UMBC receives major award to support inclusive excellence in the humanities

Published: Mar 30, 2017

Students sit around a conference table, with one speaking.
Students attend a seminar with Pres. Hrabowski in the Dresher Center for the Humanities in 2016.

UMBC’s Dresher Center for the Humanities and College of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) are launching a major new five-year initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the humanities through a $750,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Inclusion Imperative will cultivate a supportive regional community of scholars committed to diversity in the humanities and to expanding community-engaged humanities research, teaching, and learning focused on issues of race, equity, inclusion, and justice.

“The Mellon award recognizes and allows us to expand and deepen our work toward inclusive excellence in the humanities—not just at UMBC, but throughout our region,” says Scott Casper, dean of the CAHSS. “Thanks to this award, we will bring together a community of scholars and students who are developing a diverse vision of the humanities.”

The initiative’s three interconnected parts include the Visiting Faculty Fellows Program, Diversity Teaching Network in the Humanities, and Humanities Teaching Labs, coordinated by project directors Jessica Berman, director of the Dresher Center, and Dean Casper. In addition to supporting students and faculty in the humanities, these programs will produce new tools and partnerships to support Baltimore-Washington communities as they move toward meaningful change.

The Visiting Faculty Fellows Program will invite full-time faculty from the region’s colleges and universities to join UMBC for a semester or year as residential research fellows, with a focus on faculty who are committed to diversity and inclusion. These exchanges will promote the sharing of diverse ideas and perspectives, and development of new research and teaching collaborations.

Through the Diversity Teaching Network in the Humanities, current and former visiting fellows, and other interested faculty, scholars, and graduate students, will meet regularly to work on course curricula and research projects that focus on diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. This program will deepen UMBC’s partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and Howard University, creating a regional community of faculty committed to diversity and inclusion in the humanities.

“Coppin State University is pleased to be part of this timely and innovative project, which recognizes correctly the excellence that resides on our diverse campuses and encourages top scholars from these communities to engage each other as colleagues and not as competitors,” says Ron L. Collins Sr., dean of the Coppin State University Honors College. He reflects, “The Dresher Center’s bold and brilliant effort will spawn lifelong professional relationships among faculty and create research agendas that respect the important voices of scholars from diverse communities of practice.”

Berman shares this vision. She notes that nurturing strong relationships among faculty at different institutions will be essential to the success of the initiative, commenting, “I’m perhaps most excited about the chance to work in partnership with area HBCUs to diversify curriculum, build new approaches, and share insight and experiences.”

Humanities Teaching Labs (HTLabs), the third component of the Inclusion Imperative, will support faculty at UMBC and partner institutions in undertaking community-engaged work on issues of race, equity, inclusion, and justice. Faculty and graduate teaching assistants will be invited to attend workshops to learn about tools and methods of community-engaged teaching and will have access to state-of-the-art media tools for classroom use. HTLabs will support approaches that bridge the divides between fields and between universities and partners beyond the academy.

“I firmly believe that the humanities offer us crucial tools for addressing pressing issues of civic life,” says Berman. “Now more than ever, we need the tools of the humanities to advance local and national conversations about our history, our identities, and our common future.”

Image: UMBC Humanities Scholars seminar “Political Childhood and Children’s Citizenship in Western Culture” in the Dresher Center, November 2016. Students include, r-l, Julia Byrne, De`Jia Long-Hillie, Dever Cunningham, Jonathan Harness, Garrett Beeg, and Kara Gavin. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11.

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