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LaGuardia Community College to Receive Part of $3.15 Million Mellon Foundation Grant to Expand CUNY Humanities Alliance

Grant, led by The Graduate Center, CUNY, follows a 2015 Mellon Foundation grant in same amount that established the Humanities Initiative


January 15, 2020


LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars presenting at a conference session


LaGuardia Community College is one of four community colleges that will receive support from a $3.15 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The funding will expand the CUNY Humanities Alliance, a program designed to engage doctoral students in supporting humanities education at community colleges, and address the critical question of how to best prepare graduate students for careers as faculty members and leaders in community colleges and in higher education as a whole. The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) is lead grantee.

The CUNY Humanities Alliance began in 2015 as a partnership between The Graduate Center and LaGuardia Community College . This new grant will enable the expansion to three additional CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Guttman Community College, and Hostos Community College. This larger alliance will create additional professional and academic opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds.

A CUNY Humanities Alliance graduate fellows and faculty mentors plenary panelAs in the first round of the program, the goals of the expanded CUNY Humanities Alliance support a vision of higher education that is oriented toward social justice. The aim is to enable graduate students to learn about the most successful methods for engaging in humanities education in community colleges with diverse student populations while simultaneously broadening access to the humanities for those undergraduates. By providing a wide range of professional development activities, grounded in projects and opportunities at the community colleges, participating graduate fellows will be better equipped for careers that support humanities education.

“I am delighted that the Mellon Foundation has generously supported the expansion of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, which advances innovation and collaborative partnerships among four of our community colleges and The Graduate Center,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “This initiative strengthens the University’s capacity to offer excellent humanities teaching at all levels, which is a particular priority for me. As a historian and former president of a community college and a four-year college, I have seen firsthand how the humanities can enrich the lives and advance the career prospects of all students."                                                

“High-quality teaching that reaches a diverse student population is absolutely essential to our success. Therefore, we’re pleased to be continuing our collaboration with The Graduate Center to ensure that tomorrow’s college faculty are well-prepared to be both effective in their classrooms and leaders on their campuses,” said LaGuardia Community College Interim President Paul Arcario. “We greatly appreciate the innovative thinking of the Mellon Foundation and their long-term commitment to improving teaching and expanding access to the essential learning that a humanities education provides.”

CUNY, like other U.S. colleges and universities, serves students that are more diverse than ever before in race and ethnicity, immigration status, home language, age, and religion. The CUNY Humanities Alliance supports community college students from marginalized and immigrant populations, as well as graduate students, in thinking expansively about the role of the humanities in their lives and careers.

“The Graduate Center is deeply committed to doctoral education that serves the public good,” said Graduate Center Associate Provost David Olan. “Our students are engaged scholars and educators, and with the Mellon Foundation’s generous support, we can ensure that they are even better prepared to support humanities education in ways that inspire and empower diverse learners. With this expanded alliance we will build on the success of the Humanities Alliance that began in 2015 and give our students the experience and the training that will benefit them and their students throughout their careers.”

Beginning in fall 2021, the CUNY Humanities Alliance will place 28 Graduate Center doctoral students over four years in educational development roles at the four partner institutions.

LaGuardia faculty leading a diversity conference sessionWorking closely with faculty, staff, and administrators, and supported by The Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center and the Futures Initiative, graduate fellows will help plan and support innovative opportunities for teaching and learning in the humanities. These may include experiential teaching that brings the city into the classroom, assignments that integrate technology and facilitate collaborative research and writing, and efforts to reduce textbook costs for undergraduates.

The fellows will have the opportunity to learn new instructional strategies, sharpen their collaborative and leadership skills, and develop a deeper understanding of the unique needs and strengths of community colleges. The 28 graduate fellows will help community college faculty members support thousands of undergraduate students in humanities courses.

The CUNY Humanities Alliance will also expand its undergraduate mentoring program in partnership with the Futures Initiative to serve more than 250 undergraduate students over the next five years, helping each create a pathway to four-year campuses. Students in the newly named Peer Leadership Fellows program at CUNY community colleges will have the chance to explore humanities education and career pathways and develop crucial leadership abilities. Four- year college students will also serve as peer mentors, so that community college students can hear firsthand about the transfer process, differences between institutions, and the challenges fellow students have faced.

Today, only 31.5% of community college students transfer to a four-year institution within six years. The CUNY Humanities Alliance aims to boost the transfer rate for the undergraduates it serves. Those who choose not to pursue further study are expected to leave more prepared to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Beginning in 2015, the CUNY Humanities Alliance program supported 27 doctoral students as teaching fellows in partnership with LaGuardia Community College. After receiving expert teaching preparation from community college faculty mentors and LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching and Learning, the fellows taught nearly 2,000 community college students over the course of three semesters. A national conference in 2018 brought together nearly 300 students, faculty, and staff members from across the United States to share best practices for humanities education in community colleges.


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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, educates more than 50,000 New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. Our guiding principle Dare To Do More reflects our belief in the transformative power of education—not just for individuals, but for our community and our country—creating pathways for achievement and safeguarding the middle class. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all US college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education. We invite you to join us in imagining what our students, our community, and our country can become. Visit www.LaGuardia.edu to learn more.


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