Hartnell campus

Understanding the science of a pandemic is critically important, but there’s a human side that is equally important to understand and express, and Hartnell College is about to receive a prestigious grant from federal CARES Act funding for $263,000 to teach students how to do that, the college announced on June 23.

It’s the only California community college to be awarded these funds by the National Endowment for the Humanities. A total of $40.3 million is being shared by 300 educational and cultural institutions around the U.S.

Hartnell will use the money to strengthen online teaching in its humanities-related programs, including languages, the arts, ethnic studies and philosophy, as well as social sciences such as psychology and political science, according to a press release.

It’s Hartnell’s first grant from the NEH, which is highly selective in which organizations receive funds—only 14 percent of applicants typically are chosen, said Michele Peregrin, director of grants development in Hartnell’s Office of Institutional Achievement, in the release.

“We submitted a thoughtful proposal that showed we were going to support and strengthen humanities offerings and teachings and thereby improve humanities education for our students,” Peregrin said.

Dr. Cathryn Wilkinson, vice president of academic affairs, said the grant will help Hartnell “guide our students in critical reflection about our human circumstances,” including Covid-19.

Part of the effort will include establishing a group of lead humanities faculty who will research and share best practices in online teaching of humanities courses with other instructors. The enhanced online teaching will in turn benefit students through humanities-oriented learning connected to Covid-19, including the virus’ impact on society.

“The humanities are fundamental to our mission of serving the education and workforce needs of our district,” said Aurelio Salazar Jr, president of the Hartnell Community College District Governing Board. “This grant will help our students connect their learning to the historic experience of Covid-19 and its significance in our ever-changing environment.”

Funds will also be used to fund adjunct faculty positions that would otherwise not be filled due to reduced state funding as a result of shelter-in-place. Participating faculty will also receive stipends to support additional research and training. Other funds will go toward instructional supplies and materials, video production and other needs. The money must be used during the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Only one other higher education institution in California received grants, the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Hartnell was one of only a handful of community colleges selected, among such well-known recipients as Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. A total of 2,300 applications were submitted.

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