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Mellon Foundation Awards CSUF $1.2 Million for ‘The Latinx Lab’

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Cal State Fullerton received a $1.2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation for The Latinx Lab for Storytelling and Social Justice led by faculty in the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS), which aims to transform communities and address structural racism through the art of storytelling.

The grant will support the lab and its mission to engage humanities methodology, inquiry and conversation, said Dr. Gabriela Nuñez, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies, and co-principal investigator and director of the grant.

“Storytelling is important to social change because it is through critical reading and narrative creation that we understand the human condition and our agency in improving that condition. The Latinx Lab is where we create and tell stories that are most important to us and our communities,” Nuñez said.

The grant is slated to fund several efforts to celebrate and explore storytelling as it relates to social justice, including new and revised Chicana and Chicano Studies curriculum, summer institutes for students that focus on the humanities, and the creation of an online digital hub and archive, as well as research symposia to support Latinx humanities scholars.

Through these plans for The Latinx Lab, the Chicana and Chicano Studies department will center narrative storytelling and its tremendous impact on how students view themselves and their communities, according to faculty.

The Latinx Lab underscores the importance of the humanities, namely, the study and creation of art, culture, history, and literature within the Chicana and Chicano Studies department as foundational to understanding Latinx experiences and expression, said Dr. Alexandro Gradilla, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies and co-principal investigator for the grant.

“The humanities lens and framework bring a much-needed intervention to these critical ethnic studies conversations by focusing on the importance of various forms of Latinx storytelling and narratives that express human experiences,” Gradilla said. 

The Latinx Lab support is the third Mellon Foundation grant awarded to humanities-focused programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in the past four years, according to its dean, Dr. Sheryl Fontaine. In 2018, Mellon funded a three-year renewable $444,000  grant to support the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF), which prepares rising juniors for entry into Ph.D. programs and eventually careers as scholars and faculty in the Humanities.

In 2021, Mellon funded a $3 million three-year collaborative initiative to CSUF, Salem State University, New Jersey University and Texas Southern University to establish the Digital Ethnic Futures Consortium (DEFCon), on which Dr. Jamila Moore Pewu, from the CSUF Department of History, serves as partner and co-principal investigator.

“The hard work of our faculty and the staunch support we received from Provost Carolyn Thomas got us here, and the College is humbled and thrilled that Mellon has partnered with us to provide these opportunities for our students and faculty,” Dr. Patricia A. Pérez, associate dean for faculty in H&SS and principal investigator on The Latinx Lab. “The Mellon Foundation Higher Learning grant enriches the Chicana and Chicano Studies faculty, and the department’s liberal arts general education curriculum by creating humanities pathways for more just and equitable futures. We hope to serve as a model for other higher education institutions across the nation engaged in this important work.”

Christina Cardenas