St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf Spanish professor awarded Burkhardt Fellowship

The American Council of Learned Societies has awarded St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Spanish Kristina Medina-Vilariño a Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship.

The Burkhardt program, which is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, supports residential research fellowships for recently tenured faculty members. Burkhardt Fellowships carry a $95,000 stipend and a $7,500 research budget designed to accommodate long-term, multi-year research projects.

Medina-Vilariño will use the fellowship to pursue a project titled Narratives of Life: A Post-Maria Intervention in Colonial Puerto Rico in residence at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez in 2019-20.

“Hurricane Maria dramatically changed Caribbean Studies as a field. The everlasting debate regarding cultural identity among Puerto Ricans took a dramatic turn when social media outlets like Facebook served as political platforms for a collective, grassroots recovery. Social media messages took many shapes and tones, but most reinforced the premise that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and deserve the full aid and assistance of the U.S. Many effective initiatives in this crusade were artistic, as art became a vivid language for survival, recovery, and mourning,” Medina-Vilariño states in her project description.

Her Narratives of Life project consists of an ethnography that investigates narratives and artifacts of colonialism, displacement, and belonging. It examines oral histories, literature, and visual art discussing the relationship between colonialism, diaspora, natural disasters, and cultural identity before and after Hurricane Maria.

Since the Burkhardt Fellowship program began in 1999, it has supported nearly 250 scholars at a critical stage in their careers. The program partners with 13 national and international research centers to host fellows for year-long residencies; in 2015, ACLS doubled the number of fellowships, creating additional opportunities for faculty from liberal arts colleges, and allowing them to arrange residencies at any research university-based humanities center or academic department in the United States. With both sets of awards, fellows benefit from the experience of being in residence at institutions whose resources and scholarly communities are ideally suited to facilitate their projects.