By Ashton Moss, News Editor
This year, the Illinois Wesleyan Humanities Department has been awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $300,000 to help Illinois Wesleyan University “re-center the humanities.”
Professor of English Dan Terkla will serve as the director of Re-Centering the Humanities. Other faculty on the Re-Centering the Humanities committee include associate professor of English Mary Ann Bushman, chair and associate professor of political science James Simeone, professor of art Sherilyn McElroy, chair and associate professor of chemistry Rebecca Roesner, associate professor of German and Eastern European studies Sonja Fritzsche, and assistant professor of philosophy Emily Kelahan. The committee will be responsible for administering the grant.
The humanities – including history, philosophy, religion, languages and literature – are important not only for students of those subjects, but for additional areas of studies as well.
“The grant is essential to sustaining the core of IWU as a liberal arts university, where the humanities help us to contemplate what it means to be human,” Fritzsche said.
The overall goal of the grant is to re-center the humanities and also to renew their relevance on campus. With these goals in mind, four initiatives from this grant have been developed: Crossing Curricular Boundaries, Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries, Crossing Campus and Community Boundaries, and Crossing Faculty and Student Boundaries.
“The goal is to raise the profile of the humanities by getting faculty to collaborate with others across campus and in the community,” Simeone said. “Crossing boundaries is the theme. So, for example, the grant will fund team teaching between humanities faculty and faculty all across campus–in the natural sciences, the social sciences, nursing, and business. It will also fund special fine arts performances that will feature such interdisciplinary subject material.”
These initiatives will help to expand a part of campus that is essential to IWU students earning a liberal arts degree. The grant will accomplish this by working with the students’ major departments, even when they are not in the humanities.
“Even though we are a liberal arts institution, students here sometimes forget that they in fact have two majors – their disciplinary major and their liberal arts, general education major,” Simeone said.
“This grant will help students visualize and connect to their general education major. This is the part of their education that enables them to think broadly about public issues and to become leaders in their communities after they leave college. It is really what makes a liberal arts education special and so needed in our society today.”
Students will also be given the opportunity to participate in full-time research as both Mellon Humanities Scholars and Robert S. and Nell B. Eckley Summer Scholars and Artists, which will allow qualified students to work on research projects over the summer.
“I really liked the program because it was a good way to experience full-time, 40 hour a week research. Most undergrads never get that opportunity because of class, schedule conflicts, lack of opportunity, or lack of experience. This scholarship gives students an opportunity to focus their energies onto a single research project and really delve into it wholeheartedly,” said Sarah Takushi, a 2012 Eckley scholar.
“The grant will allow us to expand the number of Eckley summer research grants for students. That is very good news for all of us,” Simeone said.
Other research opportunities for students include May Term travel courses, additional undergraduate humanities conferences, and the establishment of research partnerships, which involve students working with faculty as research assistants.