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Welcome to

the BU Mellon Sawyer Seminars, 2016-2018

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars were established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. The seminars, named in honor of the Mellon Foundation's long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants. The Mellon Foundation’s support aims to engage productive scholars in comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs. Sawyer Seminars are, in effect, temporary research centers. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a Sawyer Seminar Fellowship to Boston University in 2016 to pursue interdisciplinary exploration of ethical aspects of everyday life in a computationally driven world.

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Recipients of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar Grant, “Humanities and Technology at the Crossroads, 2016-2018"

Principal Investigators




Juliet Floyd


James E. Katz



Russell Powell


BU Mellon Sawyer Fellows, 2017-2018

Jon Burmeister, PhD (Boston College, Philosophy, 2011) is a tenure track Assistant Professor at the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York City.  His dissertation was on Hegel’s notion of living logic and the evolution of language and human nature, and his research focuses on nineteenth century continental philosophy and philosophy of technology.  He was the recipient of a 2016-2017 NEH “Enduring Questions” Grant on the subject of Work and Leisure.

Jon Burmeister, PhD

Wendy Salkin, JD PhD (Stanford Law, 2013, Harvard Philosophy, 2018) is currently Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University.  She works in social and political philosophy with a focus on informal political representation and was appointed a Harvard Horizons Fellow, 2018. Previously she was a fellow at the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences (2012-2013), and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard (2015-2016). Her areas of research include philosophy of law, black political thought, and ethics, as well as feminism, Africana philosophy and bioethics.  

Wendy Salkin, JD, ABD

Seena Efthekhari, PhD (University of Kansas PhD 2018) is a Part-Time Instructor at Tufts University. The connection between liberal conceptions of person-hood and the status of the capitalist economic liberties. Areas of political philosophy such as liberalism, socialism, distributive justice, freedom, and Austrian political economy.

Seena Eftekhari, PhD

Laura Specker Sullivan, PhD (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, with a Graduate Certificate in Japanese Studies, 2015) is currently a tenure-track professor at the University of Charleston. She was previously a fellow at the Harvard Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School (2017-2018). Her dissertation concerned justification of cross-cultural claims in global bioethics, and she has published in English and Japanese on Japanese medical ethics, human-machine interface, feminism and bioethics in a global context. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the College of Charleston.

Laura Specker Sullivan, PhD

David Leslie, PhD (Yale, Political Science, 2010) is currently a permanent ethics fellow at the Alan M. Turing Institute, London, previously a Lecturer at the Tanner Center for Human Values, Princeton University and at the Yale Program in Ethics, Politics and Economics and helping to launch Yale’s new innovation center. His dissertation on radical alterity comprised social, political, and philosophical aspects of society in history.  His research has covered methodological and social aspects of computation and scaling of justice and he is currently writing a book on ethics, politics, and economics in an age of extinction risk.

David Leslie, PhD

BU Mellon Sawyer Post-Doc, 2017-2018:

Zeynep Soysal, PhD (Harvard University, 2016) writes on the epistemology of mathematics. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Rochester.

completed her dissertation at Harvard in 2016, writing on the epistemology of mathematics, social epistemology, set theory, and formal content.  She has also been active in Turkey in organizations promoting the use of social media to enable democratic participation. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Rochester.

Zeynep Soysal, PhD
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