FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 1996
Contact: Carol Selkin, Director
Public Information/Editorial Services
Phone: (323) 343-3200
Los Angeles--December 19, 1996....Our society, comprising so many diaspora populations, is potentially enriched by diversity but also challenged by it. Coming to terms with difference is fundamental not only to healing the tensions it can cause but to understanding and promoting the culture we call American. The Cal State L.A. campus is a unique proving ground for investigating the ways our distinctively American culture emerges from the various heritages that contribute to it.
Recognizing this, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)--the most prestigious national agency fostering teaching and research in the humanities disciplines--has awarded the Cal State L.A. School of Arts and Letters a major challenge grant to establish an endowment fund for a "humanities teaching and learning community" on campus. Out of 24 NEH challenge grants this year, only 10 have been awarded to U.S. universities or colleges. In California, Cal State L.A. was one of 4 recipients of this prestigious grant, along with UC Berkeley University Art Museum, Loyola Marymount University and Stanford University
The Cal State L.A. Project
The full range of humanities disciplines--from art history and literary study to philosophy and sociology--will contribute to this ongoing exploration of the ways cultural expressions come together at and form this intersection of the individual and the community.
Students and faculty will use such themes as "Fables of Identity" to investigate stories of "coming to America" or the experience of integration into American society. The Mayflower and the slave ships, the boats carrying Southeast Asian refugees or the cramped steerage of European migrations to America are images that link various journeys in this tale of identity. But beyond the commonality of steerage and freighter lie the unique differences among immigrant groups that this theme will also explore. Other proposed topics range from "The Idea of the Hero in American Culture" to the exploration of "American Song," providing a spectrum of approaches to this central concept.
The NEH endowment will provide foundation for this teaching-learning community by supporting a range of activities. At the center will be an endowed chair filled on a rotating basis by distinguished faculty from Cal State L.A. and other institutions. The holder of this chair will help define the issues and topics explored during his or her two- to three-year tenure; additional funds will release up to seven more faculty members to join in research and discussion of the selected topic. This humanities teaching-learning community will generate library and other resources appropriate to the focus of the chair. As the term of each chair progresses, ways of enriching the continuing curriculum will result from exploratory, team-taught classes. The inclusion of graduate and undergraduates in seminars and research projects broadly anchors this community on the Cal State L.A. campus. The culminating activity associated with each chair's tenure will be a public forum for the discussion of the research.
While the grant is intellectually challenging, its funding status--the $337,500 NEH grant needs to matched by donations to reach a target of $1.35 million--is also a challenge to the commitment of those who recognize the importance of the University in stimulating inquiry and discussion in such basic humanities issues as what it means to be an American in the 21st century.
"The School of Arts and Letters needs to raise three dollars for every one dollar that NEH provides by July 31, 2000," says Carl Selkin, dean of the School of Arts and Letters. "This is certainly a challenge, but one that this important recognition from the NEH puts within our reach."
For information on how to participate in this challenge for the twenty-first century, call Lee Werbel, development director of the School of Arts and Letters at (323) 343-4001.