8 faculty members receive Guggenheim Fellowships

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This month, eight UC Berkeley faculty were selected as recipients of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowships, awarded to honor academics, artists and scholars and provide resources to further their work, the most in recent years.

Faculty members Nezar AlSayyad, Jacob Dalton, Shannon Jackson, Kent Lightfoot, Michael Nylan, Austin Roorda, Stephanie Syjuco and Ashvin Vishwanath will receive a grant lasting from six to 12 months, to be used in whichever way they wish. The fellowship was awarded to a total of 178 recipients across the United States and Canada out of thousands of applicants.

Last year, two faculty members were named Guggenheim Fellows. Notable past UC Berkeley recipients include astronomy professor Alex Filippenko in 2000 and professor emeritus of economics Janet Yellen in 1986.
Though the amount varies year to year, in 2008, the average amount of the grant was about $43,000 per recipient.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, established in 1925, strives to encourage scholars and artists to “engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions.”

The 2014 Fellows represent 56 disciplines, 83 different academic institutions, 29 states and two Canadian provinces. They range in age from 29 to 77.

“I am particularly honored to be included in this distinguished and diverse group, which includes writers, film makers etc. whose day to day work could not be more different than my own,” Vishwanath, a physics professor, said in an email. “The Guggenheim fellowship emphasizes, at least to me, the underlying unity that is shared by all creative human endeavors.”

He also hopes to use the freedom of the fellowship to research new ideas.

“One doesn’t have to focus one’s energies on a very concrete direction, but rather, the freedom to explore is very important,” he said.

Jackson, a professor of rhetoric as well as performance studies, and Nylan, a professor of history, hope to use the grant to complete their main projects.

“This is a chance to have sustained time to put (different related projects) all together in a large book,” Jackson said, referring to her next project, “The Way We Perform Now,” on the rhetoric and understandings by artists, curators and spectators in their performance.

Next semester, Jackson will balance her position as director of the Arts Research Center to make sure those activities and projects continue and will use the grant to “find some meditative time.”

AlSayyad, an architecture and city and regional planning professor, plans to research and visit Africa for his book, “Nile: Urban Histories on the Banks of a River,” scheduled for publication in late 2016.

The UC system as a whole had 15 researchers and artists receive the fellowship this year.

Contact Heyun Jeong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @heyunjeong.