Mellon Foundation launches new CUNY DSI program for threatened Dominican scholars

In a blow against intellectual oppression, the Mellon Foundation is funding a three-year $750,000 fellowship program at The City College of New York-based CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (DSI) for threatened Dominican scholars globally. Beginning in the fall, the program will enable intellectuals ranging from scholars, artists, writers, and journalists to continue their work in safety at The City College.

In addition, the program aims to substantially broaden and deepen current discussions about the precarious state of intellectual freedom—including freedom of thought and expression—in the Dominican Republic (D.R.), the United States, and around the world.

“Free expression is under assault around the world, and the vital work of scholars to develop and share knowledge and understanding without obstruction has never been more important,” said Andrew Rich, the Richard J. Henley and Susan L. Davis Dean of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at CCNY. “This generous grant from the Mellon Foundation will ensure that the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute can be a safe refuge for researchers internationally. The program will serve as an important beacon for intellectual freedom and creativity in Dominican studies.”

“We are extremely grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this generous support in creating a one-of-a-kind program for threatened Dominican scholars and producers of knowledge,” said Dr. Ramona Hernandez, director of the CUNY DSI. “This innovative program provides a space to Dominican scholars who produce dissonant works that challenge the status quo and that seek to change Dominican society for the better -- a society that does not punish, in any way, people who raise their voice against the establishment and the prevailing social order.” 

Hernandez noted that even though the D.R. has been a democratically governed regime since 1978, violence and violations of human and civil rights have not entirely disappeared. The outright brutality of the previous dictatorial regime gave way to an insidious, quasi-nonvisible, and intangible form of social dominance, punishment, and control. 

“This new program will support intellectuals whose work challenges the ruling elite and the government, and who, for this reason, are threatened with chastisements such as loss of employment, loss of credibility, defamation of character, and barriers to move up in the socioeconomic ladder,” she said. “Applications from scholars working on themes considered especially off-limits in Dominican society, such as political corruption, abortion, gender and LGTQ+ identity and expression, Afro-Dominican culture, and Haitian immigration – will receive special consideration.”

The Fellowship Program for Threatened Dominican Scholars at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute will:

  • Provide material and institutional support for Dominican scholars to continue their work without fear of losing their livelihood; 
  • Strengthen teaching, learning, and research of the D.R. and its people in U.S. academia;  
  • Partner with other Hispanic-serving institutions of higher education in the United States to support threatened scholars from Latin America and the Caribbean; and
  • Expand the demographic composition of U.S. university faculty to include more scholars from the Dominican Republic. 

The fellowship program will furnish a stipend and travel expenses, along with relocation expenses, for nine scholars over a three-year period (Sept. 2023 – Aug. 2026). Inviting several fellows per year will ensure that the program benefits from the expertise of a broad range of disciplines, including fellows working in the humanities (arts, history, literature, music, theater, journalism) and humanistic social sciences (sex, gender, politics, and cultural studies).

The program will have three main components:

Research, writing, and creative work. The program will provide participants the time, material resources, and administrative support to conduct their own projects, whether academic or cultural in nature, such as archival research or musical performances. Each fellow will submit a proposal to pursue their scholarly, artistic, or cultural work while in residence at the Dominican Studies Institute.

Participating in the scholarly and cultural life of the host institution (CCNY). Fellows will be invited to give public lectures, attend panel discussions and conferences, and organize art exhibitions, concerts, and film screenings, among other activities. These events will be free and open to the general public.

Networking with other educational institutions, through travel, research, and lecturing, especially in other members of the Crossing Latinidades Humanities Research Initiative, supported by the Mellon Foundation, particularly the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC), and the Florida International University in Miami (FIU). Each of the selected scholars will travel at least once during their stay to one of these partner institutions outside NYC.

For more information on the program, please contact Pierre Losson, associate director, CUNY DSI, at

About the City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. Education research organization DegreeChoices ranks CCNY #3 nationally for social mobility. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. This year, CCNY launched its most expansive fundraising campaign, ever. The campaign, titled “Doing Remarkable Things Together” seeks to bring the College’s Foundation to more than $1 billion in total assets in support of the College mission. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Jay Mwamba
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