the conversation, 2) retention, 3) promoting diversity, 4) qualifying exams, 5) rethinking the dissertation, and 6) taking stock. Each group will have the aim of formulating specific recommendations related to its theme that will be taken up at a later event. A similar series of focus groups will be conducted for faculty as well by a faculty member on the project team. These focus groups will culminate in a departmental retreat to agree on action items for curricular and programmatic change that faculty and students will then work to put into effect.

Team members include: Jamie Banks, Rachel Kousser, and David Petrain.

Creating Racially Just Schools (Urban Education, The Center for the Humanities, and English)

The doctoral programs in Urban Education and English are partnering with The Center for the Humanities to draw attention to and build curriculum inspired by the efficacy of Black women in the schoolhouse. The pillar of this project is a course taught by Dr. Terri Watson – Creating Racially Just Schools: Lessons Learned from Fanny Jackson Coppin. The course, taught in spring 2022, will address disparate educational outcomes between Black and white children, which are long-standing and reflect the impact of race and racism on the nation’s public schools.

This course focuses on the efficacy and advocacy of Black women school leaders and centers the lived experiences of Fanny Jackson Coppin, America’s first Black woman school principal. Using Black Feminism as a methodology, specifically the tenets of Black Feminist Theory (BFT) and motherwork (Collins, 2000), Coppin’s lived experiences and contributions to Black education, along with those of Harlem’s othermothers (Gertrude Elise Ayer, Mildred Louise Johnson, and Babette Edwards) will be examined to proffer valuable lessons to the next generation of school leaders. The course will build on previous work conducted by faculty and students in the Urban Education PhD program by hosting a series of public-facing sessions and conversations led by Black women school leaders who will address racial equity and restorative justice in the schoolhouse. These conversations will be recorded and made available for the public good.

The project will also launch an innovative Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) platform that invites educators across the NYC public school systems into Graduate Center courses to connect with their university peers and complete professional learning credits in an exciting and welcoming academic environment. A new graduate assistant position will be created for a student in Urban Education to act as a CTLE resource expert and advisor, guiding other graduate students and instructors on how to work with the office of strategic advancement and the Department of Education to transform one course session of the section into a CTLE training workshop offered to teachers throughout the city to support professional development and cross-pollination that connects graduate and K-12 practitioners. 

In conjunction with the course, Creating Racially Just Schools, Dr. Terri N. Watson  will organize two writing workshops during the second half of semester for students to work with with an academic editor to draft (and hopefully publish) their essays on Publicslab and the Center for the Humanities’ websites based on their research. Specifically, using portraiture as a methodology, students will highlight  the advocacy and efficacy of Black women school leaders, teachers, mothers, and othermothers in the schoolhouse. 

Team members include: Terri Watson, Wendy Luttrell, Adelia Gibson, Noelle Mapes, and Kendra Sullivan.

CUNY Foodways Collaboratory (Earth and Environmental Sciences, Anthropology, LAILaC, and English)

The doctoral programs in Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES), Anthropology, Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILAC), and English are teaming together on this curriculum project to develop the CUNY Foodways Collaboratory. The Collaboratory brings a diverse cohort of GC faculty, students, urban gardeners, and publicly-engaged practitioners together to codesign curriculum that locates the themes of food insecurity, inequality, and justice at the center of inclusive, interdisciplinary public pedagogies that connect students, departments, and extramural publics across knowledge silos to address intellectual and practical concerns related to food justice through collective study and creative problem-solving.

The Collaboratory will accomplish curriculum enhancement by codesigning six classes in six departments. Three graduate level classes will be held at the GC. One undergraduate class will be held at Baruch, one at Queens, and one at LaGuardia. The classes will be threaded together by strategically placed, interrelated readings and experiential learning opportunities. Coursework and assignments will be geared to encourage students to bring their collaborative research skills to bear on intellectual and practical concerns raised by the complex food struggles facing the university and the city. The CUNY Foodways Collaboratory will work with graduate faculty and students to study access to healthy, nutritious, culturally appropriate food, as well as ownership and control of land, credit, knowledge, technology, and resources in a specifical CUNY context. The Collaboratory aims to leverage CUNY’s geographic and social scale, and CUNY students’ diverse expertise and experiences, toward greater food equity and knowledge in New York City.

Team members include: Angeles Donoso Macaya, Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Naomi Schiller, Pedro Cabello del Moral, Eric Dean Wilson, Kendra Sullivan, Michael Menser, and Aurash Khawarzad.

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The doctoral program in Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) will be exploring the possibility of creating a certificate program in Environment and Climate Justice (ECJ), open to all doctoral students at The Graduate Center. The deeply informed and interdisciplinary approaches of the faculty and students naturally position the program to address the physical and social impacts of climate change. As such, it has long identified a need for curricular offerings that explicitly “bridge” the two sides of the program: environmental science with a social justice orientation, and environmental social science with scientific grounding.

