The Public Speaking Initiative (PSI) at the University of California, Santa Barbara illustrates how faculty can join together to magnify the value of the humanities for developing crucial skills. PSI unites and strengthens efforts across various departments—including Communication, English, Feminist Studies, French and Italian, History, Spanish and Portuguese, Theater, and Writing—to teach undergraduates public speaking skills.
Over the past two years, we have partnered with Common Heritage programs across the country to profile their mission–from preserving Franco-American veteran stories in Maine, to digitizing Tahoe’s history, natural beauty, and culture in Nevada, to collecting stories of the Hmong population in North Carolina. These programs, supported by the NEH, are based around public digitization events that preserve family and local history. In reporting our initial survey efforts to document the impact of select Common Heritage programs, we’ve shown how these programs surface artifacts of ethnic and migration histories that would otherwise be lost. As we continue our survey efforts, we’ve added to these impacts and found more robust evidence of how these programs are demystifying cultural heritage preservation by equipping communities with the tools, resources, and a sense of urgency to preserve their familial and community heritage.
It’s Thanksgiving, a holiday associated with food, family, and football. College football’s biggest rivals—Auburn and Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan, Georgia and Georgia Tech—are getting ready to tee it up. So what’s that got to do with the humanities? Quite a lot if you ask this birthright #georgiabulldogs fan. It’s not just that the University of Georgia (UGA) has an impressive Humanities Center that does great work in the community or that Georgia football has given athletes the opportunity to learn to love the humanities. And it’s not just that in-state rival Georgia Tech is the latest in a late-season gauntlet of engineering schools—Auburn and Texas A&M down, LSU up next week. For me, it’s much deeper and more personal.
In recognition of National Arts and Humanities Month, the National Humanities Alliance teamed up with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) to host a briefing on Capitol Hill. The event was developed at the request of the Congressional Humanities Caucus, and our goal was to introduce staffers who are responsible for arts and humanities issues to the Endowments, as well as give them a brief glimpse of their impacts.
What’s your #1 piece of humanities advocacy advice?
We’ve asked conference participants who spend a chunk of their time advocating for the humanities what one piece of advice they would offer humanities advocates. Check out their sessions at the National Humanities Conference to learn more!
Over the last two years, our Humanities for All initiative has worked to document and promote publicly engaged humanities research, teaching, preservation, and programming in U.S. higher education. The initiative brings together over 1,500 examples, showcasing the range of humanities work conducted with and for communities by scholars at universities, colleges, and scholarly societies across the United States.
During National Arts and Humanities Month, we celebrate the power of coming together to discuss great books and big questions. Through our survey, we’ve learned that several institutions have recently launched humanities cohort programs, which guide a select group of students through a curated series of shared curricular and co-curricular learning experiences. We’ve been reaching out to program directors to learn how they designed programs to attract students hungry for community, facilitate experiential learning, and elevate the humanities on their campuses.
By supporting the preservation of cultural heritage at organizations across the U.S., the NEH works to ensure that their collections are accessible to the public. At the most basic level, NEH funding supports libraries and archives as they process important collections, enabling them to create the guides and databases that are crucial to researchers trying to access archival materials. NEH funding also helps organizations digitize collections, making collections like the Adams Family Papers, the Journals of Lewis and Clark, and Fox Movietone Newsreels accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
October is National Arts and Humanities Month, and we hope you will join us in taking this opportunity to raise the profile of humanities advocacy.