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National Endowment for the Humanities awards grant to develop environmental studies program
National Endowment for the Humanities awards grant to develop environmental studies program
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Misericordia University’s College of Arts and Sciences was recently awarded a Humanities Connections Planning Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to develop an interdisciplinary program in environmental studies.Melanie Shepherd, Ph.D.

Misericordia University’s $33,964 grant award is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor that was announced in April. Overall, NEH awarded $22.2 million in grants to 224 humanities projects in the United States. Established in 1965, NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the country. The federal agency serves and strengthens the republic by “promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans” by awarding grants for “top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers,” according to NEH.

NEH grants are typically awarded to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. For a complete list of national grant recipients, please go to https://bit.ly/neh2020‚Äč. Additional information about NEH can be found at www.neh.gov.

At Misericordia University, the grant will be utilized to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum for a major and minor in environmental studies that considers the environmental legacy of the anthracite mining industry and the realities of today’s natural gas industry in northeastern Pennsylvania, and more. Work will begin in June to develop a Bachelor of Arts degree program that will enroll students beginning in the fall semester of 2021.

“The environmental crises of the 21st century cannot be addressed with technical solutions alone. They require us instead to question the concepts that structure our relationship to the world – human and animal, nature and culture, private and public,” said Humanities Connections Planning Grants Project Co-Director Melanie Shepherd, Ph.D., professor and chairperson of the Department of Philosophy at Misericordia University. “These questions are the province of the humanities, and their urgency for our world becomes clearer in this age in which our best scientific research tells us that human habits toward the world are slowly destroying it.”

The major and minor academic programs in environmental studies will enhance the role of the humanities in the curriculum by offering a unique degree program rooted in collaboration among the departments of biology, chemistry, English, history, philosophy, physics and religious studies. In addition, the programs will include team-taught courses, experiential and community-based learning opportunities, interdisciplinary electives in ecology and the environment, water, climate, and food and agriculture. Service-learning programs also will be established with community partners, such as the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation and others.

The curriculum will include, but is not limited to Environmental Studies 100: Environment and Society; Environmental Studies 200: Issues in Sustainability, and Environmental Studies 400: Environmental Research Design. Environmental Studies 100 will be a course taught by one humanities and one science faculty member in order to allow for a collaborative and interdisciplinary introduction to the program and the team-teaching methods.

“We are designing an environmental studies curriculum that will prepare students to connect scientific and humanistic thinking,” Dr. Shepherd said. “We want to develop students’ abilities to think philosophically, historically, and imaginatively in addition to mathematically and scientifically in order to grasp and respond to complex environmental problems.”

The Misericordia University Humanities Connections Planning Project Committee includes Heidi Manning, Ph.D., dean, College of Arts and Sciences; co-project director Cosima Wiese, Ph.D., professor, biology; Allan W. Austin, Ph.D., professor, history, and Joseph Curran, Ph.D., professor, religious studies.