February 11, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Photo by Sydney Morris

On Wednesday of last week, Colorado College announced that the humanities departments on campus were awarded a $1.024 million dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Starting this summer, this grant will support efforts on campus to establish the importance of humanities-based thinking as well as provide spaces and resources for faculty and students to address issues of social injustice.

The Mellon Foundation awarded funds to 11 other liberal arts colleges across the country, with a focus on uplifting the prestige of humanities. As stated in their mission statement, the Mellon Foundation “believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and we believe that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there.” Beyond that, the Mellon Foundation has also expressed a concern for the decreasing number of majors coming out of humanities departments from universities across the country.

As a means to increase the relevance and importance of the humanities to all majors on campus, the projects supported by this fund will seek to engage students of all majors, both inside and outside of the humanities. This grant hopes to establish the necessity of humanities-based thinking in all majors and careers. The first project will start this summer, mostly engaging faculty and staff in conversations of historical and contemporary social justice work. Next fall, projects and classes surrounding the connectedness of art and social justice work will be offered. More block offerings will follow, as well as an opportunity for student organizers to submit their own social justice work proposals based in the humanities. The final part of the project will be a conference.

The goal of these activities is to create space to engage with humanities processes on campus without having to be part of these departments.

“I’m hoping that all of these activities will also have resonance beyond equity and power and creative processes classes and will really transform our curriculum,” said Claire Oberon Garcia, principal investigator for the grant.

Some students and faculty on campus will be challenged to think about the application of humanities questions in all aspects of their education and lives.

On campus, this grant serves the goal of fulfilling students’ desire for a relevant and empowering education with real world applications. A large part of these projects will be reflecting on what social justice work looks like today and equipping students with the tools and knowledge to become part of that work.

A large focus will be developing new course offerings here at CC. These courses will be available under the Equity and Power general education requirement as well as the Creative Processes designation. Classes within this grant will harness methods of humanities to guide students to deepen their own position in anti-racist work.

“They will also bring a group of diverse individuals into constructive and critical dialogue with each other about major social justice issues and how to address these,” Chet Lisiecki, the project’s coordinator said. “Dialogue is vital to creating and sustaining solidarity.”

This grant builds on CC’s commitment to being an anti-racist institution. As stated in the project proposal for this grant, “CC faculty recognize the central importance of the humanities to help students identify, understand, and solve the systemic problems of racism, injustice, and oppression.” This work will build on a foundation of acknowledging injustice and giving students the opportunities to grapple with their repercussions as well as formulate possible solutions.

Soon, members of the team working on this grant will meet to discuss ways that students can provide insight and feedback on the projects. Until that point, the project team will release blockly public communications about its progress.

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