Lawrence awarded $425,000 NEH Challenge Grant

Emily Zawacki

Lawrence was recently awarded a competitive National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant worth $425,000. Out of 108 proposals from colleges, universities and museums of all sizes, Lawrence’s was one of only 22 accepted proposals.

As part of the Challenge Grant, Lawrence must raise and match the amount of the given grant over the next five years through gifts from alumni, parents, friends of the college, faculty, staff, corporations and foundations.

This grant will potentially allow for the development of the Lawrence Humanities Institute with two Fellows positions exclusively in the humanities. These endowed Fellows are a continuation of the Lawrence Fellows program, which was initiated in 2005 to bring recent Ph.D. recipients to campus for two years to aid in research collaborations with professors and enrich student learning.

The overall goal entails raising $2.7 million in order to endow the new Fellowships and Institute, and this Challenge Grant brings the University that much closer to their goal.

President Jill Beck commented, “It’s a sign of significant support of our humanities departments and Lawrence Fellows program to have won this grant. Now the challenge begins for our alumni, as they work to meet the NEH matching requirement on behalf of Lawrence’s faculty and students.”

The sciences and performing arts lend themselves more easily to collaborating and researching with Fellows, whereas the humanities are a more solitary field and research is not as straightforward. With the Humanities Institute, Fellows will be specifically hired with an expertise in a theme that is a “hot-topic” in current humanities scholarship, allowing for more extensive interdisciplinary work.

According to Director of Corporate, Foundation and Sponsored Research Jennifer Stone ’00, who worked on the organization of the grant proposal, a Humanities Institute will open up “new nuances for the scholarship and research of our own humanities faculty that will strengthen ties among faculty from different departments and different disciplines.”

With the new grant, Lawrence students should see a greater quantity and diversity of current interdisciplinary humanities content being incorporated across the curriculum. Just as the Freshman Studies program includes professors from all fields teaching works outside of their specialized scholarship, the Humanities Institute will further deepen the ties between the humanities and other disciplines.

Lawrence previously received NEH Challenge Grants in the mid-1970s and in 2001, allowing for the renovation of Main Hall and the implementation of the Nathan Marsh Pusey Freshman Studies endowed fund, respectively.

A proposal for the current grant was initially submitted in 2010, but after its unsuccessful application, it was rewritten in 2011 by a collaboration of humanities professors: Timothy Spurgin, Faith Barrett, Ruth Lanouette, Martyn Smith, Kevin Tracy and Brent Peterson.

The humanities Fellows and Humanities Institute also tie into the vision for Lawrence encapsulated in the 10-year Strategic Plan. “Some of the key things that the Strategic Plan talks about are enhancing the transformative nature of the Lawrence education,” said Stone. “This grant will very directly advance those strategic objectives by contributing to the professional development of our humanities faculty in a way that is really unique.”