Mellon Confounding Problems Grants

Confounding (or wicked) problems are large-scale problems that resist any simple solution — and that concern us as citizens as well as scholars. The expression has been used primarily in the sciences and social sciences to describe problems or issues that have multiple causes and no single answers, such as a quick technological fix or a central authority to solve them. Confounding Problems Grants assist faculty in developing curricula and pursuing research related to these problems.

Examples of confounding problems include (but are not limited to): 

  • Issues of race, identity and security
  • Migration and borders
  • Environmental change and adaptation
  • Gentrification and urban renewal
  • Different meanings of health and wellbeing
  • Practices of memory and restoration
  • Diversity on campus
  • The state of the liberal arts

Confounding Problems Grants are supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Read more about confounding problems

Mellon Confounding Problems Curricular Teach-In and Teach-Out Grants

Teach-In course application deadlines: 

  • Fall: Sept. 23, 2022
  • Spring: Feb. 1, 2023

However, course proposals will be considered year-round, depending on funding and feasibility.

These grants support the creation of new quarter-credit or half-credit courses that allow faculty and staff with teaching eligibility to respond to difficult issues in nimble, creative ways. Faculty will receive overload pay at the standard Bucknell rate for teaching these courses, and students will receive academic credit for enrolling and successfully completing them. Follow-up "teach-out" funds may be available to encourage continued engagement with the confounding problem under study. Please note: Teach-in courses may be team-taught as long as one member of the team belongs to the Division of Arts and Humanities.

Guidelines and cover sheet

Mellon Confounding Problems Summer Curriculum Development Grants

Application deadline: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023

These grants are intended to support new full-credit courses in the arts and humanities that will address confounding problems. Proposals that support civic engagement or a public dynamic are encouraged, as are proposals that contribute to the College Core Curriculum. Preference will be given to proposals for courses that will be taught in the next academic year and that will become a regular component of the curriculum.  The grant provides for a summer stipend as well as a reimbursable account for course-related expenses while it is being taught.

Guidelines and cover sheet

Mellon Confounding Problems Faculty Research Fellowships

The deadline has been closed for this academic year

These fellowships will provide faculty in the humanities and arts with the time and resources needed to support scholarly projects into areas identified as confounding problems. The fellowship provides for one course release (to be taken during spring semester 2023). In addition, there is a $6,000 reimbursable account for research-related expenses during the fellowship period.

Guidelines and cover sheet

Mellon Confounding Problems Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis beginning Friday, Sept. 23, 2022

Grants of up to $2,500 are available to assist faculty in the humanities and arts in disseminating their scholarship beyond the conventional outlets for their discipline (such as academic journals and books for humanists, or campus performances or exhibits for artists). This is intended to complement more traditional, peer-reviewed scholarship and to communicate such scholarship on these confounding problems to a larger audience, including community members in central Pennsylvania as well as the far-reaching general public. Dissemination may take a variety of forms (such as projects with K-12 students or other local groups, public exhibits, travel to share scholarship at important venues beyond academic conferences, or creating a digital archive or open resource).

Guidelines and cover sheet

Mellon Confounding Problems Student Undergraduate Research Assistant

Applications accepted on a rolling basis from Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 and onward

These grants make available funds for faculty in the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences to hire undergraduate research assistants during the academic year. Students will be paid wages based on the Bucknell University Student Wage Scale for up to 10 hours per week during the academic year. The Bucknell University Student Employment Policy must be followed. The research may be at any stage of development and may involve a variety of forms of dissemination. Students who are full-time and in good standing are eligible for these positions.

When hiring a student, the Bucknell University Student Employment policies and procedures must be followed.  Additional information relating to “Student Employment Policies” can be found here.

Guidelines and cover sheet

Mellon Confounding Problems Grants are also available for students

Contact Details

Elisabeth Guerrero

Professor of Spanish
Affiliated Faculty in Latin American Studies; Faculty Ambassador, Mellon Confounding Problems and the Public Arts and Humanities Grant


207 Coleman Hall