Inaugural Interseminars Project

Humanities Research Institute Announces Inaugural Mellon Interseminars Project

Initiative Supports Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education Innovation in the Arts and Humanities

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - October 11, 2021

Article updated June 2, 2022 to reflect change in faculty conveners. 

The Humanities Research Institute (HRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has announced the inaugural Interseminars project, led by professors Josue David Cisneros of the Department of Communication, Patrick Earl Hammie of the School of Art and Design, and Jorge Lucero of the School of Art and Design.

Funded by a $2,000,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Interseminars Initiative will fund three such projects over three successive years, each selected through a competitive application process. This initiative represents the latest thinking on how best to practice a genuinely collaborative and equitable commitment to graduate training in the public research university of the 21st century.

In Interseminars, faculty and graduate students have the opportunity to collaborate in the design of cross-departmental and cross-college courses, with funding for key aspects of that work: co-curricular programming, shared research experiences and fellowship support for students, particularly those historically underrepresented in higher education. Later this month, HRI will post a call for applications to select up to eight graduate fellows to participate in the project’s two summer intensives, interdisciplinary methods seminar and themed seminar course, and to engage in collaborative research with the faculty co-leaders. Each project spans an 18-month period, culminating in a community event.

The first Interseminars project, developed by Cisneros, Hammie, and Lucero, is themed “Imagining Otherwise: Speculation in the Americas.” Referencing examples from TV’s "Lovecraft Country" to recent anti-racist activist efforts, the theme centers speculation as a method for looking differently at the world—both to critically assess its status quo and to reimagine how it could be different. Studying speculative forms in art and activism, they propose, can help guide scholarly and creative inquiry about crises ranging from climate change to systemic violence and immigration policy. The project’s work will be foregrounded in the knowledge and experiences of historically marginalized communities throughout the Americas, exploring how speculation has been and can be used to reframe the past, present and future.

HRI director Antoinette Burton said, “The creative energies and intellectual commitments we see in 'Imagining Otherwise' point to something we know but rarely have the opportunity to see at work: that is, the vital links between interdisciplinary graduate teaching and ground-breaking collaborative research in the humanities and arts."

For More Information

Interseminars Initiative web page

Contact: Erin Ciciora, Senior Communications Manager

Headshot of Josue David Cisneros

About the Faculty

Josue David Cisneros, an associate professor in the Department of Communication, and affiliate faculty in Latina/o Studies and the Unit for Criticism, specializes in social movement communication and activist rhetorics, especially as they pertain to struggles for racial justice and immigrant rights.

His focus on activist communication and social movement culture draws attention to the explicitly political and contestatory role of speculative and futurist work as a part of struggles for policy change and broader social transformation.

Headshot of Patrick Hammie


Patrick Earl Hammie, an associate professor in the School of Art and Design, specializes in storytelling and visual expressions of cultural identity and the body in culture.

His work draws from history and pop culture to explore his personal journey through spaces, relationships, and expectations toward articulating the institutional, economic, and cultural migration of Black people.

Headshot of Jorge Lucero


Jorge Lucero, an associate professor in the School of Art and Design, is an artist born, raised and mostly educated in Chicago. He currently serves as Chair and Associate Professor of Art Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Lucero's books include Mere and Easy: Collage as a Critical Practice in Pedagogy, Teacher as Artist-in-Residence: The Most Radical Form of Expression to Ever Exist, and the forthcoming books, What Happens at the Intersection of Conceptual Art and Teaching? and Alongside Teacher: Conversations about what, where, and who artists learn with. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters in books. Lucero has exhibited, performed, and taught all over the U.S. and abroad. He received his degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Penn State University. He is currently the co-editor of the international journal, Visual Arts Research.