Bridging Cultures: Strengthening Introductory History Courses
Nike Nivar, February 2013
The Community College Humanities Association hosted a session during the annual meeting on its ongoing Bridging Cultures project, "Advancing the Humanities at Community Colleges," funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This curriculum and faculty development project is composed of 18 two-year colleges chosen from a pool of 78 proposals. Faculty members work with a mentor, as well as an administrator from their own school, to further reinforce this process. The project hopes to serve as a national model to strengthen community college education and, at the end, publish a white paper for others to follow and implement in their own campuses. Diane Eisenberg of the Community College Humanities Association chaired the session and David Berry provided background information on the project and provided comment. The focus of the project—strengthening community college education nationwide—hinges on making connections with the outside world and other disciplines, to better serve the diverse student populations.
The first speaker was Emily Sohmer Tai (Queensborough Community Coll., CUNY), a mentor for the San Antonio College, Hopkinsville Community College, and Delaware Community College teams. The curricula her teams are working on deal with the unbridgeable divide in religion, which she highlighted as the gap between reason and revelation. Carol Heller (San Antonio Coll.) was the second speaker and focused on "New Directions in the World History Survey Course." She spoke about the somewhat disorderly growth of world history in the past 30 years and the boom in the array of textbooks and materials. Heller noted that this new informational wave demands more of students and faculty.
Maureen Murphy Nutting (North Seattle Community Coll.) mentors four schools for the project. Her discussion, "Crossing Borders: Global and Interdisciplinary Study in the American Survey Course," made the point that there is an ease in omitting the global perspective when teaching U.S. history, but that if you think about the students you are teaching and the different worlds they live in, the global perspective should not be ignored. Nutting argued that the curriculum has to extend and reach out to these student interests and backgrounds, using the local population, local history, cultural makeup, and demographics to create a more engaging and useful U.S. history course. She also highlighted using interdisciplinary links with other departments/fields as another way to engage students. Like Emily Sohmer Tai, Maureen Nutting is also part of the AHA's Tuning project.
The last speaker was Ted Wadley, an English professor at Georgia Perimeter College. His discussion, "Literary Connection: Bridging Cultures in Literature and History Courses," focused on his work crafting a first-year composition class at his school, which is a mix of English, history, and philosophy, and where primary sources are required. Wadley spoke of his diverse student population and seeing this diversity as a strength and an opportunity in crafting curriculum.
The AHA launched its own NEH Bridging Cultures project in 2012, centered on bridging the Atlantic and Pacific worlds in the U.S. history survey course. The first meeting will be a week-long conference at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, with 24 faculty members from 12 two-year colleges from around the country.
Nike Nivar is the AHA's projects assistant.
A version of this article appeared on the AHA Today blog.