Mellon Grant Boosts CLA’s Humanities Curriculum

Office of Communications | Wed Jan 9, 2019

Faculty Awards Part of Broad Effort to Build High Impact Program, Enhance Student Success

Nine faculty members from UMass Boston’s College of Liberal Arts have received the first round of mini-grants to develop high impact humanities courses as part of a broader effort to encourage greater student interest in the humanities and further their academic success in this area.

UMass Boston’s “High Impact Humanities Initiative Program: Connecting Curriculum, Community, and Careers for Student Success” is supported by a three-year $515,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation announced in June. It will fund creative faculty initiatives to enrich existing high quality courses and develop new student-centered, experience-based humanities curricula. By participating in a semester-long collaborative process, the selected faculty will learn how to employ best practices in student-engaged learning in the classroom. Through transforming the university’s already substantial and innovative humanities curriculum, the program’s ultimate aim is to stimulate academic engagement in the humanities and promote degree completion and interest in post-graduate education.

High Impact Humanities is faculty-driven with significant student involvement. It is in the process of developing a “Humanities Hub,” which will provide faculty and students with a centralized space, staffing, financial and informational resources to create new programming (including student-managed events) and develop and display humanities projects. The initiative will also include tutoring in writing and humanities-focused career courses. It will ensure that UMass Boston’s diverse student population, which includes a high proportion of first-generation and urban low-income students, will have new opportunities to participate in high quality humanities-focused research, experiential coursework, internships, civic engagement, and service as a path to student success and career development.

“Thanks to our first Mellon Foundation grant, the College of Liberal Arts has significantly expanded our financial resources to simultaneously support academic programming and student success in the humanities,” said Dean David Terkla. “I’m thrilled to recognize the first faculty cohort that will develop engaging new courses to strengthen our already exciting humanities curriculum. Their proposals showcased their talent and creativity, and I look forward to their development. As these classes will feature experiential learning in the community in combination with high impact practices, they’re sure to become extremely popular with our students.”

The winning faculty proposals represent a broad range of subjects including literature, archival research, history, community engagement, film/cinema, and music; each plans to incorporate and connect with the world and resources outside the classroom. They are:  

  • “Reading the Whale: The Worlds of Moby-Dick,” in which Sari Edelstein (English) and her students will delve into Herman Melville’s novel for an entire semester. This course will pair immersive textual encounter with an expansive “exploration of cultural contexts from the 19th century to the present, including an interdisciplinary range of texts and site visits in Nantucket and the greater Boston area.”
  • Brittanie Weatherbie Greco’s “Real World Treasures: Exploring the Archives” (English) provides research experiences for students in archival collections at the Healey Library, JFK Library, and Massachusetts State Archives. Students will learn to locate and use archival and secondary sources to understand the past by exploring first-hand accounts and their historical contexts.
  • In the experiential learning seminar “Boston Stories: Genre, Race, Ethnicity,” Renee Hudson (English) and her students will use cultural and historical texts and site visits to explore how local authors tell stories about Boston that both reinforce and negate assumptions about the city.
  • “Asian American Cinema,” by Denise Khor (American Studies), will expose students to films and videos by Asian American filmmakers and artists while encouraging them to think critically about on-screen representations of Asian American identity and culture since 1910. Students will attend Boston’s Asian American Film Festival.
  • Katarina Loew’s “Film Festivals” course (Cinema Studies) will give students an opportunity to learn the history, structures, and practices of today’s film festival world. Students will discover several Boston festivals and collaboratively create professional proposals for a film festival at UMass Boston, select the winning proposal, and then implement it on campus.
  • In his “History of Popular Music in America,” David Pruett (Performing Arts) will use the development of popular music in the U.S.—including jazz, blues, rock, country, rap, Latin, electronica, and more—as a lens for understanding American history and culture. Students will visit a Boston recording studio, attend live music performances, and compose music of their own.
  • “Reading the University,” by Emilio Sauri and Alex Mueller (English) will offer a hybrid digital introduction to the history of the university and university education. Students’ work in this reading-intensive course will engage both their career and civic goals for university learning, culminating in an electronic portfolio project that could include textual and audiovisual elements, video remix, and data visualization.
  • In “Mascots, Monuments, Massacres: Native American History in the Public Sphere,” Maria John (History) will introduce students to the ways in which museums, popular culture, historic sites, and other venues of public engagement have interpreted Native American history. The class will engage students directly with historical events and sites that have been foundational in the history of Boston and the United States.

About UMass Boston
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