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$3.15 Million Mellon Foundation Grant Goes to The Graduate Center, CUNY to Support Humanities Teaching Initiative

Four students sitting at desks; three are turned to look at one student who is speaking

The grant funds partnerships between The Graduate Center and four CUNY community colleges and supports 28 doctoral fellowships aimed at enhancing opportunities for students to engage with the humanities.

NEW YORK, January 15, 2020 — The Graduate Center of The City University of New York has been awarded a second $3.15 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand the CUNY Humanities Alliance, a program designed to engage doctoral students in supporting humanities education at community colleges. The CUNY Humanities Alliance, which began as a partnership with LaGuardia Community College, will expand to include three additional CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Guttman Community College, and Hostos Community College. The aim of this larger alliance is to create additional professional and academic opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds. It is also designed to address the critical question of how to best prepare graduate students for careers as faculty members and leaders in community colleges and in higher education as a whole.

“I am delighted that the Mellon Foundation has generously supported the expansion of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, which advances innovation and collaborative partnerships among four of our community colleges and The Graduate Center,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “This initiative strengthens the University’s capacity to offer excellent humanities teaching at all levels, which is a particular priority for me. As a historian and former president of a community college and a four-year college, I have seen firsthand how the humanities can enrich the lives and advance the career prospects of all students.

CUNY, like other U.S. colleges and universities, serves students that are more diverse than ever before in race and ethnicity, immigration status, home language, age, and religion. The CUNY Humanities Alliance supports community college students from marginalized and immigrant populations, as well as graduate students, in thinking expansively about the role of the humanities in their lives and careers.

“The Graduate Center is deeply committed to doctoral education that serves the public good,” said Graduate Center Associate Provost David Olan. “Our students are engaged scholars and educators, and with the Mellon Foundation’s generous support, we can ensure that they are even better prepared to support humanities education in ways that inspire and empower diverse learners. With this expanded alliance we will build on the success of the Humanities Alliance that began in 2015 and give our students the experience and the training that will benefit them and their students throughout their careers.”

People seated at a table on a stage with a screen behind them showing their names and the Mellon FoundationBeginning in fall 2021, the CUNY Humanities Alliance will place 28 Graduate Center doctoral students over four years in educational development roles at the four partner institutions. Working closely with faculty, staff, and administrators, and supported by The Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center and the Futures Initiative, graduate fellows will help plan and support innovative opportunities for teaching and learning in the humanities. These may include experiential teaching that brings the city into the classroom, assignments that integrate technology and facilitate collaborative research and writing, and efforts to reduce textbook costs for undergraduates.

The fellows will have the opportunity to learn new instructional strategies, sharpen their collaborative and leadership skills, and develop a deeper understanding of the unique needs and strengths of community colleges. The 28 graduate fellows will help community college faculty members support thousands of undergraduate students in humanities courses.

The CUNY Humanities Alliance will also expand its undergraduate mentoring program in partnership with the Futures Initiative to serve more than 250 undergraduate students over the next five years, helping each create a pathway to four-year campuses. Students in the newly named Peer Leadership Fellows program at CUNY community colleges will have the chance to explore humanities education and career pathways and develop crucial leadership abilities. Four- year college students will also serve as peer mentors, so that community college students can hear firsthand about the transfer process, differences between institutions, and the challenges fellow students have faced.

Today, only 31.5% of community college students transfer to a four-year institution within six years. The CUNY Humanities Alliance aims to boost the transfer rate for the undergraduates it serves. Those who choose not to pursue further study are expected to leave more prepared to achieve their personal and professional goals.

People seated at desks in a circleBeginning in 2015, the CUNY Humanities Alliance program supported 27 doctoral students as teaching fellows in partnership with LaGuardia Community College. After receiving expert teaching preparation from community college faculty mentors and the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning, the fellows taught nearly 2,000 community college students over the course of three semesters. A national conference in 2018 brought together nearly 300 students, faculty, and staff members from across the United States to share best practices for humanities education in community colleges.

As in the first round of the program, the goals of the expanded CUNY Humanities Alliance support a vision of higher education that is oriented toward social justice. The aim is to enable graduate students to learn about the most successful methods for engaging in humanities education in community colleges with diverse student populations while simultaneously broadening access to the humanities for those undergraduates. By providing a wide range of professional development activities, grounded in projects and opportunities at the community colleges, participating graduate fellows will be better equipped for careers that support humanities education.

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About The Graduate Center of The City University of New York

The Graduate Center, CUNY is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation’s largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, initiatives, and the Advanced Science Research Center (CUNY ASRC), The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.

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