UW Awarded Mellon Foundation Grant for Wyoming Stories Project

The University of Wyoming will undertake a three-year effort to gather and archive stories of everyday Wyomingites, following the receipt of a significant grant from a prominent national foundation that supports the arts and humanities.

The Mellon Foundation has agreed to provide $850,000 to UW’s Department of English for the project, “Re-Storying the West for a Transformative Future: We Are Wyoming.” The project supports the department’s plans to launch a Ph.D. program in the public humanities this fall, following consideration by UW’s Board of Trustees this spring.

The project, led by Department of English Associate Professor Nancy Small, will bring campus collaborators together with community partners around the state, with the ultimate goal of creating “a living public archive” of Wyoming stories.

“Thanks to this funding from the Mellon Foundation, we look forward to building a new statewide program designed to amplify the voices of everyday Wyoming citizens across a range of identities and roles,” Small says. “The folks who cook our food, educate our children, serve in the military, build our homes and keep our communities running — their stories deserve a spotlight.”

UW President Ed Seidel says the effort dovetails with the university’s strategic plan focus on engaging with and serving the people of Wyoming, among other objectives.

“‘Re-Storying the West’ promises to be a high-impact, signature initiative by which to highlight the richness of our region and to strengthen statewide community relations,” Seidel says. “We appreciate the support of the Mellon Foundation as we work to elevate UW’s reputation as a place where education, research and community dialogue go hand in hand.”

“This project demonstrates UW’s commitment to the humanities and clearly outlines how the humanities benefit Wyoming,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Scott Turpen says. “It is an example of how the humanities are an essential part of enriching the human experience and providing cultural understanding.”

Specifically, the grant will allow the Department of English to provide subgrants to faculty members on campus and create graduate assistantships and internships. This team will receive training in story-gathering methods in a series of professional development sessions.

The team members then will collaborate with community organizations to conduct story-gathering events and interviews around Wyoming, enhancing relationships with the state’s community colleges, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and others. The stories will be archived and presented on a website, through podcasts and on other platforms.

Small says many people outside Wyoming view it only from the perspective of narratives of the Old West and the solace of wide-open spaces, but there is much more to the state’s story.

“We are excited about the chance to meet old stories with new stories,” she says. “We look forward to engaging with a wide range of participants around Wyoming as we reflect over who and where we are, and to imagine our best futures together.”

For more information about “Re-Storying the West,” email Small at nancy.small@uwyo.edu.