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NEH Grant to Fund Research on Suburban Landscapes

Ursinus is one of 23 colleges nationwide that have been awarded a prestigious humanities connections grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

The $30,000 in funding will enable Ursinus faculty and students to participate in an interdisciplinary project that focuses on the ways that humans have modified surrounding landscapes. Humanities connections grants seek to expand the role of the humanities in the undergraduate curriculum at two- and four-year institutions.

The grant is part of $18.6 million in funding awarded by the NEH for 199 humanities projects nationwide.

The Ursinus researchers seek to integrate humanities perspectives with methods of mapping, analysis and narratives to examine human influence on nature.

“By taking a humanities-centered focus, we seek a better understanding of the meanings these diverse sets of transformed landscapes, such as housing developments, farms, quarries, parks and open space, have for the people living in these places that are illustrative of characteristic dynamics across the U.S. and, increasingly, the planet,” says Patrick Hurley, an associate professor of environmental studies.

Hurley is co-leading the project titled “Trajectories of Transformation” with Meredith Goldsmith, a professor of English and associate dean of the college. It includes an interdisciplinary team of faculty who will examine the suburban environment from literary, historical, scientific, and social scientific perspectives.

The co-directors designed the project to draw upon the changing exurban landscape of the Collegeville area and to provide a model for interdisciplinary teaching for the college’s new core curriculum. In cooperation with local partners, a team drawn from English, biology, environmental studies and history will meet together throughout the year and engage in reading, discussion, course development and assessment, Goldsmith says.

“It is designed to link the big questions of the humanities to those of the social sciences and natural sciences,” Goldsmith says.

At the end of the year, the group will be eligible to apply for a $100,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. –By Ed Moorhouse