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Gabrielle Foreman (center) works on the Colored Conventions
Project with students Eileen Moscoso (left), Clay Colmon and Alyssa
The University of Delaware has received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities
(NEH) as part of a major “Next Generation Ph.D.” effort by the federal
agency to broaden the career preparation for doctoral students.
The University has been a training ground for museum professionals
for over 50 years, through its professionally oriented master’s degree
and certificate programs in the humanities as well as its humanities
More recently, UD has also built an outstanding interdisciplinary
faculty in African American studies, many of whom embrace a larger
mission of engaged scholarship.
This mission is exemplified by Yasser Payne’s participatory-action
research projects in Wilmington and Harlem, Tiffany Gill and Colette
Gaiter’s “Beauty Shop Project,” the inter-arts research and teaching
collaborations led by Lynnette Overby and others, and Gabrielle
Foreman’s Colored Conventions Project
(CCP). The CCP is a digital research collection that has quickly
garnered national attention, as well as a global following of
70,000-plus through the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture’s
digital outreach programming.
The NEH Next Generation Ph.D. implementation grant will enable UD to
bring together and build upon its signature strengths in these two
arenas — graduate-level humanities education and research training, and
African American studies.
The interdisciplinary doctoral-level training that UD is piloting
entails an intentional focus on training students for a broad range of
careers in and beyond higher education and will showcase the
opportunities and responsibilities of public scholarship and advocacy
for African American history, cultural preservation and community
Students recruited to UD through this interdisciplinary initiative
will have opportunities to develop their skills as classroom teachers if
they are interested in academic careers, but stipend support will be
structured to cover their apprenticeship experiences in projects that
advance the public profile of humanities research.
They will pursue internships in libraries, archives, museums,
galleries and special collections on campus as well as at partner
institutions such as the Delaware Historical Society and the Library
Company of Philadelphia. They will participate in digital humanities
projects at UD and have opportunities to build their digital
competencies through summer institutes and boot camps such as the
Delaware Public Humanities Institute (DelPHI), Digital Pedagogy Lab and
the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute.
Students also will participate in grant writing, fund raising and
project management activities, including the curation of public
exhibitions (digital as well as in real space/time) and the planning of
public humanities outreach events.
“We anticipate that the five-year, 12-month training model that we
will pilot in this initiative holds great promise as a national model
for best practices in 21st century humanities Ph.D. training,” said Ann
Ardis, senior vice provost for graduate and professional education,
director of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center and a co-principal investigator on the grant.
“Through this interdisciplinary initiative, we seek to address a
critical need that is both local and national in scope — the need to
diversify the professoriate and the cultural heritage industry,”
said Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Blue and Gold Professor of Black American
Studies and History and the inaugural director of the project.
“Researchers adept at exploring hidden archives and creating digital
spaces can resurrect buried histories that deeply resonate in our
current moment,” said Gabrielle Foreman, Ned B. Allen Professor of
English, professor of history and of black American studies and a
co-principal investigator. “At a time when disparities in educational
access and economics continue to plague our country, we need prominently
placed scholars of color, experts in 21st-century research and teaching
technologies, working with others in universities, museums and cultural
institutions so we can better understand and address this cultural
UD is one of only three institutions nationally to receive Next
Generation Ph.D. implementation grants of $350,000 each to support and
expand efforts that are already underway. Twenty-five institutions have
received $25,000 planning grants.
Announced earlier this month, the grants total $1.65 million and
launch the agency’s initiative to transform the culture of graduate
education in the humanities. A full list of institutions receiving Next
Generation Ph.D. grants is available in the NEH press release about the awards.
“The academic-focused future we’re accustomed to training graduate
students for is disappearing,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “If
graduate programs wish to make a case for the continuation of graduate
education in the humanities, they’re going to have to think about the
professional futures of their students in entirely different ways.”
The NEH has also forged a new partnership with the Council of
Graduate Schools to create an inter-institutional learning community,
the Next Generation Ph.D. Consortium, to support this work.
Numerous letters were sent to the NEH from universities, scholars and
cultural heritage organizations supporting UD’s plans to develop its
Next Generation Ph.D. project. Here is a small sampling:
Provost Domenico Grasso: “Enhancing UD’s signature strengths in
American material culture studies has been a high priority for me as
provost, as is enhancing support for graduate and professional
education, strengthening support for multidisciplinary collaborative
research and improving utilization of the University Libraries and
Museums’ archival resources in the curriculum. I am enthusiastic about
partnering — yet again — with NEH on innovative interdisciplinary
material culture studies and public humanities programming.”
College of Arts and Sciences Dean George Watson: “This initiative in
African American material culture and public humanities training at the
doctoral level is ambitious, timely, and transformative. It re-imagines
doctoral education in the humanities as a form of public engagement
designed to create scholars with the skills and relevance to work both
inside and outside the academy. It re-imagines the doctoral experience
in terms of project-based classes and internship experiences on and off
campus that generate new and innovative forms of public scholarship and
train students in new ways. And it re-imagines the doctorate as a twin
driver of academic excellence and diversity.”
Barbara McCaskill, professor of English at the University of Georgia
and co-director of the Civil Rights Digital Library: “At a time when
diversity increasingly is acknowledged by communities and countries as a
catalyst for productivity, creativity, and emotional and social
well-being, UD’s ambitious program affirms the central role that the
humanities can, will, and must play in assuring the heterogeneity of the
next generation of scholars. I am honored to advocate for such an
outstanding educational program.”
Robert Levine, Distinguished University Professor, University of
Maryland: “What UD proposes to undertake is a real ‘game-changer,’ not
only for graduate education in African American studies but in a larger
sense for graduate education in the humanities.”
Scott Loehr, chief executive officer, Delaware Historical Society:
“The University of Delaware is to be commended for its proactive
approach to transforming humanities education in an era when the value
and relevance of the humanities constantly are being called into
Richard Newman, former Edwin Wolf 2nd Director of the Library Company
of Philadelphia: “Libraries, museums, and cultural institutions need
diverse archivists, librarians, and museum coordinators who are trained
in their specific fields of historical research as well as in the
digital humanities and public outreach.”
Michele Shauf, director, Corporate Learning and Development,
eVestment, an Atlanta-based technology firm in the institutional
investing space (and UD English doctoral alumna): “I see extraordinary
need for a new direction in doctoral training in the humanities: The
world at large needs people steeped in the rich humanist tradition as
critical thought-partners for technologists; the economy needs people
with interdisciplinary mindsets who can apply ‘design thinking’ to solve
problems and capitalize on opportunities to innovate; and doctoral
candidates need a more pragmatic professional path that is appropriate
for careers inside and outside the academy.”
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