The CUNY Humanities Alliance, generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, exposes graduate students to the most successful methods for teaching the humanities in community college contexts, while simultaneously expanding access to the humanities for undergraduates from the BIPOC and immigration communities served by the City University of New York. By participating in a wide range of professional development activities, grounded in projects and opportunities at the community colleges, CUNY Humanities Alliance Fellows will be well-prepared for a range of careers in the humanities. By developing peer- and near-peer mentoring networks as well as unique educational and professional opportunities, the project aims to foster equity, access, and inclusion in humanities education as well as academic support and leadership.
The CUNY Humanities Alliance began in 2016 as a partnership with LaGuardia Community College, and has now expanded to include three additional CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Guttman Community College, and Hostos Community College. Beginning in fall 2021, the CUNY Humanities Alliance will place 28 Graduate Center doctoral students over four years in educational development roles at the four partner institutions. Working closely with faculty, staff, and administrators, and supported by The Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center and the Futures Initiative, graduate fellows will help plan and support a range of opportunities for humanities education. These may include experiential teaching that brings the city into the classroom, assignments that integrate technology and facilitate collaborative research and writing into undergraduate classes, and efforts to reduce textbook costs by launching projects to develop high-quality Open Educational Resources.
The CUNY Humanities Alliance will also expand its undergraduate mentoring program in partnership with the Futures Initiative to serve more than 250 undergraduate students over the next five years, helping each create a pathway to four-year campuses. Students in the newly named CUNY Peer Leaders program will have the chance to explore humanities education and career pathways and develop crucial leadership abilities. Four-year college students will serve as peer mentors, so that community college students can hear firsthand about the transfer process, differences between institutions, and the challenges fellow students have faced. CUNY Humanities Alliance graduate fellows will have leadership opportunities within the program as near-peer mentors.
Together, these components help to establish and solidify a robust network of support, communication, and opportunities for students at all levels of the CUNY system to think expansively about the role of the humanities in their lives and careers, while also fostering stronger ties across the four partner colleges. Our hope is that this program may serve as a model of ways to integrate and amplify the work of teaching and learning that happens beyond the classroom—and in doing so, build more equitable educational systems for all.
2016-2020: First Phase
In its first phase, the CUNY Humanities Alliance offered a unique fellowship opportunity for 27 doctoral students at the Graduate Center to work with LaGuardia Community College master faculty and implement their newly-acquired skills to teach their own humanities classes at the community college. Specifically focusing on the humanities and humanistic social sciences, the program supported Graduate Fellows in translating their specialized doctoral research into innovative teaching methodologies that benefits all learners and, especially, students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. After receiving expert teaching preparation from community college faculty mentors and the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning, the fellows taught nearly 2,000 community college students over the course of the program. A national conference in 2018 brought together nearly 300 students, faculty, and staff members from across the United States to share best practices for humanities education in community colleges.
- The Office of the Provost (David Olan, Associate Provost and Dean for Academic Affairs)
- The Teaching and Learning Center (Luke Waltzer, Director)
- The Futures Initiative (Katina Rogers, Director)
For more information about the grant supporting these fellowships, please see:
- $3-Million Grant Puts Ph.D. Candidates in 2-Year-College Classrooms (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
- Q&A: Why the $3.15M Mellon Grant Matters (The Graduate Center)
- Blog post from Cathy N. Davidson, Director of The Futures Initiative
- Press release