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UNLV Announces $10 Million Pledge to Expand Black Mountain Institute's Literary Programs

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Donation from Jim and Beverly Rogers funds new Black Mountain Institute Prize for Fiction, increases stipends for creative writing.
Campus News  |  Nov 16, 2013  |  By Afsha Bawany
Media Contact: Afsha Bawany, Office of Media Relations, (702) 895-5515
Author George Saunders, right, talks during an October 15, 2013 Black Mountain Institute discussion. UNLV Professor Doug Unger appears in background, left. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas today announced a $10 million commitment from business leader and Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Emeritus Jim Rogers, and his wife Beverly, to significantly support the expansion of literary programming within the university's Black Mountain Institute (BMI). In recognition of the gift, BMI will be formally renamed the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute.

The gift will infuse BMI's budget with between $500,000 and $800,000 annually for 15 years, allowing BMI to reinstitute and expand its acclaimed City of Asylum program, increase support for existing Ph.D. and fellowship programs, and enhance its public programming and outreach.

BMI will also create the Black Mountain Institute Prize, a biennial $50,000 award for fiction that will be judged by a panel of noteworthy and highly regarded writers.

"BMI has been part of Las Vegas' emerging cultural landscape for the last eight years," said Carol Harter, executive director of BMI. "The vast majority of writers really love Las Vegas. They enjoy the city's energy, and BMI has welcomed writers from all over the world as fellows, speakers and guest lecturers. The Rogers Family Foundation's generous commitment enhances BMI's offerings on every level."

Funds from the gift will be used to support the following BMI programs and initiatives, among others:

City of Asylum

The City of Asylum program, founded in 2001, will return after a three-year hiatus and feature two writers each year. The acclaimed program provides a safe haven for international writers whose voices are muffled by censorship or who are living with the threat of imprisonment or death. The gift will help secure housing for new City of Asylum fellows.

City of Asylum Las Vegas alumni include Syl Cheney-Coker (Sierra Leone), Er Tai Gao (China) and Moniro Ravanipour (Iran). Writers from Syria and Afghanistan are currently being considered for future placements with BMI.

Student Support

Annual stipends for Ph.D. Creative Writing students affiliated with BMI will increase to $25,000, creating some of the most competitive stipends in the nation. In addition, Ph.D. and MFA students will have greater access to travel funds.

Program Expansion

The gift will help several BMI programs and aid in the creation of the Black Mountain Institute Prize for Fiction. In addition, the gift bolsters financial support for BMI's established fellowship programs. The fellows are writers-in-residence and will receive a $10,000 increase in their stipends to $60,000. Each fellow in the nine-month writing program receives a stipend, an office, computer, and access to UNLV's Lied Library. The fellowships allow writers to work in an uninterrupted environment, discuss their works in a public forum, and mentor students in UNLV's nationally recognized creative writing programs.

The gift will assist the development of a public alumni reading series featuring graduates of UNLV's Master of Fine Arts and Ph.D. creative writing programs. BMI's free public program, the Readings and Panels Series, will also receive enhanced funding. The gift will be used to underwrite Witness, a highly regarded literary magazine.

Infrastructure Enhancement

The Beverly Rogers Library/Reading Room will be constructed. Literary magazines and journals will be purchased and made available to students and faculty in the new reading room.

"Jim and I are so proud of Carol and of what she has accomplished at Black Mountain Institute," said Beverly Rogers. "As founder and executive director, Carol brought together the fragments of the former International Institute of Modern Letters, the City of Asylum, and a fledgling fellowship program for writers to create a 'pocket of excellence' within UNLV that not only opens doors for scholars and writers worldwide, but links the university with the community by way of public panel discussions.

"Our gift marks the beginning of BMI's new era of progress. This donation is the means to expand existing programs, to broaden BMI's purview, and to attract more public participation. Most importantly, our vision is to inspire others to join with us in the strengthening of the force that is Black Mountain Institute to put UNLV and Las Vegas on the cultural and literary map."

About Black Mountain Institute

Founded in 2006, the Black Mountain Institute: An International Center for Creative Writers and Scholars at UNLV, is dedicated to advancing literary and cross-cultural dialogue. Through public programs, residential fellowships, and publishing initiatives, BMI provides a cultural lens through which today's most pressing issues can be addressed and evaluated.