Mellon Foundation Grant to Support Holy Cross Professors’ Research into LGBTQ+, Refugee Communities in Worcester

City of Worcester seen here from the Holy Cross campus. Photo by Tom Rettig

College's Scholarship in Action initiative to promote the power of humanities

The College of the Holy Cross announced the two inaugural recipients of the "Scholarship in Action" grants for the 2018-2019 academic year. The awarded projects focus on professors' work in collaboration with community groups on the study of refugee resettlement and LGBTQ+ history in Worcester, while providing rich experiential learning opportunities for Holy Cross students.

Sponsored by an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Scholarship in Action supports community-based faculty research projects in the City of Worcester. Over the course of five years, Holy Cross faculty, students and community partners will engage in diverse projects showcasing the significant role that the liberal arts, and the humanities in particular, can play in nurturing civic engagement and partnership.

"Through Scholarship in Action we want to build upon and deepen existing College commitments within the city by finding ways to align the scholarly interests and creative energy of our faculty and students with the needs of the local community," said Holy Cross Provost Margaret Freije. "We encourage community partners and civic leaders to consider Holy Cross as both a resource and a motivated partner in serving the Worcester community."

Susan Rodgers, professor emerita of anthropology, and Stephanie Yuhl, professor of history, are the inaugural Scholarship in Action recipients, with the grants enabling the following research projects in the city.

In collaboration with the Worcester Refugee Assistance Project and with the Refugee Artisans of Worcester, Susan Rodgers’ “Refugee Resettlement in Worcester” project entails an anthropological ethnography about how refugees from Burma, Bhutan and several African nations are making new lives for themselves in Worcester. Rodgers and Holy Cross student researchers are conducting interviews with refugees ages 18 to 70, about various aspects of their resettlement journeys. Additionally, an exhibition of refugees' crafts is planned for early 2020 at the Worcester Center for Crafts.

"The Scholarship in Action grant has been instrumental in furthering my collaboration with the Worcester Refugee Assistance Program, the Refugee Artisans of Worcester, and the Worcester Center for Crafts, not only to assist some of our city's new refugees with the complex resettlement endeavor, but also to document their new home-making experiences,” said Susan Rodgers, professor emerita of anthropology. "In this historical moment of divisive rhetorics about refugees, I believe it's important to listen to Worcester's refugees tell their own stories about their lives and journeys to America."

Stephanie Yuhl is partnering with the Worcester Historical Museum and representatives from local organizations (including Worcester Pride, AIDS Project Worcester, and the Worcester Boys and Girls Club) to direct "From Margin to Center," a three-year project aimed at developing an historical archive and oral history and artifact collection of LGBTQ+-related materials in Worcester County. Drawing on the discoveries from this grassroots effort at historical consciousness-raising in the community, Yuhl is co-curating an exhibit on LQBTQ+ History in Worcester County, set to take place at the Worcester Historical Museum from April 25 through October 12, 2019, as part of a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the monumental 1969 Stonewall Uprising.

"The partnership between the Worcester Historical Museum and the College of the Holy Cross, made possible through the Scholarship in Action grant, serves as an impressive model of integrative learning," said William Wallace, Worcester Historical Museum executive director. "It not only provides an opportunity for students to collaborate on in-depth research of the complex nature of being LGBTQ+ in Worcester County, but also one for Worcester’s LGBTQ+ community to tell its story and leave a permanent mark as an important part of Worcester’s history."

The second Scholarship in Action grant cycle is currently underway and the deadline for completed applications is February 4, 2019. Research will begin in summer 2019.

Worcester community partners who are interested in pursuing a Scholarship in Action grant are encouraged to contact the Director of Scholarship in Action Mary Conley ( to discuss potential strategies to develop their project idea. The projects must be long-term, sustainable initiatives that will last beyond a single semester or academic year.

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