Bennett-Polonsky Humanities Labs

The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs and the Center for the Humanities have the pleasure to invite all interested faculty in the Humanities and the Arts at NYU to submit proposals for a collaborative, interdisciplinary research and curricular initiative, the Bennett-Polonsky Humanities Labs. Drawing on the lab model from the sciences and the studio model from the arts, Humanities Labs aim to create new opportunities for humanities-centered inquiry based on an ethos of experimentation, creativity and cross-disciplinary knowledge production. With the generous aid of the Bennett-Polonsky Foundation, we are able to offer $100,000 in support of two Humanities Lab (H-Lab) projects each year. The goal is to create shared spaces, both real and virtual, where faculty, students and humanities practitioners from different fields come together to tackle important questions or think about topics that have a particular urgency.

Humanities Labs (H-Labs) consist of year-long intensive collaborations integrated by both faculty and students (each participating in different capacities) coming from diverse disciplines across the University. The subjects of the H-labs would be proposed by self-assembled groups (typically consisting of four or five faculty members, and possibly including one or two humanities or arts practitioners) interested in a specific question they wish to explore. Topics would be broad-ranging in nature and might include subjects such as: exile and diaspora; religion and secularism; social justice and the arts; experimentation and forms of truth production – indeed, any subject that touches upon the complex experience of being human in a social world and that demands multidisciplinary exploration.

Each H-Lab — consisting of the faculty member organizers plus, ideally, a small group of graduate students, also from different disciplines — will meet on a weekly basis (or more often, if desired) in a dedicated Humanities lab space outfitted for the group. Total group size should be approximately 10-12. In order to support the initiative, faculty participating in H-Labs will receive a course reduction (funds will be given to the faculty member’s home Department in support of replacement teaching as needed). Graduate students may receive graduate course credit and are eligible for a small stipend.

In the first semester, lab members discuss and analyze shared readings, pose questions, propose and carry out conceptual experiments, gather data, and effectively function as a research team, working both collectively and individually in the lab space(s). In the second semester, in addition to continuing to meet as a lab team, H-Lab faculty team-teach one or several 4-point undergraduate courses on the topic of the lab in order to bring research immediately into the undergraduate curriculum. Additionally, graduate student lab members may lead 2-point Humanities Lab practicums that provide undergraduates with in-depth experiential learning on the topic of the lab and serve as models of engaged, public, research-oriented humanities in practice. The year ends with a public presentation of lab’s findings and the launch of a web space where that lab can continue to exist virtually.

Deadline: February 1, 2019

Notification begins on or about February 15, 2019.


All full-time faculty in the humanities and the arts at NYU are invited to submit proposals. Partnerships with faculty in other disciplines are welcome, as are partnerships with outside experts, practitioners, or groups.


Proposals selected will receive up to $50,000 in funding that may be allotted as follows: up to four course releases for four faculty fellowships (each fellow’s Department or unit will receive up to $7,500 to be used for replacement teaching as needed) for a total of $30,000; up to ten graduate student stipends of $1,500 each for a total of $15,000 to provide summer or J-term funding for graduate student lab participants who wish to devote that time to research on topics related to the H-Labs; up to $5,000 for programming, events, web development, materials, and in support of a final showcase. (Variances from this model need to be pre-approved).

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals should include the following components:

  1. A cover sheet with the name of the proposed lab and the names and departmental/programmatic affiliations of the lab team.
  2. A short narrative (3-page maximum) of the H-Lab project explaining its intellectual significance and laying out the ideas, problems or questions to be explored by the lab and the methods for doing so. The narrative should provide an intellectual justification of the proposed H-Lab project, addressing the research and contributions it hopes to make and the form of the final product and of its dissemination.
  3. Description of H-Lab course(s):
    • Graduate course title, instructor(s), sponsoring department and brief description (if the graduate participants will be enrolling in the first semester of the lab as a grad course; if they will be participating in another capacity, please specify.)
    • Undergraduate course title, instructors, sponsoring department, semester offered, and brief description of the team-taught undergraduate course(s) that develop from the lab.
    • Brief description of the 2-point H-Lab practicum that would accompany the undergraduate course(s) described in 3.2. (Explain what makes this 2-point course a “lab”.)
  4. A budget that itemizes the ways in which the lab plans to use its $50,000 annual funding, following the guidelines above. Please indicate whether there are any additional funds that the Lab will be able to draw upon (e.g. through existing projects and grants) or if there will be a need/opportunity to raise additional external or internal funds.
  5. Brief statement(s) of support from the Department Chair(s), indicating approval of possible course release.

Application Instructions

Complete proposals must be submitted electronically via the online application as a single pdf or word file by February 1, 2019. Approval/support letters from Chairs may be included with the proposal or submitted separately to

Letters mailed to should use the subject line “Humanities Labs Letter of Support for <Applicant’s Name>”. Letters must be submitted by the application deadline of February 1, 2019.

Questions regarding applications should be addressed to