Early exposure: UM-Dearborn awarded NEH challenge grant to support student research and community engagement on Arab American subjects
University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Arab American Studies has been awarded a $100,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support student research and community engagement on Arab American subjects.
The center is one of 37 inaugural recipients of the NEH Humanities Access Grant, which are awarded to programs designed to benefit youth and underserved communities. The grant requires a 100 percent match intended to encourage public support for recipients, meaning the center will need to raise $100,000 from donors to receive full federal support.
The center will use the funding to launch a first year seminar and research internship program designed to encourage more undergraduate students to pursue a minor in Arab American studies and consider careers in public humanities.
The program will include a hands-on look at different approaches to public humanities work and a summer-long research project and internship carried out with a local museum or cultural institution. Students will present their research at an annual symposium the following academic year.
“Students often aren’t exposed to humanities research or to our Arab American studies classes until their junior or senior year,” said Center Director Sally Howell. “They’ll say to me, ‘I wish I’d known about this when I was a freshman; I would have gotten a different degree.’ This program will give freshmen the opportunity to see the kinds of public scholarship we do on this campus and to see additional career options.”
Howell said funding from the grant and matching gifts also will allow the center to engage in research related to and discussion with the diverse populations within the Arab and Muslim communities who reside in southeast Michigan. Ultimately, she would like to raise an additional $500,000 to establish an endowment for continued support of the center’s work.
“We’re an unusual campus—a quarter of our students are Arab American and we are located within a large and visible Arab American community,” she said. “And so we have the opportunity and the obligation to do research and programming that is not being done elsewhere.”