Campus News

Dillard awarded $700K grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Zella Palmer shares a laugh with Prince Lobo, owner of Addis NOLA, at an October 2022 cooking demonstration. Photo: Sabree Hill/Dillard University.

March 8, 2023
Contact: Eddie Francis, efrancis@dillard.edu 

NEW ORLEANS — Dillard University has received a $700,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a multi-year project in collaboration with the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture. Dillard was selected after a rigorous and competitive grant proposal, interview and selection process. The grant entitled, “Higher Learning Through Humanities in Food Studies,” will help strengthen research, food studies, community programming and fellowships. Dillard’s selection makes the University a primary and intellectual hub of a national network, strengthening its legacy as a leader in liberal arts education.

The initiative is designed to help the Ray Charles Program, their students, and communities explore the cultural, political and global impact of food throughout American and global history. 

“One of our strategic focus areas, in being a ‘communiversity,’ is improving communities’ mental and physical health,” said Dr. Rochelle Ford, president of Dillard. “Teaching our students the relationship between food insecurity, food deserts and culture is critical to improving health. Using a liberal arts approach, we are hard at work cultivating leaders, so this grant from the Mellon Foundation will push us more in that direction.”

“While African American and Indigenous foodways are included in our curriculum, our course offerings and programming examines multi-cultural and diverse topics in food studies to provide a more robust understanding of the humanities,” said Zella Palmer, director and chair of the Ray Charles Program. Palmer will serve as the project’s faculty lead; and Mablene Kreuger, Dillard’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, will serve as the lead administrator. 

The Higher Learning Through Humanities in Food Studies Mellon Foundation grant, is geared towards making major strides in developing a stronger footprint for research, programming, scholarship, student and community engagement. Students will gain academic accreditation from completing a food studies minor while being introduced to a broader understanding of social justice issues, American history and culture in a “communiversity” learning environment. 

In 2020, after years of research, programming and development and under the leadership of Dillard’s former academic affairs vice president, Dr. Yolanda Page, the Ray Charles Program and Dillard’s School of Humanities launched a food studies minor. 

The Ray Charles Program was established by the late music great Ray Charles in 2004. It also educates students and the greater New Orleans community about New Orleans cuisine, dating back to U.S. slavery, and creating a holistic understanding of the food industry. Programmatic activities will begin this spring and build toward a series of seminars, new food studies courses and a guest fellowship program. More information is available at https://mellon.org/programs/higher-learning/.

Higher Learning supports knowledge production in the humanities by funding fellowships, seminars, curricular development projects, and regranting programs that center paradigm-shifting work in an array of emerging and established fields. We seek in particular to uplift perspectives and contributions that have been marginalized within the conventional scholarly record, and that promote the realization of a more socially just world.

About Dillard University
Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting www.dillard.edu.