We’ve all heard the expression go big or go home. Well, UNCG has definitely gone big.

The Folger Institute, a center for advanced study in the humanities and fine arts on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., has invited UNCG to be one of only 42 universities that make up its consortium.

UNCG joins the likes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Duke, as well as universities in Canada and Britain, to support the programming and mission of the institute.

We’ve developed from a very, very good teaching institution into a truly wide-ranging and fully articulated research university.

“It’s a sign not only of how far we’ve come,” says Dr. Christopher Hodgkins, professor of English and director of UNCG’s Atlantic World Research Network“It’s a sign that we’ve arrived.”

The Folger Shakespeare Library, which stands next to the Library of Congress, holds the world’s largest collection of works by and related to Shakespeare. “In one sense it’s a bastion of high culture,” Hodgkins says. “But it’s also as contemporary and dynamic as Shakespeare himself.”

The library has long been a place where UNCG researchers have examined early manuscripts and rare printed books, attended conferences or researched important questions in literature and many other disciplines.

A natural fit

Because the institute is so well regarded, it typically doesn’t seek out new members.

“The way we came into membership was natural and organic,” says Hodgkins, who led the membership initiative and who now serves as UNCG’s first representative on the Folger Institute Executive Board. “It’s an official recognition of a long-standing relationship. It’s also a widespread recognition of UNCG’s research achievements. Over the 20 years that I’ve been here, we’ve developed from a very, very good teaching institution into a truly wide-ranging and fully articulated research university.”

The institute looks for a high degree of excellence in all the areas it sponsors, such as literature, history, women’s studies, religion, music, theatre and the history of science. For instance, in recent years UNCG faculty have won multiple year-long faculty grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Those recipients include Hodgkins, Dr. Jennifer Keith, Dr. Karen Kilcup, Dr. Derek Krueger and Dr. Jeff Soles.

In addition to research excellence, the Folger Institute looks for an ongoing relationship with the consortium institution, seeking high-quality faculty scholars to participate in its conferences, seminars, symposia and workshops. The institute usually expects consortium schools to field 6-7 interested faculty; UNCG has 25 faculty who are ready to contribute.

Also important to the Folger is the knowledge that we have excellent students, with a record of award-winning publications.

Membership has its privileges

All UNCG affiliated faculty and graduate students are first in line in application status. All registration fees for conferences, seminars, symposia and workshops are waived and faculty members are eligible for travel and lodging grants-in-aid. Not to mention all affiliates are eligible for full access to the Folger Shakespeare Library collections, and reciprocal privileges with the Newberry Library in Chicago. And did we mention the Library of Congress, literally next door?

Students will benefit from the membership as well. The Folger recognizes the need to foster excellent research early on and integrates graduate students into all of its programs, Hodgkins says.

These benefits are largely underwritten by an ongoing grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. UNCG’s contribution is further defrayed by Marilyn Lauritzen’s gift to the Russ McDonald Fund for Excellence in Renaissance Literature.

“It’s about as big a win-win situation as you can find.”

Photography by David Wilson, University Relations