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Class Designed Through Bridging Cultures NEH Grant

July 10, 2013

Bridging Culture  

What does it mean to be “black” in 21st Century America? Are all blacks in the United States African-Americans? Are there more commonalities than differences among the diverse cultures of black America?

These are the questions that will be tackled in “Global Dimensions of Race, Gender and Religion in America,” a new course this fall semester at St. Louis Community College that was designed as part of  “Advancing the Humanities at Community Colleges: An NEH Bridging Cultures Project,” sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

St. Louis Community College was one of 18 community colleges nation-wide selected for this multi-disciplinary mentoring two-year project, which allowed the college’s team to participate in curriculum and faculty development. The NEH awarded $360,000 to the Community College Humanities Association.

Through the grant, STLCC could develop and implement new or revised humanities courses, new modules, or programs in literature, history, philosophy, religion and civic engagement.

This project responded to calls from many quarters for the people of this country to come together, to treat each other with civility, and to move to constructive deliberative dialogue, understanding and community activities.

“Community colleges, as educators of nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates, are a key to promoting critical thinking and civil discourse, given the remarkable diversity of their student populations,” said David A. Berry, executive director of the CCHA and co-director of this project.

The community college, with its increasingly diverse student body, offers an exemplary opportunity to advance the NEH Bridging Cultures Initiative, he said.

The STLCC team for this grant project is Yvonne Johnson, dean of humanities and social sciences at STLCC-Meramec; Steve Collins, chair and professor in history at STLCC-Meramec; and Deborah Henry, associate professor of history at STLCC-Forest Park.

They developed “Global Dimensions of Race, Gender and Religion in America,” to be taught by Henry at STLCC-Forest Park. The class will meet 9:30-10:45 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 19, and final exams conclude Dec. 15.

The first half of the course explores the global dimensions of diversity in black America shaped by the African Diaspora and slavery in the Americas as well as contemporary forces promoting the arrival of black immigrants in America from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

The second part of the semester will focus on global dimensions of religious diversity in the United States, with a greater focus on the arrival of Islam in America and its subsequent within the African-American and immigrant traditions.

“This is a new and exciting learning opportunity for our students. It’s such an important issue,” Henry said. “How can we live in a nation peacefully with diverse religions and people?”

This class will be included in a final case study publication to be distributed to all 1,200 community colleges nationwide.

“The 18 selected community colleges will use this opportunity to create bold, novel initiatives to enhance understanding of many different countries and peoples, as well as cultural and intellectual traditions worldwide,” co-director Diane U. Eisenberg said.

Students are encouraged to enroll now in this course (It is listed under Humanities in the online fall class schedule -- HUM:208 401 Liberal Arts Seminar: Themes in the Liberal Arts.)

This satisfies a general elective or a certificate in African-American Studies elective, and a Global Citizen Program Globalization Class.

Questions about the course should be directed to Deborah Henry at dhenry45@stlcc.edu.