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
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.