WPI Awarded NEH Humanities Connections Grant


Humanities & Arts

Worcester, Massachusetts - The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has chosen Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Humanities and Arts as one of 18 institutions nationwide to receive one of its new Humanities Connections Grants.   The grant award of almost $100,000 will support the creation of an interdisciplinary Urban Humanities Teaching Cluster, so undergraduate students can pursue integrated course work in the field. 

With half the world’s population now living in cities and with the population of 21 cities now exceeding 10 million, the study of cities is more important than ever.  “The engineering challenges wrought by rapid urbanization and aging urban infrastructures are obvious to engineering students,” explains Joseph Cullon, an Assistant Teaching Professor of history and the grant’s Principle Investigator, “but solving them forces us to ask questions about history, equity, access and cultural meaning that are less transparent but equally crucial.”

With NEH’s support, professors from engineering, history, philosophy, English, interactive media, and interdisciplinary and global studies will develop classes and enhance existing courses, so student can pursue an integrative urban concentration toward their humanities and arts requirement, a six-course graduate requirement for all undergraduates.  Kristin Boudreau, the Department Head for Humanities and Arts at WPI, emphasizes that “the Cluster will emphasize humanities habits of mind to demonstrate how humanistic thinking can further enrich interdisciplinary perspectives bridging the engineering and social sciences.” The NEH-sponsored curricular project articulates to one of WPI’s new strategic initiatives, the “Major and a Mission,” empowering students to “pursue a more intentional path at WPI.” It also corresponds to one of the “Grand Challenges” identified by the National Academy of Engineering: “Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure.”

The activities of WPI’s Urban Humanities Cluster will extend engagement outside the classroom and campus both in bringing urban professionals and organizers to campus to discuss ethical challenges in their work and pushing students to undertake hands-on work in the community.  Students will especially be encouraged to connect their humanities and arts work to work to their Interactive Qualifying Projects, a nine-credit interdisciplinary research project, typically undertaken during a single term at one of WPI’s local, national or global project centers.

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries, and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.” 

NEH created the Humanities Connections Grant Program to expand the role of the humanities in the undergraduate curriculum at two- and four-year institutes, preparing student for life as engaged citizens and productive professionals.