The CUNY Humanities Alliance, with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is dedicated to training Ph.D. students in the most successful methods for teaching humanities courses in some of the country’s most diverse undergraduate classrooms. We aspire to increase retention and graduation rates for community college students, while also establishing a national model for translating specialized knowledge and research skills into effective and inspiring classroom practice. The Graduate Center, CUNY partners with LaGuardia Community College to broaden and strengthen access to and engagement in the humanities for their students.
Community colleges have emerged as an increasingly vital sector of higher education, enrolling nearly half of all U.S. undergraduates—predominantly first-generation, low-income, economically disadvantaged students. More than two-thirds of LaGuardia students come from families making $25,000 a year or less. LaGuardia Community College has developed innovative and powerful pedagogies and practices, as well as institutional structures and methods that foster faculty intentionality, mutuality, and exchange. For the 2,500 LaGuardia students in our humanities courses, the Humanities Alliance offers new opportunities and enrichment activities to improve their understanding of the humanities and the pathways that lead to completion of their degrees. Additionally, the Humanities Alliance provides resources to a select group of LaGuardia students to deepen their engagement in the humanities.
The Humanities Alliance offers a unique fellowship opportunity for doctoral students at the Graduate Center to train with LaGuardia Community College master faculty and implement their newly-acquired skills to teach their own classes at the college. Humanities Alliance Graduate Fellows receive robust professional development from faculty and administrators at both LaGuardia Community College and at The Graduate Center and participate in seminars and workshops to hone their teaching and mentoring skills. Specifically focusing on the humanities and humanistic social sciences, the program teaches Graduate Fellows to translate their specialized doctoral research into innovative teaching methodologies that benefit all learners and, especially, students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Graduate Fellows committed to public higher education participate in, learn from, and ultimately strengthen the structures that support the diverse students that the City University of New York is intended to serve. These professional development trainings will be the basis of new programs developed by The Graduate Center Teaching and Learning Center that will be accessible to all graduate student teachers.
The four-year Humanities Alliance initiative also provides opportunities for humanities education research and public engagement. A national conference will be organized on this topic to discuss and disseminate what we are learning from the initiative. Humanities Alliance Postdoctoral Fellows will advance digital scholarly communication, public engagement, and research and analyze humanities undergraduate education.
To facilitate community building among the LaGuardia students and capture the work of the initiative, the Humanities Alliance maintains a blog on the CUNY Academic Commons. Rather than serve as a traditional website, it is employed as a living network of activity and contributes to the project’s sustainability by forging connections between faculty, mentors, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates that distance and commuting make difficult. The blog is a crowd-sourced, participant-created platform where student, faculty and staff across multiple campuses can share research, pedagogical innovations, and information about relevant humanities conferences, seminars, workshops and public programming throughout the city.