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Krebs Center for the Humanities receives $1.2 million Artificial Intelligence grant

Krebs house exterior
January 24, 2024

Lake Forest College is excited to announce a new $1.2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation for HUMAN: Humanities Understanding of the Machine-Assisted Nexus, a multi-year initiative that explores artificial intelligence through a humanities perspective. The project will equip students with the skills to ethically integrate AI into their professional lives.

The project, led by Professor of English and Executive Director of the Krebs Center for the Humanities Davis Schneiderman, will serve as a major initiative of the new center. The Mellon Foundation describes the project in this way:

“Humanities Understanding of the Machine-Assisted Nexus, a project that will explore what it means to be human in the age of AI by engaging an interdisciplinary group of humanities faculty fellows who, in partnership with Chicago-based organizations, would lead an effort to develop new courses, digital humanities research projects, seminars, publications, artist residencies, and other means for students to gain a broad understanding of the role that the humanities should play in public policy, cultural preservation, and community education in an AI-inflected world.”

Lake Forest College will use HUMAN to address the urgent need for an informed understanding of the interplay between the humanities and the fast-evolving realm of artificial intelligence to ensure ethical developments, promote equitable technological advancement, and nurture meaningful human-AI collaboration. The project will also work closely with three important community partners: Chicago History Museum, Ragdale, and Sweet Water Foundation.

“Artificial Intelligence is everywhere, and we know that tomorrow’s leaders must understand its promise and its limits. We will explore AI within the broad humanistic tradition represented by the Krebs Center,” said Schneiderman adding that “we need to look at not only what AI can ‘do’ but what can be done to lessen bias in its deployment.”

HUMAN’s activities will support many aspects of the College’s humanities efforts, with direct connections to the entire curriculum, from a new First-Year Studies course called Digital Dawn: Humanity, Cyberspace, and the Rise of Artificial Intelligence, to a significant AI initiative using the Krebs Center’s art collection, to a series of innovative faculty-led projects.

“We thank the Mellon Foundation for its long engagement with Lake Forest College, and its continued investment in the future of the humanities,” said Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tara Natarajan. “We’re ready to launch a series of courses and projects in the next academic year that will directly engage with the important work of the grant and continue to promote the centrality of the humanities, especially in the age of AI.”

HUMAN builds on previous Mellon-funded initiatives at the College, including Digital Chicago (2013-2017) and Humanities 2020 (2018-2023).

As the nation’s largest funder of the arts/culture and humanities in higher education, the Mellon Foundation has made this grant to Lake Forest as part of their invitation-based Humanities for All Times initiative.

About the Krebs Center: The Krebs Center for the Humanities is set in an Italianate villa in Lake Forest where the traditional and the cutting-edge converge and where literature, philosophy, history, and the arts are not just subjects of study but also dynamic forces that prepare students to meet an ever-evolving future. The Krebs Center underscores the College’s commitment to paving the way for a future where creativity, critical thinking, and empathy take center stage.

About Lake Forest College: Founded in 1857, Lake Forest College is a selective residential, national liberal arts institution located 30 miles north of downtown Chicago. The College has 1,650 students representing nearly every state and more than 100 countries. Lake Forest College has a long tradition of academic excellence and is known for its innovative curriculum and focus on career preparation. The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Lake Forest College the Best Liberal Arts College in the Midwest. Explore the College at