The ECJ certificate that will be created through this project would serve students who wish to bridge the sciences and social sciences in their study of the environment, as well as create an institutional home on the doctoral faculty of EES for social scientists at CUNY who study the environment, but who don’t have disciplinary training in geography. The ECJ certificate aims to answer the call to action to tackle the existential threats of climate change that local, state and national communities face.

Team members include: Monica Varsanyi and Kieren Howard.

English (2)

The doctoral program in English has three primary goals with this project: 1) to link the content of the English Program’s already existing cluster mentoring program with the content of its professionalization courses, thus reinforcing and enhancing learning; 2) to develop within the mentoring program opportunities to produce public scholarship; and 3) to use the mentoring program to help prepare students for careers inside and outside academia.

Three funded positions for graduate students will be created – a Research Assistant (RA), Coordinator, and Evaluation Researcher – to support ongoing research into successful mentoring practices. A structured cluster model of mentoring currently exists – a faculty member, an alum, a continuing student, and a first-year student – where members with overlapping interests meet monthly, and this project will aim to tie these topics more directly to the curriculum. Additionally, the modes that will be used to realize these benefits will train graduate students in digital public writing and better prepare them for careers inside and outside academia.

Team members include: Nancy Silverman, Mario DiGangi, Mary McGlynn, Todd Craig, Dasharah Green, Anahi Douglas, and Sara Remedios Bloom.

Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILaC) (2)

The doctoral program in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILAC) will be utilizing this project to expand upon its successful implementation of its initial public humanities and public-facing scholarship project. Some additional curricular changes might include language examinations, alumni/ae involvement, and the revision of the second examination in the literature and cultural studies track. This project aims to not only increase funding for these projects, but also to establish public-facing scholarship and public humanities as a permanent fixture in LAILAC’s programming.

First, the project will work to launch a new internal grant program to foster curriculum changes through projects resulting from the collaboration of faculty and students in our program. Second, it will integrate information about the initiative into the program’s website and regularly inform the LAILaC community about relevant events and opportunities. Third, the program will develop an alumni database to increase communication among current and former students. And, finally, it will sponsor a public showcase of our grantees’ accomplishments to increase the program’s visibility.

Team members include: Jane Marcus-Delgado, Esther Allen, Oriana Mejías Martínez, Diana Higuera Cortés, and Daniel Valtueña.

2020-2021 Recipients

English (1)

The doctoral program in English plans to implement curricular design related to both conceptual work (in rethinking the meaningfulness of the PhD in English) and practical work (in helping students translate the capacities developed in doctoral studies into such professional genres as resumes, and in broadening the scope of the capacities developed). The grant will be used in four main ways: 1) to research internship opportunities; 2) to fund visits by public humanities practitioners; 3) to rethink the dissertation; and 4) to revisit the aims and structures of the program’s doctoral examinations and other requirements.

The English program’s attention to these matters converges with its concerted effort to bolster curricular and demographic diversity especially with regard to the redress of the overrepresentation of whiteness within the program and the discipline generally. The team believes that the public good must be understood as tethered to the address of white supremacy, cis-heteronormativity, patriarchy, ableism, and other ideologies of subordination. Moreover, such an address requires the proliferation of publics addressed by scholarly work, identifying as an urgency the task of making “the public good” as an educational horizon robustly meaningful.

Team members include: Tanya Agathocleous, Kandice Chuh, Matthew Gold, Queenie Sukhadia, and Robert Yates.


The History Program is committed to reforms that enhance opportunities for graduate students’ public-facing research and professional development.  Chiefly, faculty and students will work together to finalize and make permanent several initiatives that have already been approved for its curriculum (though not yet fully developed), as well as embark on new ideas that have been discussed only in the abstract. The department will build on its introductory course in Public History, and use it as a foundation for other curricular options in oral history, museum work, and information design/data visualization, among others. Such courses would be designed to appeal to both those who view Public History as their career field and those who seek to develop the skills alongside a more conventional academic path.  The department will also look to develop best practices for evaluating student work in public-facing modes, especially when these are submitted for program requirements. 

In service to all of the above, the Program will hold a series of events, including workshops by public historians, reading groups in public history scholarship, and panel discussions featuring alums with careers in Public History.

Team members include: Joel Allen, Deena Ecker, and Anne Valk.

Mina Rees Library & Women’s and Gender Studies

The Mina Rees Library and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program are partnering to cultivate an increased awareness and dissemination of open resources at CUNY. In Spring 2021, we will host the Open Knowledge Intensive, a series of interdisciplinary workshops and activities led by Elvis Bakaitis (Interim Head of Reference), teaching faculty, and invited speakers. In Spring 2022, Professor Matt Brim and Karen Zaino will implement a direct, curricular intervention in the course Research Methods in Women’s and Gender Studies, integrating concepts of open knowledge/pedagogy in a class collaboratively created and taught using free, openly-licensed resources, in which students are positioned as co-creators of knowledge.

