The CUNY Humanities Alliance, generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, exposes graduate students to the best ways to support humanities education in the community college context, 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 fosters equity, access, and inclusion in humanities education as well as academic support and leadership.
The CUNY Humanities Alliance, based at The Graduate Center, began in 2016 as a partnership with LaGuardia Community College, and in 2020 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.