About the Engaged Humanities Initiative
The Engaged Humanities Initiative is a new program at UIC funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. It is a four-year path for undergraduates that leads from exciting freshman seminars to research projects developed with a UIC faculty mentor. More broadly, it offers the opportunity to create a community of students and faculty members interested in exploring how the humanities can help us imagine new approaches, and even solutions, to the urgent problems facing the world today.
This is the overview of the program for students as proposed in the grant to the Mellon Foundation. There is a general guideline which details the pathway to graduation and also specific guidelines for freshman/sophomore and junior/senior year pathways.
-Four freshman seminars (up to 20 students/seminar) introducing students to the field of humanities and open to any first-year student. There is TA and faculty funding, but no student funding, associated with these
-Two sophomore seminars (up to 20 students/seminar) introducing elements of the humanities as a discipline, and working towards choosing research questions in the engaged or public humanities. This seminar would require nomination. Students would receive $1000 to support participation in the required co-curricular programming related to the seminar and the development of a research
-During the summer after the sophomore year, interested students would embark upon research on a project developed initially in the sophomore seminar, with a faculty mentor in the field, and receive a $3500 award to support their work. Students would continue this work during the junior year by taking an independent study for credit with their mentor, and continue in the following summer, again with $3500 in funding
-The EHI will provide $1000 to students doing research during the junior year in order to support their related EHI
-Students will be eligible to receive an additional $3500 for mentored research and academic development activities in the summer between the junior and senior
-Seniors could continue work on their research paper or project, communicate their research through presentations and publications, and serve as peer-mentors and/or tutors to students in the first or second year of the EHI pathway. $1000 would be available to fund these
-All EHI students will be made aware of opportunities to attend workshops and lectures at the UIC Institute for the Humanities, some of which will be developed for EHI students by the EHI
-Students, as part of their course work for the humanities seminars during the first and second years, will be required to attend at least two workshops and two lectures during each semester, completing detailed reports on their
Juniors and seniors in the EHI Pathway, who will already be connected to the Institute for the Humanities, will be invited and expected to connect with the full program of intellectual engagement at the Institute—readings, discussions, lectures, and presentations
Foundational to the EHI are freshman and sophomore seminars. The freshman seminar, a 100- level course, will introduce students to the study of the humanities generally and through the particular discipline of the faculty member teaching it. These seminars will allow us to identify first-year students with a strong interest in the humanities and get them started thinking about topics and areas of study they may wish to explore in subsequent years.
These first-year, writing intensive seminars will grant general education credit and, for those students who received a grade of B or better, credit for a required first-year, research paper composition course. To facilitate this, each seminar will be paired with a weekly, one-hour required workshop. These workshops, led by graduate students trained in the teaching of composition will provide necessary skill-building, writing support, and confidence-building for our students.
The second seminar will be designed for sophomore students (200-level) with a two-fold aim. The first aim is to expose students to the kinds of ideas, concepts, and theories they would encounter in humanities graduate programs. Questions to be discussed might include: What is the Enlightenment and why have approaches/analyses to this era changed so much over the last few decades? What defines the “human” element in humanities, and how are human beings connected to other organisms? How did the humanities arise as a distinct area of inquiry, and how has that inquiry changed over time? How can we read literature, history, and philosophy to understand developments in human society from antiquity to the current day?
The other aim of this 200-level seminar is to prepare students for independent, engaged research. Students will interact with faculty teaching the courses, as well as faculty associated with the Institute and peer mentors (described below) to begin sketching out a project to be developed during their junior year.
For Transfer Students: Students who transferred into UIC or for some other reason did not have the opportunity to take the freshman seminar will also be eligible. Interested students will be assigned a faculty mentor with whom to work outside of the class to develop a project that would start in the summer following the sophomore year. Collateral to enrollment in the sophomore seminar, students will be required to attend two such workshops each semester as well as the Mellon Lecture in the Engaged Humanities (described below) and one additional lecture at the Institute.
Students enrolled in the sophomore seminar would receive $1000 to support participation in the collateral programming described above.
Students will begin mentored engaged humanities work in the summer after the sophomore year, funded by $3500 from the EHI. These funds could have multiple uses, including supporting study abroad experiences, travel to archives, participation in engaged humanities internships, and research. Importantly, given the low-income level of the majority of our students, these funds will allow the students to take the time to devote to these activities without the burden of working at a regular job for many hours a week.
Faculty mentors will continue to work with the students who elect to continue after the sophomore seminar through the summer and into their junior year to undertake and complete a research project. Students will register for an Independent Study (under faculty supervision) each semester to complete their projects. One thousand dollars per student will be available to support their related EHI activities, including required workshops and lectures at the Institute. Transfer students and other students who did not take the earlier seminars will be eligible for the research phase of the EHI program by application to the EHI Director.
Students will be eligible to receive an additional $3500 for mentored research and academic development activities in the summer between the junior and senior years. As in the summer prior, these funds could have purposes in addition to research, including enabling study abroad experiences, travel to archives, and participation in engaged humanities internships.
Additionally, these funds could be used for summer or academic year travel to present completed or in-progress research at conferences open to undergraduates, such as the Stacy Undergraduate Research Conference at Purdue-Calumet, the Midwest Gender Studies Conference at Notre Dame, the Undergraduate Linguistics Conference at Michigan State, the Black Doctoral Network Conference undergraduate presentation session, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Undergraduate Conference, or the Midwest Undergraduate Conference in the Humanities.
Once these students begin their senior year, we would expect them to remain connected to the EHI, to communicate their research findings to the broader scholarly community, and in some instances “give back” to their fellow students. During their senior year, students would be eligible for an award of $1000 to pay for travel to present at conferences, including but not limited to those named above, and/or to serve as peer tutors or mentors. In the latter case, they could be assigned to work with students in any part of this program: as writing tutors for the first-year seminar or as mentors to sophomores in the EHI. UIC has well-established and successful peer-led programs upon which the EHI could build.