$100K NEH grant funds humanistic approach to environmental challenges

$100K NEH grant funds humanistic approach to environmental challenges

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A creative approach to the study of the environment has landed a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Jordan P. Howell, Department of Geography, Planning, & Sustainability within the School of Earth & Environment, and Dustin Crowley, Department of English within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, are project director and co-director for the NEH-funded program to create courses and a Certificate of Undergraduate Studies in Environmental Humanities.

Their project, “Cultivating the Environmental Humanities,” will pair the skills and sensibilities of humanities research with the scientific approach more commonly brought to bear in environmental problem solving.

Howell and Crowley will also partner with conservation groups and produce a speaker series and other programming to engage the Rowan community and the public on environmental issues.

“There are many great technical ideas that too often don’t work out as intended because people don’t understand the cultural or political settings that develop around them,” Howell said.

By incorporating a humanistic approach in the study of environmental issues, students will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for how those issues affect people, he said.

In addition to developing new courses and the certificate program, Howell and Crowley over the next three years seek to create extracurricular programming involving speakers, discussions, even musical events to better educate the public on environmental issues.

“The environmental challenges we face are never purely scientific or technological,” Crowley said. “By studying environmental issues through both STEM and humanities fields, students will address the broader social contexts behind the causes and consequences of environmental concern to develop well-informed solutions.”

An independent federal agency, the NEH is one of the largest supporters of humanities programs in the U.S. Its grant to Rowan, a first for programs within the School of Earth & Environment, was one of 18 made to colleges and universities across the country.

Awarded this spring, the grant will help fund programming from July 2017 through June 2020.