Melanie Rae Thon and Nadja Durbach, professors of English and history, respectively, have both received Guggenheim Fellowships.

Durbach applied for several grants last fall, including the Guggenheim. After moving it to the back of her mind, Durbach received the email.

“I was quite surprised and shocked,” she said. “It was really the biggest long-shot grant I applied for.”

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded 178 scholars this year from the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. They received almost 3,000 applications this year.

This fellowship is seen as a mid-career scholarship for those who are already established in their field but not at the end of it, Durbach said.


Durbach is using the grant money to take a year and a half of sabbatical leave and work on a book she has been researching for several years.

Her book focuses on the story of food in Britain and how the British government fed certain populations from the 1830s until 1971, with the introduction of welfare. She will use the funds to do further research about the topic, focusing on different populations throughout the decades.

Durbach is excited to have time and money to finish her project, which she hopes to complete in two years.

“It’s not so much the money involved, but the prestige associated with it,” she said.

Thon, who has already written several books, the most recent of which is Silence and Song, a collection of short fiction which deals with issues like Chernobyl’s Zone of Alienation, child refugees and lost immigrants.

Dianne Harris, Dean of the College of Humanities, said the department has excellent scholars and she is happy they are receiving recognition for their work. Since 2012, six U Guggenheim fellows have been from the college of humanities. Most, such as Thon, are in the creative writing department, something Harris said is not surprising, because the program is ranked in the top five of the country. Because all of the faculty are producing their own research, she said students are learning from the best scholars in their fields.

“They bring [their research] directly to the students and the classroom,” she said, “so when our faculty get a Guggenheim fellowship and they have time off to pursue their own research, when they come back, that research is going to be brought directly to their students in the classroom and those students are getting the most cutting edge, leading edge education they could possibly get from the very best faculty in the country.”

A reception will be held next week in New York City to recognize the fellows.



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