Beyond the simple question of “open” in the phrase “Open Knowledge,” the team seeks to ask, Whose knowledge? Our program brings together considerations of labor, representation, decolonial perspectives, and critical pedagogies. The Open Knowledge Intensive series will provide participants with practical, hands-on training: how to identify and use Creative Commons licenses; negotiate permissions and authorship; identify strategies for the sharing and distribution of open resources. Conversations will delve into the deeper issues of equity in scholarly publishing, as shaped by the historical and current intersections along lines of gender, race, and class. The WGS research methods course will also center issues of equity, transparency, and public engagement as it incorporates open resources to address hierarchies of knowledge production.

Team members include: Elvis Bakaitis, Matt Brim, Karen Zaino, and Brian Mercado.


The Psychology department has noted that students across Graduate Center psychology programs are not currently receiving vital training on diversity science theories, methodologies, and approaches necessary to address social problems. With the DCEG, they plan to bolster their Diversity Science Initiative (DSI), which employs unique theories, methods, and modes of analysis to address problems through a human diversity and social justice lens. By aiming to create a mechanism for the formal incorporation of diversity science principles across psychology program curricula, the team will respond to students’ current and future needs by a) providing students and faculty with systematic training around diversity science theory and methods and social justice-oriented research, and b) by preparing students to enter increasingly competitive job markets that require a sophisticated understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The expansion of the DSI will result in a Faculty DSI Fellows Program and DSI Course Development Workgroup. The fellowship program will equip faculty fellows with the tools and resources necessary to become competent in diversity science-based pedagogy through training seminars and a small grants program. The workgroup will consist of the current DSI faculty co-sponsors and student leadership, and will be responsible for creating diversity science materials to be incorporated into the syllabi of existing classes and developing a new Diversity Science course.

Team members include: Sydney Baker, Demis Glasford, Gabriela Rico, Diagou Regina Sissoko, Therese Todd, and Philip Yanos.


The Doctoral Program in Sociology seeks to critically contextualize and decolonize its required theory courses, Classical Theory and Contemporary Theory, which all students take in their first and second semester of study. The discipline’s theoretical canon, often resting on “founding fathers” Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber, is limited in scope and erases the work of non-white, non-male, non-European scholars. Other transdisciplinary activist-scholars—such as C. Wright Mills, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, bell hooks, Paulo Freire, Judith Butler, etc.—transformed the core of the field with their research as inherently connected to serving the general welfare of society.

The team will work on a toolkit to guide future iterations of the required theory courses in order to integrate new frameworks and paradigms that include the work of often-marginalized scholars whose public scholarship and activism should inform the public work of CUNY sociology students today. The toolkit will be structured in three parts: (1) pedagogical principles; (2) memos on different strategies for approaching coursework; and (3) recommendations for implementing institutional change and next steps for the department. The implementation of these structural changes is an explicit strategy to prepare the program and our future scholars for public-facing sociological practice, engaging in public dialogue which critically interrogates conventional sociological wisdom in order to address social issues.

Team members include: Parisa Montazaran Osmanovic, Kristi Riley, Zack Del Rosso, and Lynn Chancer.

Theatre & Performance

As scholars of theatre and performance—inherently public-facing art forms that in pre-COVID times facilitated community gathering and engagement—members of the Doctoral Program in Theatre & Performance feel a responsibility to use their specialized knowledge and expertise as scholars and practitioners to find ways to counteract the rampant instability of these trying times and to renew the depleted energy of the public sphere. The team will look to create a “Theatrical Public Commitment and Social Response” initiative that innovates through the discipline’s unique strengths in how group identification and collective experience produce lasting social impacts.

The team seeks to candidly address the curricular and structural exclusion, inequality, and difficulties that the pandemic and racial protests have brought to the surface. Understanding their work as both an analysis and a performance of public commitment, faculty and students will establish an Anti-Racist Working Group to craft a collective response to the urgent social and political demands around race in the public sphere, responding to the immediate needs of the community while also working toward creating an anti-racist arena that nourishes the diversity of future scholars. Additionally, Community Well-Being Forums will be hosted in order to cultivate opportunities for connection that heal divides between academia and the public and that raise up our mutual interdependence as a strength to be cherished.

Team members include: Ruijiao Dong, Peter Eckersall, Jean Graham-Jones, Erika T. Lin, and Jennie Youssef.

