History and English Departments Receive NEH Grant

A $25,000 grant awarded to Lehigh by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) aims to support “a transformation of how Ph.D. candidates in the humanities study for their degrees and are prepared for a broader range of careers at the conclusion of their often years-long, intensely academic graduate school experiences.” The award requires Lehigh to provide matching funds to ensure institutional commitment and builds on the momentum of the $500,000 NEH challenge grant awarded last year to Lehigh’s Africana Studies program, which is being used to create an endowment to expand the program. Work includes enhancing curriculum, increasing public humanities initiatives and strengthening community partnerships.

Lehigh’s English and history departments have partnered for the new NEH project, titled “Public Pedagogies: Graduate Education and the Interdisciplinary Humanities at Lehigh University.” Although Lehigh categorizes history as a social science, the NEH categorizes it, like English, as humanities.

“The timing and focus of the NEH grant couldn't be better for History,” said John Pettegrew, associate professor of history and chair of the history department.  “Building upon our long-standing work in local history and community engagement, new public-facing scholarship will be a leading edge of our Ph.D. program over the next few years. Digital media and documentary film will certainly play a part in this development; most crucial will be creating new pathways of relevance between our students' expertise and research, on the one hand, and pressing social and political concerns, on the other.”

Work on the one-year project begins this fall and a core committee, a consulting committee and a series of working groups will focus on five areas:

Curricular development: Committees and working groups will consider the future of Lehigh’s graduate curriculum in history and English, concentrating on coursework that might best meet student needs as well as interdisciplinary opportunities to expand student skillsets.
Co-curricular activities: In order to help graduate students in English and history gain professional skills, committees and working groups will explore sustainable funding opportunities and partnerships to enable student internships in various administrative offices on campus. 
Off-campus internships: The Next Generation Ph.D. grant provides funding for four graduate students to complete professional internships at community organizations in summer 2017. “We’ve got a lot of amazing opportunities in the area and a lot of undergraduate students are doing these types of things. Enabling our graduate students to have those same kinds of enriching opportunities would be extremely valuable,” said Lay. 
A mentorship and advisory network: An advisory council comprised of former graduate students who have followed different career paths will be developed for both the English and history departments. Members will provide insight and guidance to faculty working on these issues and to current students as they navigate employment prospects.
New models for dissertation research: Committees and working groups will explore different approaches to dissertation research “that would still be intellectually rigorous but would enable students to think more broadly about possibilities,” said Lay. The grant provides funding for summer dissertation fellowships for students considering new forms for the dissertation.

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