Middlebury’s Axinn Center for the Humanities has received a $1.48 million grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities For All Times initiative to support its project, “Migrant Justice in Vermont and Beyond.”

This three-year comprehensive and multidisciplinary project will bring attention to migration in all its forms, with a particular focus on the structural, cultural, and financial struggles facing migrants. Middlebury students and faculty will learn about and conduct research on migration and social justice, while also raising public awareness about the issues. 

Migrant Justice in Vermont and Beyond

Since the nineteenth century migrants have been coming to Vermont, drawn both by opportunities to work in a variety of industries, and by the prospect of escaping oppressive contexts in their home countries. In our current historical moment seasonal laborers, especially from the Caribbean and Central America, find work in the apple orchards and dairy farms around Addison County. A comprehensive understanding of these migrants’ varying predicaments requires broad and deep local and global studies. Through Migrant Justice in Vermont and Beyond, Middlebury students will learn how this vital contemporary issue can be more sharply and deeply understood in the context of literary, historical, philosophical, and linguistic study. To bolster our students’ and faculty’s understanding of migration and to enable the promotion of justice, we will build upon and develop enduring collaborations with local partners who are working with migrants and refugees. 

Project Goals

  • To connect our Humanities faculty and students with local and global issues related to migrant justice, including education, health care, legal rights, and food insecurity, while also addressing questions of belonging, storytelling, and history.  
  • To support innovative pedagogy by highlighting the Center’s signature Public Humanities Labs (PHL) program, developed 2021.
  • To show that the Humanities at Middlebury is a living, active, and applied area in which students can develop an array of skills that will help them in whatever career they pursue.

Project Highlights

Migrant Workshops: A March 2024 workshop will gather interested faculty and community partners to define and identify concrete social justice issues affecting refugees and migrants in Vermont and beyond and to determine collaborations. 

A second workshop in November 2026 will bring together all partners to assess the degree to which the project has brought awareness and positive change to migrant justice issues.

Summer Institutes: Three summer institutes will provide crucial faculty training to support the development of course proposals and syllabi for 30 new Public Humanities Labs (PHL) over the course of the grant. Established at Middlebury in 2021, PHLs provide deep investigations into core humanities topics, such as justice, equity, and narrative storytelling, within familiar disciplinary frameworks like history, literature, and philosophy.

Two-Year Post-Doctoral Position: This grant covers the hiring of a post-doctoral fellow in migration studies who will offer one course each year on issues related to migration and justice, participate in two Summer Institutes and in the faculty research seminar, and deliver one public lecture per year. 

Student Research Fellowships: Supervised by a faculty sponsor, five students each year will research and write on topics about migrant justice. 

Faculty Research Seminars: Two year-long research seminars will develop scholarship on a theme related to migrant justice.