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This program will provide undergraduates with opportunities to engage in humanities-focused research, coursework, internships, and community service. (UMass Boston)
July 1, 2018

UMass Boston receives $515K grant to create high-impact humanities programming

  • Boston
Award from Mellon Foundation will create path to academic success, career development for undergraduate students

UMass Boston has received a three-year $515,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement an ambitious "High Impact Humanities" program that will provide undergraduates with opportunities to engage in humanities-focused research, experiential coursework, internships, and community service as a path to student success and career development.

The award is the Mellon Foundation’s first for Boston’s only public research university.

"We're honored by the Mellon Foundation’s generous investment in our teaching and learning environment," said UMass Boston Interim Chancellor Barry Mills. "Humanities are essential to our undergraduate education, and this new program will play a critical role in our next phase of work to advance out top priority — the success of our students."

The three-year program, "High Impact Humanities: Connecting Curriculum, Community, and Careers for Student Success," will establish a Humanities Incubator on campus, aimed at producing programming that breaks down traditional barriers among curricular, extracurricular, and career-focused learning. The Humanities Incubator will encourage faculty development of new high impact courses by providing seed funding and pedagogical training for innovative humanities teaching.

In addition to expanding a successful first-year program that uses the city of Boston as a humanities laboratory, the Incubator will develop an upper-level curriculum that helps students experience — through site visits, hands-on research, and museum and library partnerships — the dynamic creativity, analytical thinking, and cultural engagement central to the humanities. The Incubator will also institute "Careers in Humanities" courses and internships, and form a High Impact Humanities Forum featuring a student-advisory group that will plan arts and humanities events on campus. There will also be mentoring support for undergraduate research and writing in the humanities.

"The Mellon Foundation's support will allow us to undergo a major transformation of humanities teaching and learning on this campus. We want our students to understand that there is a pathway to success through the humanities," said College of Liberal Arts Dean David Terkla. "It's not just the humanities being one of the core components of your education here, helping you to see things you wouldn't normally see. It is that, but it's also a pathway to career development."

The program will promote student engagement with Boston as a humanities hub.

"Our goal is to offer immersive humanities experiences that empower our students to become 'makers' of Boston culture," Terkla said. "Boston is a cultural center and we want students off-campus experiencing these things and being motivated to write, analyze, and think about them, to show them how many things out there are actually humanities driven."

The program gives the majority-minority student population at UMass Boston — the most diverse four-year public higher education institution in New England — active ownership of the critical thinking, creative expression, and applied skills fostered by the humanities. As the humanities are a core component of general education, High Impact Humanities will impact all undergraduates. Out of the university's 12,660 undergraduate students, 59 percent identify as persons of color, 54 percent are first-generation college students, and 40 percent receive Pell grants, which are federal funds targeted for students with the greatest financial need.

The ultimate goal of High Impact Humanities is to stimulate academic engagement that will significantly increase retention and graduation rates, as well as excitement about post-graduate humanities education. UMass Boston leaders see the results of the programming serving as a national model for best practices in humanities programming for the country’s increasingly diverse college student population.

"The humanities—the study of history, literature, language, religion, and culture—enable students to live fulfilling lives as active citizens in a democratic society," said Eugene M. Tobin, senior program officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  "UMass Boston's decision to combine the faculty's creativity with the city's incomparable cultural assets will inspire a new generation of students to continue their study of the humanities and that is the mission of a great public university."

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