The National Endowment for the Humanities annually sponsors Summer Seminars and Institutes for humanities faculty. These competitive programs typically span four to six weeks, are hosted by major academic institutions, and provide participants with stipends to help cover travel, books, housing, and other living expenses. Over the years CSUB’s History Department has developed an impressive record of having members of its faculty accepted to participate in these programs.
Professors Connie Orliski and Alicia Rodriquez are the most recent History Department recipients of these honors. Professor Orliski will participate in the institute “The Dynamics of Cultural Unity and Diversity in Southeast Asia,” sponsored by the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and directed by Peter Hershack. Professor Rodriquez will join the institute “African-American Struggles for Freedom and Civil Rights, 1865-1965,” sponsored by the W.E.B Du Bois Institute of Harvard University and directed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Both previously participated in NEH summer programs in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Last year, Professor Douglas Dodd was selected to participate in the institute, “Native Cultures of Western Alaska and the Pacific Northwest Coast,” which was held at various locations – some remote – in Alaska and Canada. In addition to Dodd, Orliski, and Rodriquez, Professors Jeanne Harrie, Cliona Murphy, and Miriam Raub Vivian have also participated in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes.
“Visiting the Northwest Coast through a NEH Institute provided me with experiences, stories, readings, and some great slides that I can share with my students to enhance their learning about Northwest Coast peoples in my courses on American Indian History and the History of the American West,” Dodd wrote of his experience. “We had seminar classes with some of the leading scholars on Northwest Coast archeology, art history, and literature. We met with native community leaders to learn about how history has shaped contemporary issues for Native Alaskans and Canadian First Nations. We met with contemporary artists – carvers, weavers, and dancers – to learn about how Northwest Coast peoples are preserving, renewing, and reinventing their cultural traditions. I can bring back to my students the message that we heard time and again from the Native people we met: ‘We are still here!’”
According to the NEH, each institute accepts 25 faculty from around the country. Under the guidance of distinguished faculty members, the institutes “prepare participants to return to their classrooms with a deeper knowledge of current scholarship in key fields of the humanities.” Seminars accept 16 participants who gain access to a significant research collection for group and individual research projects.
Some of the academic institutions where CSUB history faculty have participated in NEH programs include Princeton University, the American Academy in Rome, Vanderbilt University, UC Berkeley, the University of British Columbia, and Brown University. While the sites of some of these programs are attractive destinations, NEH Seminars and Institutes are intensive academic experiences that allow little time for sight seeing. The NEH programs typically meet formally four to five days a week, plus some evenings and weekends, and require extensive reading to help prepare for discussion of key topics.
- Submitted by the CSUB History Department