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 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read more about confounding problems

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

Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis

These grants support the creation of new quarter-credit or half-credit courses that allow faculty 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

Proposals due Monday, Feb. 1, 2021

These grants are intended to support new full-credit courses in the arts and humanities that will address confounding problems, to be offered in the academic year 2021-22. 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

Application period has closed for AY 20-21

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. Two fellowships are available per year. In 2020-21, the fellowship provides either one course release (to be taken during the spring 2021 semester), or one month of summer salary (to be taken during summer 2021). In addition, there is a $5,000 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

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).

Given the current uncertainties and the changing landscape of the pandemic, we encourage applications that take into account guidelines for public health and gatherings, imagining creative responses to these unusual circumstances.

Guidelines and cover sheet

Mellon Confounding Problems Student Undergraduate Research Assistant

Grant funding has been exhausted for AY 20-21

This grant makes available funds for faculty in the humanities, arts and humanistic social sciences to hire undergraduate research assistants during the academic year and/or the summer. Students will be paid at a rate of $10/hour for up to 10 hours per week during the academic year, and at a rate of $10/hour up to 37.5 hours per week for up to eight weeks during the summer. 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.

Given the current uncertainties and the changing landscape of the pandemic, we encourage applications that take into account guidelines for public health and gatherings, imagining ways in which students might be employed safely and in accordance with Bucknell's Student Employment Policy.

Mellon Confounding Problems Grants are also available for students

Learn more

Claire Campbell

Professor of History
Affiliated Faculty in Environmental Studies & Sciences, Faculty Ambassador - Confounding Problems and the Public Humanities and Arts Grant


69 Coleman Hall