By Abby Weingarten
New College has earned its first National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Connections Planning Grant. This award will allow the College to further develop the Health, Culture and Societies (HCS) Joint-Disciplinary Area of Concentration (AOC) undergraduate offering.
“We are just delighted and excited about what this will allow us to do,’” said Miriam Wallace, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Humanities, and a professor of English and gender studies at New College. “It’s just a giant shot in the arm and a huge boost to New College.”
On April 14, the NEH announced that it was awarding $24 million in grants for 225 humanities projects nationwide. These awards will support the preservation of historical collections, humanities exhibitions and documentaries, scholarly research and curriculum projects. New College’s grant falls into the latter category.
“NEH is proud to support these 225 new projects, which embody excellence, intellectual rigor, and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, even as our nation and the humanities community continue to face the challenges of the pandemic,” NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson said in a statement. “We look forward to the contributions these projects will make to our understanding of ourselves and our society through exemplary humanities research, publications, documentary films, exhibitions and undergraduate programs.”
The 1965-founded NEH was created to further research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the country.
And this is certainly not the first time New College has received an NEH grant. However, it is the College’s first Humanities Connections Planning Grant (which, Wallace noted, is a fairly new program). There were 26 of these grants awarded in 2021 (totaling $1.4 million), designed to “expand the role of the humanities in the undergraduate curriculum at two- and four-year institutions,” the NEH materials stated.
“This grant is for just under $35,000, which is a first step for a new project,” Wallace said. “There is also an Implementation Grant version with a higher budget cap, and we’ll be eligible to apply for that in subsequent years (no guarantees but, if we do good things here, we are nicely set up for a strong application for the next stage).”
To apply for the initial grant, Wallace and her collaborators wrote a proposal within the specified NEH parameters. New College’s proposal was one of 90 submissions the Humanities Connections program received by September 2020.
In addition to Wallace, the contributors to New College’s NEH grant proposal were: Tabea Cornel, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of medical humanities; Kristopher Fennie, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology; Maneesha Lal, Ph.D., associate director of faculty development/associate director of corporate and private foundation relations; and Dr. Lisa Merritt, adjunct professor/executive director of Sarasota’s Multicultural Health Institute. The team wrote:
“In a time of what some are calling a ‘double pandemic,’ of both a novel virus and ongoing disparities exacerbated by race, our understanding of health and wellness, illness and disease and their social intersections is entering a new era—one for which humanistic concerns are essential.
New College has just launched an interdisciplinary Health, Culture and Societies (HCS) ‘Joint-Disciplinary Concentration’ that bridges not only academic disciplines in scientific and humanistic fields, but also academic study and practical experience in the form of community engagement and professional internships. This new program responds both to an emerging field and to the need for a structured approach to an area of high student interest and community need.
Going beyond the additive model found frequently in medical schools or larger university programs, we seek to educate students on health and illness within a thoughtfully integrated curriculum. We want students to resist replicating the ‘two cultures’ view or assuming that only the scientific path leads to professions in health, healing and wellness. The distinction that narrative medicine has traced between ‘disease’ as a patho-physiological property of the body and ‘illness’ as an experience of the human—one that takes place within a specific culture and social networks—points the kind of health practitioners and graduates we want to produce.”
So how exactly will the grant help New College expand the HCS Joint-Disciplinary AOC?
New College has already outlined a highly flexible, innovative program that addresses students’ intellectual curiosity and interests (both local and global). Now the team will use the grant to further develop specific foundations, including a co-taught “Introduction to HCS” course, a “Professionalization Seminar” and specific community-based practicum options.
“The grant gives New College national credibility and visibility, and it recognizes that we’ve already set up a workable and responsible program plan,” Wallace said. “And it really shows what wonderful new faculty we’ve brought into the college. I’m learning so much from all of them.”
For more information on the HSC Joint-Disciplinary AOC, visit ncf.edu/academics/undergraduate-program/interdisciplinary-programs/health-culture-and-societies.
Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.