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Cultivating Diverse Humanities Leaders

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Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards Rutgers-Newark $1.5 million to revolutionize humanities education

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Rutgers University – Newark Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) a three-year, $1.5 million grant to help cultivate the next diverse generation of humanities scholars.

“The number of professors from underrepresented groups in American higher education remains stubbornly low,” wrote Mellon Foundation Senior Program Officer Armando Begochea in a September 2018 opinion piece. “College and university students have every right to demand better… Each institution, from small community colleges to grand research universities, has to tap into its own capacity for implementing change models...”

That is precisely what Rutgers-Newark plans to do with the grant. The HLLC will create the Clement A. Price Humanities Scholars Program, which will build seamless pathways for students to earn undergraduate degrees in humanities disciplines, paving the way to graduate school and academic careers. Leveraging the nationally renowned diversity of Rutgers-Newark’s student body and those of its two-year feeder institutions, the program aims to help diversify the ranks of humanities scholars. The first cohort of Price Scholars will be selected for fall 2019 from among incoming transfer students admitted to the HLLC and current HLLC sophomores who are interested in humanities careers.

“The humanities are absolutely central to our understanding of who we are,” observed Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor. “These are the disciplines where we do the hard work of discovering untold stories of our past and present and reweaving our individual and collective narratives. Doubling down on doing that hard work is critically important at a time when divisions among us appear to be growing and hardening. But we know that the talent pool we have right here in front of us in Newark and in diverse communities across New Jersey, one of the nation’s most diverse states, is up to the task! Fully cultivating that talent is among the highest priorities for our university and for the nation as a whole, and we could not be more excited—nor more grateful—to be able to partner with the Mellon Foundation on this crucial initiative.”

Named for the late Clement A. Price, a distinguished professor at Rutgers-Newark who was a pioneer in helping diversify the university’s own faculty, the Price Humanities Scholars Program will build on the HLLC’s innovative, strengths-based model to increase access to humanities careers for talented students from diverse backgrounds. Open to students from all backgrounds, the program has a particular focus on students from groups that are underrepresented in the humanities on the basis of race, socio-economic status, and other identities. It will employ a multi-layered approach including undergraduate research, publicly engaged scholarship, innovative courses, visiting scholars, mentoring, and professional development opportunities to support HLLC scholars on the pathway to graduate school in the humanities and onto careers in related fields.

Price Scholars will be guided on that pathway methodically, but flexibly within a specialized 18-credit curriculum constituting an academic minor. “Price Scholars will take their first three courses in the program as part of the full HLLC cohort, providing a framework to explore social inequities and themes related to engaged citizenship,” said HLLC Dean Timothy K. Eatman. “Following that, they will take several elective courses in the humanities and a humanities research methods course before then embarking on guided research projects in the humanities, culminating in a capstone course research project, with close mentoring by faculty, staff, and professionals throughout.”

Among its means of paving the pathway to humanities careers for Price Scholars, the HLLC will employ:

  • Full Residential Scholarships covering room and board
  • Generous financial aid packaging that optimizes eligibility for scholarships for tuition and fees
  • Individualized mentoring and support for students with an interest in pursuing graduate school and careers in the Humanities (Professoriate, Cultural Arts Institutions, Educational Institutions, etc.)
  • Conference attendance and presentations, funded undergraduate research and career opportunities, publicly engaged scholarship, innovative courses, individualized exposure to visiting scholars
  • Free GRE preparation and support with graduate school applications

Price Humanities Scholars also will reap the full benefit of being connected to the robust and growing network of HLLC friends and supporters locally, nationally, and globally.

The Honors Living-Learning Community was created in 2015 as a high priority under Rutgers-Newark’s strategic plan, reflecting input gathered during a months-long process that engaged university stakeholders broadly and democratically. Since then, the HLLC has established itself as a transformational college access program by challenging and redefining the notion of “merit” to cultivate the untapped talent of increasingly diverse new generations, providing students with the resources and opportunities to be thought leaders within their fields, positive collaborators within their communities, and change agents in our world, and activating intergenerational and interdisciplinary learning through dynamic curricula, to tackle local and global social issues in and outside of the classroom. Lauded in recent months by The New York Times and PBS NewsHour, the HLLC has risen to national prominence as a model for honors education.

Reflecting on the urgent need for initiatives such as the Price Scholars Program, Eatman concluded, “The future of our democracy depends on the cultivation of positive change agents in the academy who are deeply invested in and courageous enough to prepare themselves to face the prevalent and daunting pressing public challenges that abound in our society.”

Undergraduates aspiring to transfer to earn their bachelor’s degrees and then pursue graduate school and career paths in the humanities and related disciplines should apply to Rutgers University – Newark by February 1, selecting the HLLC option, in order to receive an invitation to the interview process.