Dr. Peter Rudiak-Gould
As part of his doctoral thesis, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Peter Rudiak-Gould spent seven months conducting fieldwork in the Marshall Islands, located in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Oh, the humanities!

What do the creation of the United Nations, contemporary Quebec dance and Norwegian reindeer herders have in common? Humanities research on these themes, among others, has been funded by a grant of $1,495,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Foundation, named for the prestigious American industrialist, has established 13 two-year postdoctoral fellowships in the Faculty of Arts valued at $55,000 each. The Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in the Humanities has been attracting scholars from around the world to ensure that McGill has some of the best intellectual talent.

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Peter Rudiak-Gould, who came to McGill from Oxford University, says the award has had an enormous impact on his ability to conduct his research, which focuses on the role of scientific expertise in influencing climate change beliefs in indigenous communities. “The Fellowship has allowed me to build my experience and credentials in both research and teaching,” he explains. “The research allowance is especially generous and has let me pursue a full range of professional development and research activities, including conferences and fieldwork.”

Other areas of inquiry the program has funded include British overseas subsidiaries in the Industrial Revolution, citizen journalism, the role of Muzak, and the involvement of the French artisan community in the making of scientific instruments.

“The humanities are central to the University’s responsibility to cultivate the knowledge that gives meaning and substance to our lives,” says Christopher Manfredi, Dean of Arts. “These fellowships will greatly enhance our ability to support postdoctoral scholars in conducting research that is both transformative and at the forefront of creativity.”

For many students and alumni, religion is another rich source of meaning in life. The Estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg has strengthened the intellectual standing of the Department of Jewish Studies with a gift of $1 million.

The commitment will be used to fund postdoctoral fellowships and a partnership with McGill Hillel. After fleeing Nazi Germany, Simon Flegg became a construction businessman in Canada and later set up a vocational school. Keen supporters of Jewish life here, he and his wife Ethel, a strong supporter of Emunah (Mothers of Israel), believed in helping the preservation of Jewish heritage and culture. The fellowships are open to all fields of Jewish Studies, from Jewish history to modern Judaism, and the partnership will fund learning experiences offered through Hillel.

“McGill will benefit from the presence of top notch, energetic, new scholars,” says Eric Caplan, PhD’98, Chair of Jewish Studies and Director of the Jewish Teacher Training Program. “Our students, both undergraduate and graduate, will be exposed to the work of these postdocs through the courses they will teach while we professors will have new colleagues to partner with, to learn from and to mentor.”