Urban Education

The Doctoral Program in Urban Education aims to support, further develop, and sustain a Restorative Justice (RJ) Initiative in existence in the department. The work, implemented through intentional curricular design in the form of RJ circles, will better prepare all community members to engage in hard and contentious conversations across differences and to safely address harm, should it arise. The team sees RJ as a method to counter harmful narratives and support students by building a strong cultural foundation and sense of belonging, while also recognizing that fostering the skills, dispositions and habits of working that support diversity, inclusivity and equity are not explicitly taught and learned in graduate level courses.

The project will be dedicated to four main things: 1) compensation for student facilitators’ labor; 2) to fund additional training for student facilitators; 3) to build a digital platform where all resources will be available; and 4) to pay honorarium for invited speakers to the first-year colloquium course that are open to the GC-wide community. The overarching goal is for members of the community to gather to build a “beloved community,” which contemporary scholars such as Drs. Bettina Love, Terri Watson, and bell hooks describe as a space to uplift, sustain, and protect each other.

Team members include: Silvina (Bibi) Calderaro, Adelia Gibson, Wendy Luttrell, Ariana Mangual Figueroa, Sunisa Nuonsy, Brian Pew, Lucy Robins, Mariatere Tapias, and Jessica Velez Tello.

2019-2020 Recipients

Criminal Justice

The Doctoral Program in Criminal Justice plans to create a Criminal and Social Justice Media Fellows Program to train a cohort of 3-5 doctoral students to address the gap in diversity among criminology and criminal justice research experts seen in the media and in public conversations. The program plans to take advantage of CUNY’s location to collaborate with nearby media outlets to give fellows hands-on training and experience. They also intend to partner with organizations of researchers engaged in public scholarship, including Scholars Strategy Network, Women Also Know Stuff, and People of Color Also Know Stuff.

Participants in this fellows program will complete a two-part intensive program with established experts teaching them to 1) write for a public audience; and 2) communicate with journalists and media outlets. These two trainings will conclude with reflective writing on what fellows perceived about how media works compared to what they observe, and whether the training met the particular needs of future scholars who have been on the outside of the media conversation in the past. Recruitment for the fellowship will begin in February 2020 and the fellowship will begin in fall 2020.

Team members include: Heath Brown, Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill, and Karen J. Terry.

Critical Social Personality and Environmental Psychology (CSPEP)

The newly merged department of Critical Social Personality and Environmental Psychology (CSPEP) aims to expand on its support of public scholarship through a series of facilitated events that will primarily take place over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year. The goal is to strengthen faculty-student communication, leverage professional expertise of alumni, and prepare an action plan for the next seven years. CSPEP will accomplish these goals through a retreat, workshops, community conversation series, and various online forums for alumni-student connections, archives, and fundraising.

CSPEP’s actionable changes include potentially re-imagining/reorganizing required courses; adding new courses of interest; considering closely what it means in practice to decolonize the curriculum; formalizing internships focused on professional development in and out of academia; training in public materials like legal testimony, policy briefs, and public and museum archives; restructuring/expanding second doctoral exams; and incorporating innovative digital pedagogical strategies.

Team members include: Mica Baum-Tuccillo, Emese Ilyses, Bengi Sullu, Manju Adikesavan, Loren Cahill, Talia Sandwick, Laurie Hurson, Brett Stoudt, Michelle Fine, Susan Opotow, and Susan Saegert.

Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILaC) (1)

The Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILaC) department will explore making structural changes in the PhD program’s curriculum by inviting external experts in public humanities to help leverage existing possibilities that students, faculty, and staff already embody. This will serve as a starting point for graduate students to consider their role as scholars, for faculty to re-imagine their teaching, assessment and mentoring, and for staff to help the program overcome the administrative obstacles they might encounter in the near future.

Four visitors during the 2020-2021 academic year will help students to translate their research interests and professional skills into public-facing scholarly projects as well as to explore non-academic professional positions with which their program has natural affinities. Outside experts will also help faculty members to reflect on their teaching, assessment, and mentoring in order to restructure courses, examinations, and dissertations progressively into new models and possibilities. This will be accomplished through a series of internal workshops (two by each visiting expert) for students and faculty, as well as public events (one by each visiting expert) to be included as part of LAILaC’s regularly programmed colloquia.

Team members include: Daniel Valtueña, Carlos Riobó, José del Valle, and Fátima Vélez.

Political Science

The project being run by the department of Political Science includes implementing a series of student-led “Praxis Clusters,” which focus on collaborative, reflective exploration of ethical research processes and other practices of public engagement. The goal of these clusters is to offer institutionalized means of building connections across disciplinary divides, where students can regularly meet to discuss and develop their work. Each cluster will focus on exploring the relationship between specific academic practices and public engagement. Over the course of a cluster program, participants will reflect on how their academic practices bring them into contact with various publics.

Team members include: Rosa Squillacote, Philip Johnson, Michael Fortner, Kyong Mazzaro, Nick Reynolds, and Charles Tien.