NEH grant helps fund new global public humanities program

Using language skills and cultural knowledge to tell stories that will make a difference are among the goals of a new program at the University of Oregon, which recently received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A $35,000 grant has been awarded to Maram Epstein, professor of Chinese literature and director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies, to develop a curriculum for a major in global public humanities. Epstein and his department are part of OU’s new School of Global Studies and Languages.

The new major would draw on existing academic content and coursework from the school, which includes several other language, literary and cultural studies departments, and would also draw on relevant university departments to form its requirements. basis and its choices.

Epstein’s grant proposal also outlines new courses to be developed in collaboration with faculty members from the UO’s Composition Program and the School of Journalism and Communication. Each student would participate in an experiential course or capstone internship, bringing together teams of students with complementary skills to work on real-life global public humanities projects.

Ian McNeely, executive director of the School of Global Studies and Languages, said the grant couldn’t come at a better time.

“This idea fits neatly into long-standing plans, now coming to fruition at the School of Global Studies and Languages, to enrich undergraduate humanities education through global engagement and learning through experience in other languages ​​and cultures,” McNeely said.

The inspiration for the undergraduate program came from Epstein’s appreciation for the power of storytelling. According to Epstein, the media is a powerful tool for people to hear opinions across any cultural or political divide.

“I suspect that for most students, learning how to produce a compelling podcast, blog, oral history or video documentary will be a much more useful skill than writing an academic paper,” Epstein said. “Among the many pressing issues facing this generation of students is the need to learn how to communicate sensitively and effectively to very different audiences.”

Through the new major and its curriculum, Epstein hopes to help people from different backgrounds and identities find common ground so they can work together now and in the future. Epstein said she and her colleagues at the School of Global Studies and Languages ​​are committed to decolonizing the curriculum.

“This means we approach the study of any culture through its own value systems so that students are sensitized to seeing the differences rather than assuming their own value system is universal,” she said. “Courses taught in the target languages, even introductory language courses, are the ideal way for students to open up to radically different ways of building themselves.

Although still in the early stages of program development, Epstein and the school hope to collaborate with other OU departments to diversify the curriculum for the new major.

“I would like to thank Professor Epstein for doing the groundwork on such a prestigious grant,” McNeely said. “As an accomplished scholar of Chinese literature, she exemplifies the enduring relevance of academic humanities and how that expertise translates into real-world opportunities for UO students.”

By Alyson Johnston, College of Arts and Sciences

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