September 9, 2021

Professors Anne Valk and Johanna Devaney
Professors Anne Valk and Johanna Devaney

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded significant grants to two Graduate Center professors for projects that highlight the importance of humanities education. Professor Anne Valk (History), executive director of the American Social History Project and the Center for Media and Learning, was awarded funding for a project on LGBTQ+ teacher education. Professor Johanna Devaney (GC/Brooklyn, Music) is the recipient of funds in the area of digital humanities advancement.

Their projects are among 239 humanities projects nationwide receiving $28.4 million in grants from the NEH, which Adam Wolfson, acting NEH chairman, said emphasize the “resilience and breadth of our nation’s humanities institutions and practitioners.” 

Valk and Donna Thompson Ray, co-project director, will use their $190,000 grant for LGBTQ+ Histories of the United States, a two-week summer institute for about two dozen middle and high school teachers on the histories of LGBTQ+ communities in the U.S., to take place at the Graduate Center next summer. Historians and scholars from many universities will introduce the participants to historical content and resources that they will be able to incorporate in their classes, and, as Valk explained, “to help them think through the how and why of offering this content.” After the institute, the American Social History Project will create a resource that can be shared with other teachers.

“This is both a very important and very timely topic,” said Valk. “This year, many states are restricting this kind of content through so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws; and anti-trans laws are targeting trans youth, making their scholastic experiences more difficult and schools potentially a less safe place. At the same time, over the past few years, a number of states, including New Jersey and California, have begun to mandate that LGBTQ+ content be incorporated into school curriculum. Many teachers are feeling unprepared and nervous about how to best introduce this content.” 

Devaney, a specialist in computational musicology, music cognition and psychology, and performance studies is the recipient of $100,000 for AMPACT: Automatic Music Performance Analysis and Comparison Toolkit. This is a suite of tools to enable the computational analysis of musical performances or recordings. It involves estimating loudness, timing, tuning, and timbral to better understand the nuance that musicians bring to musical performances.

Devaney explained that “the tools have been used both by music scholars to study musicological questions and psychologists to examine the role of singing in both development and health contexts. I'm using AMPACT as a collaborator on a large-scale Canadian partnership grant on the benefit of group singing for people living with communication disorders.” That project, SingWell Canada, recently received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

The NEH also announced that Laura Snyder and Lance Richardson, fellows at the Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography, have each been awarded $60,000 Public Scholars grants. The grants will support Snyder’s work on the biography of writer and neurologist Oliver Sachs and Richardson’s on his biography of writer and naturalist Peter Matthiessen.

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