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Lehigh Receives Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant to Infuse Humanities Across Academic Culture

Three-year grant will support the integration of humanities teaching and scholarship across all disciplines through research, curriculum development and undergraduate student experiences.

Story by

Lori Friedman

Lehigh has been awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a coordinated on-campus community development program to infuse the humanities across the academic culture through research, curriculum development and student experiences.

 “We are proud to be the recipient of a grant through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the positioning of the humanities at the center of disciplinary convergence at Lehigh,” said Lehigh President John D. Simon, a co-principal investigator on the grant. “Bridging disciplines in new ways to provide distinctive educational opportunities has long been an institutional hallmark at Lehigh. This effort coincides with major new initiatives, including the establishment of a new College of Health, that will significantly grow numbers of faculty and students over the next decade. We are excited to embrace this timely opportunity for sustainable infusion of the humanities across Lehigh’s academic culture with Mellon Foundation support.”

Lehigh Provost Pat Farrell, also a co-principal investigator, said, “The best innovations in higher education are those that transform institutional culture to help prepare students for leadership in addressing the increasingly complex issues facing society. We are grateful for this support from the Mellon Foundation to continue the original vision of Asa Packer, Lehigh’s founder, for Lehigh graduates to deploy and advance technologies with the critical reflection and appreciation of human experience necessary to act with wisdom and humility.”

The program components focus on three areas: strengthening an integrated academic culture through research; curriculum development to deepen academic integration; and building integrated perspectives into student experiences. Central to the effort to elevate the university’s commitment to the humanities will be offering humanities-based research development grants as a way to extend, amplify and sustain humanities scholarship.

“Humanities scholarship is an essential part of a research portfolio that reflects public concerns and shapes the environment in which we cultivate the next generation of leaders,” said Alan J. Snyder, vice president and associate provost for Research & Graduate Studies at Lehigh. “It’s also a vital influence on how scholars in other fields see their work in societal, and human, context.  One goal with the Mellon program is to facilitate further exchange and influence across disciplines while remaining centered in the humanities.”

The proposed work will build on Lehigh’s public-facing research and community partnership success such as the recent Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative and Lehigh’s hosting of the North Eastern Public Humanities Consortium. The Mellon Foundation support will increase the opportunities for members of the community to see their concerns and intellectual assets reflected in Lehigh’s research.

Curriculum development plans include efforts to broaden the first-year classroom experience with integrated first-year seminars designed to introduce students across a wide range of fields to the humanities as an integral part of their education. In addition, “Course moments”  seminars will provide an avenue for science, business and engineering faculty who want to enhance their existing coursework to include scheduled participation of humanities faculty.

Also, new courses workshops will be offered to faculty from different disciplines and colleges to create upper-level courses that thoroughly integrate humanities with other disciplinary perspectives. The courses will target STEM and business students who, looking for career relevance, often discount the value of humanities distributions when choosing courses.

“These first-year seminars, ‘course moments’ seminars and new courses will help students understand how humanities perspectives can inform their approaches in a wide range of fields,” said Suzanne Edwards, associate professor of English and the director of the Humanities Center at Lehigh.

“The humanities promote the ability to evaluate issues from multiple perspectives, a skill that's necessary for effective communication and meaningful collaboration. The Mellon grant gives us the opportunity to foreground the humanities as a hub for interdisciplinary education. Through this initiative, for example, an English professor who works in medical humanities might challenge students in a biology course to consider how social and cultural factors shape scientific inquiry."

Curriculum development programming will be implemented under the auspices of Lehigh’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), which is an on-campus hub for faculty professional and curricular development, including teaching tools, course development opportunities, classroom and instructional support and consultation services.

The program will recruit a postdoctoral fellow whose experience and scholarly interests amplify in-house expertise. The fellow will combine their own scholarship in the humanities with co-teaching in the integrated first-year seminar pilots, working in partnership with CITL on faculty development seminars and workshops and one-on-one with seminar participants, as well as coordination of proposed programming details and assessment. 

“The CITL is looking forward to partnering with Lehigh faculty to create new courses that will help our students draw on humanities and STEM disciplines to jointly tackle some of the most fundamental and pressing questions of the current age,” said Greg Reihman, Lehigh’s associate vice provost and director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.  “Mellon recognizes the importance of the arts and the humanities in our students' education, and this grant shows the foundation's trust in Lehigh's faculty and the CITL to partner together to create exciting multi-disciplinary research and teaching opportunities for our students and faculty.”

To infuse integrated perspectives into the student experience, Lehigh will build on its distinctive 5x10 (“five by 10”) program, a co-curricular format that can be utilized to immediately integrate humanities-centered perspectives university-wide.

Currently, all first-year students attend five 75-minute 5x10 sessions in their first 10 weeks on campus, choosing from among dozens of interactive programs that introduce Lehigh’s many venues for intellectual engagement outside the classroom, from international internships to social action to undergraduate research to healthy work-life balance and beyond. Through Lehigh’s proposed program, the 5x10s will expand throughout the year, engaging more students and faculty to attend and present on humanities-centered themes emerging from program-supported research and curricular development.

 Implementation is scheduled to begin immediately with the hiring of a postdoctoral fellow to begin collaborating on curriculum development with the CITL. The central elements of the initiative will be in place at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year.   

Story by

Lori Friedman

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