University Libraries announce second cohort of Digital Borderlands Mellon grant recipients

University Libraries announce second cohort of Digital Borderlands Mellon grant recipients

May 25, 2022

In 2020, the University Libraries launched a grant program focusing on integrating library services and expertise into storytelling and data-intensive humanities scholarship, highlighting stories, people, and events from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands region.

Now in the program’s third year, the Libraries announced the newest cohort of University of Arizona research teams that will each be awarded $60,000 through a three-year $750,000 digital borderlands grant funded by the Mellon Foundation. The first cohort of grant recipients was announced last spring.

Photo of Shan Sutton

Shan Sutton, dean of University Libraries and principal investigator for the Digital Borderlands grant, noted that the topics addressed by this year’s cohort are connected to the present and the past.

“These projects ensure a diversity of voices across our region is heard in exploring historical experiences and current perspectives through a variety of computational research methods, as well as through the use of archival materials and artwork,” said Sutton.

The four funded projects, which range from housing discrimination and living with disabilities, to climate justice and cultural identity, aim to tell complex and compelling stories. They also amplify underrepresented voices and narratives within the border region, said Megan Senseney, head of the Libraries’ Research Engagement department and co-principal investigator.

“I am particularly excited to see the use of geospatial mapping, augmented and virtual reality, fabrication, archival documents, and oral histories throughout the cohort,” said Senseney.

megan senseney headshot

“I look forward to learning how we can build new library services that encompass these collections, technologies, and storytelling methods in support of students, faculty, and the wider community.”

Verónica Reyes-Escudero, head of Special Collections and co-principal investigator, said that this year’s cohort digs into broadening the understanding of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands beyond issues of immigration.

Veronica Reyes-Escudero headshot

“We have projects that center the voices of experts in climate justice–the very people affected by changes in climate–and focus on people who directly handle structural inequities while navigating their own disabilities,” said Reyes-Escudero. “We are also working with teams that make use of primary source documentation from cultural heritage institutions that are working hard to recognize underrepresented communities to paint a more inclusive historical record.”

The Libraries' commitment to open access ensures that the stories that come out of the Digital Borderlands initiative will be disseminated to the widest possible audience, said Sutton.

“This cohort of grantees vividly illustrates the multi-dimensional nature of borderlands research and the broad range of library services that support it today and going forward.”

2022 grant recipients

Jason R. Jurjevich, associate professor of practice, School of Geography, Development & Environment

Standing on the shoulders of Mapping Prejudice and other similar projects exploring the geography of racial covenants, “Mapping Racist Covenants” tells the story of racist covenants across Tucson neighborhoods and subdivisions, focusing on those enacted between 1931-1950. The project helps situate how racist covenants, in particular, are part of a larger set of institutional housing restrictions that have, and continue to, affect communities of color. Jurjevich’s project team includes Chris Kollen, librarian emerita, and geography assistant professor of practice Yoga Korgaonkar. Partners include the African American Museum of Southern Arizona, Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, City of Tucson Housing and Community Development, and Southwest Fair Housing Council.

Jamie A. Lee, associate professor, School of Information

The “secrets of the agave: a Climate Justice Storytelling Project” focuses on identifying and collectively combating climate change through a Climate Justice framework and re-imagined practices of ecological and community sustainability. The project consists of three distinct areas: 1) building the digital archives; 2) creating an informational website; and 3) working with community teaching partners/design justice experts to design educational modules and recetas (recipes) to be accessed through the website. Lee’s project team includes digital archivist and doctoral student aems emwsiler, as well as Knowledge River Scholars Bryan Armstrong and R. Rose Reza. Partners include BorderLinks, Primavera Foundation and Primavera Works, The Art of Change Agency, Grace Gámez of Boston University, and Ann Shivers-McNair, assistant professor in English.

Jacy Farkas, assistant director and training director, Sonoran Center for Excellence in Development Disabilities (SUCEDD)
Yumi Shirai, ArtWorks director and assistant professor, Family & Community Medicine
Julie Armin, assistant professor, Family & Community Medicine

“DISCAPAZ: The Disability Experience in the Borderlands” is a multimedia project aimed at centering the voices and narratives of individuals with disabilities and their families living along the Arizona-Sonora border. Using artistic and creative expression, this project will document, analyze, and share stories of lived experience with disability, and highlight the unique strengths and resilience of individuals, families, and communities. The project team includes SUCEDD education coordinator Celina Urquidez and communications director Jeff Javier, and Artworks instructor Elizabeth Vargas. Partners include Southern Arizona Autism Association Inc., Arizona Sonora Border Projects for Inclusion, and Mariposa Community Health Center.

Lisa Falk, head of community engagement/associate curator of education, Arizona State Museum
Bryan Carter, director, Center for Digital Humanities; professor, Africana Studies

“Discovering Community in the Borderlands” explores the history and culture of Tucson by creating a collaborative dispersed outdoor virtual museum that uses geolocation technology and offers 1) augmented reality encounters with curators, educators, poets, and community tradition bearers--storytellers, artisans, cultural experts, 2) enhanced digital stories connected to cultural artifacts and poetry encounters, and 3) a website with a map connecting the different sites and providing previews and additional resources. The project team includes curatorial specialist Jannelle Weakly, digital assets specialist Max Mijn, and university students working in the Digital Humanities Lab. Partners include the Borderlands Theater Company, Dunbar Pavilion, Mission Garden, Pascua Yaqui Tribe Department of Language and Culture, Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

About the Mellon Foundation

The Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at