The MLA has been awarded a grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen the teaching of English at access-oriented institutions (AOIs) — community colleges and other colleges that prioritize access over selectivity in admissions. Between 2019 and 2022, the association will organize nine regional summer institutes for those who teach at AOIs and those who would like to make their teaching careers at them.

Over four years, the grant will allow 144 doctoral students and instructors at AOIs (community colleges and other colleges that prioritize access over selectivity in admissions) to participate in week-long summer institutes in different regions of the United States, conduct pedagogical research projects the following semester, and present their work at an MLA Annual Convention or on the MLA Commons.  Graduates from the program will be awarded an MLA Certificate in Reading-Writing Pedagogy at Access-Oriented Institutions.

Housing and meal expenses for the institutes will be covered by the grant, and participants will receive a $2,500 stipend to support their participation.

The MLA Teaching Institutes are part of the MLA’s efforts to develop regional professional-development programming and to promote the humanities at institutions that prioritize access. AOIs enroll many first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and students of color—groups that are often discouraged from pursuing the humanities. “Students at access-oriented institutions deserve the opportunity to take courses that help them develop a foundation for lifelong learning, not just ones that train them for a specific job,” said Paula M. Krebs, the executive director of the MLA. “To encourage these students to study the humanities, we need to make sure they have instructors who understand their needs.”

The institutes will

  • provide new and future faculty members with an understanding of the needs and circumstances of students at AOIs;
  • provide new and future faculty members with intensive training in pedagogical theory and practices for the teaching of writing and reading together to improve writing instruction at AOIs and to nurture the study of the humanities in diverse educational settings;
  • develop strategies for locally sustaining the collaborations started by the institutes; and
  • renew conversation in the profession about relations among literature, composition, and the humanities and build stronger connections between introductory writing courses and upper-level humanities courses.

The first of the Mellon Foundation–funded institutes took place in the summer of 2019 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of Washington, Seattle.  The 2020 institutes were postponed, but cohorts selected for that year will attend  summer institutes in 2021 at Columbia University, NY; Sonoma State University, CA; and East Tennessee State University, TN.

The institute at East Tennessee State University will devote special attention to teaching at community colleges and HBCUs.  The institute at Sonoma State  University will devote special attention to teaching at community colleges and HSIs.

The facilitators at the Columbia University institute will be Howard Tinberg, professor of English at Bristol Community College, former chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and co-editor of Deep Reading: Teaching Reading in the Writing Classroom; and Nicole Wallack, director of the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University, senior associate at the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College, and author of Crafting Presence: The American Essay and the Future of Writing Studies.

The facilitators at the Sonoma State University institute will be Stacey Donohue, professor of English at Central Oregon Community College, former member of the MLA Committee on K–16 Alliances, and former president of the Association of Departments of English; and Yndalecio (Isaac) Hinojosa, assistant professor of English at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, and co-editor of Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy Practices at Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Open Words: Access and English Studies. ​

The facilitators at the East Tennessee State University institute will be Jessica Edwards, associate professor of English and CTAL Diversity Scholar at the University of Delaware, whose scholarship considers ways to engage critical race theory and the intersections of race, racism, and power in writing classrooms; and Howard Tinberg, professor of English at Bristol Community College, former chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and co-editor of Deep Reading: Teaching Reading in the Writing Classroom.

Additional institutes will be offered in the summer of 2022. The locations and details of the application process will be posted in January 2022. Applications will be accepted from doctoral students in English and related fields and from new faculty members (no more than five years of full-time teaching experience) at access-oriented institutions. Applicants must reside in the region of the institution hosting the institute to which they are applying.

The planning for the creation of the MLA Teaching Institutes was supported by a generous grant from the Teagle Foundation, awarded in March 2018.


Project Coordinator: Anthony Williams
Modern Language Association
85 Broad Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10004
Phone: 646.576.5133
E-mail: awilliams@mla.org