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Grant to Eastern will support work on AI in the humanities

Published on May 23, 2024

Grant to Eastern will support work on AI in the humanities

neh coplac
The National Endowment for the Humanities grant will support Eastern and four other COPLAC schools.

Eastern Connecticut State University and four other public liberal arts colleges across the nation will develop new humanities courses that meet the challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI) in a project funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The collaborative effort, led by Emily Todd, dean of arts and sciences at Eastern, and Miriam Wallace, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Illinois-Springfield, is one of 22 projects recently funded by the NEH in its “Spotlight on Humanities in Higher Education” funding program.

Other institutions that will contribute to the project are the University of Mary Washington (Virginia), Northern State University (South Dakota) and The Evergreen State College (Washington). All are small to medium-sized colleges with a commitment to the humanities through their liberal arts mission, and all are part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC).

The $25,000, one-year grant will support faculty development of curricula that help students navigate AI in ways that take advantage of their humanities training in critical thinking and a deep study of text.

“The critical abilities you develop through the study of the humanities can be so valuable to students and graduates as they evaluate and consider the ethical implications of AI,” said Todd. She noted that humanities students learn to pay attention to the context and creation of text and to ask questions such as, “Where is this text coming from? Whose voices are being elevated and what is being omitted?”

Four Eastern faculty will develop assignments and course modules focused on the role of AI in the humanities and will share their work with faculty from the other collaborating colleges.

“This will be a good networking opportunity” for the faculty who participate, Todd said. “It creates a community and connections across the COPLAC institutions.” The four faculty from Eastern will be chosen after the criteria for selecting projects are developed.

The grant submission was an outgrowth of a working group within COPLAC on how to help students navigate and work with AI in the public liberal arts context.

“By focusing on curricular development in the humanities, our project aims to equip public university students to recognize the value of their humanities coursework at a time when AI is rapidly changing workplaces and communities,” the grant proposal says.

As public liberal arts colleges and universities, the five institutions on the grant are “well-positioned to reach a wider audience because we serve a high proportion of first-generation college students, Pell-eligible students and regional populations,” the proposal notes.

Written by Cindy Weiss

Categories: Academics