$1.3 million put into new Imagine Fund

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Provost Tom Sullivan announced Tuesday that a $1.3 million initiative will provide a new opportunity for University faculty in the areas of the arts, humanities and design.
The Imagine Fund will be available to tenured professors at all four University campuses, including Duluth, Morris and Crookston.

In an e-mail to faculty, Sullivan explained the “new arts and humanities initiative supports, in new and more substantial ways, our finest scholars and creative artists.”
The funds are a reallocation of money already given to the University.

Assistant to the Provost Johnathan Binks said $500,000 was initially from a McKnight Foundation grant, but the rest is from graduate school funds, the Office for the Vice President of Research and “existing money.”

“We took existing resources and put them in a bigger pool,” Binks said.

Tenured professors will apply annually for individual $3,000 grants to fund books, research or travel.

“If you are a person studying French avant-garde film, what you need is money to travel to France,” Arlene Carney , vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, said.

Tenured art history professor Gabriel Weisberg said he could use the money for research projects and to better his teaching.

“I know I qualify,” Weisberg said. “In this stringent climate, we’re always looking for new ways to increase funds. Typically humanities don’t receive a lot of money.”

The small grants are minimal compared to what some of the other departments receive, Weisberg said, “but in ours, $3,000 can really make a difference.”

After applying, a committee made up of arts and humanities faculty will decide whether a professor’s request is eligible for the grant. Approximately 250 awards will be given each year among all University campuses.

Eileen Zeitz , head of Foreign Languages and Literature at the Duluth campus, said she knows several staff that could put the money to good use.

“We have one faculty member studying the image of the Holocaust in Spanish literature and film, and another in Germany studying Gypsy Roma women,” Zeitz said.

Binks said Provost Sullivan is trying hard to create a “balanced University,” focusing on groups that are sometimes overshadowed when it comes to grant money, including the arts. Carney agreed, adding that the arts “don’t have opportunities to get grants from agencies the same way that people do in the health sciences, physical sciences or engineering fields.”
Steven Ostrow, professor and chair of Arts and Humanities, said the Imagine Fund could “potentially make a big difference.”

“We have virtually no research fund,” he said.