2016 Delta College

Humanities Learning Center
2016 LAND Institutional Excellence Award
Delta College
Dr. Jean Goodnow, President

Name of Team and Participants

  • Dr. Amy French,History/ Humanities Learning Center Coordinator
  • Dr. Reva Curry, Vice President of Instruction and Learning Services
  • Dr. David Peruski, Dean of Teaching and Learning
  • Dr. Marcia Moore, Humanities Division Chair
  • Denise Hill, English Division Chair
  • Dr. Laura Dull, History/Social Science Division Chair

HLC Advisory Board Members

  • Dr. Mark Brown, English
  • Professor Darci Doll, Philosophy
  • Anne Elias, Librarian
  • Dr. Michael Evans, History
  • Professor Michael Glowacki, Graphic Design
  • Dr. Beth Heyart, Communication
  • Professor Adna Howell, Communication
  • Professor Elena Lazzari, Economics
  • Professor Ryan Petersen, Political Science

Fellows

  • Dr. Lisa Lawrason, Political Science
  • Dr. Jeff Dykhuizen, Psychology
  • Professor Donna Giuliani, Sociology
  • Professor Joseph Lewis, English

Rationale for Nomination

The Humanities Learning Center was born in the fall of 2010 from a brainstorming session of a group of faculty who were concerned about the fate of the humanities and liberal arts education. Planning and gaining institutional approval and support consumed the remainder of the 2010-11 academic year, but in fall 2011 programming, coordinated by a faculty member chosen by a newly instituted advisory board, began in full force. Since that time, programs have grown and evolved, but the mission of the Humanities Learning Center has remained the same: to bring the relevance and vitality of the humanities, and therefore a liberal arts education, to the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Currently, the Humanities Learning Center (HLC) team is comprised of the Coordinator, the Advisory Board, key administrators and academic division chairs, and Fellows who conduct or assist in delivering the variety of HLC programs. This team supports initiatives to encourage the enrollment of students in Delta humanities disciplines and facilitate the transfer of those courses to four-year institutions. They advocate for the value of the humanities through partnerships with local schools, Brown Bag talks on humanities topics, humanities-themed book groups, humanities-themed speakers, and promotion of all humanities events on campus and, when requested, in our service communities.

From its inception, the team has advocated for creative humanities course delivery. The coordinator initiated an AQIP Action Project through which the humanities disciplines began creating major pathways, recommended course schedules for students who wished to major in specific humanities disciplines after transfer. This faculty-driven initiative to revitalize and enhance humanities education at Delta College and our transfer institutions grew into a college-wide commitment to the Guided Pathways initiative at the state level. As part of this project, the team has worked to build more equitable representation of humanities and liberal arts programs in our college’s marketing materials and campaigns, thus allowing more students to see such study as a possibility.

Today’s youth are encouraged to choose a career early in their education. The HLC team recognized this and began building partnerships with local K-12 schools from the start of its programming in 2011. They created a summer dual-enrollment opportunity for high school students and constructed programs with a local middle school in Saginaw as well as all of the Midland Public Schools middle schools. Saginaw students worked with an AmeriCorp Vista worker assigned to Delta College to brainstorm a topic that interested them. They selected “global food,” which gave our HLC team rich ground on which to build an interdisciplinary and interactive program. Through the Midland partnership, HLC fellows partnered with Midland Public Schools faculty to create a program that filled a K-12 need and is offered on the public school district’s professional development day during which middle-school students do not have classes. That program, Battles and Banners of the War of 1812, has run for several years and continues to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from both students and parents, some of whom ask to attend and have indicated a wish for similar programs aimed at adults. In summer 2016, the HLC offered a summer camp for middle grade students that introduced humanities subjects through a Harry Potter theme, with mini-courses such as Care and Keeping of Magical Creatures (mythology), Muggle Studies (history), Charms (poetry), and others. This camp was so popular it has a waiting list for summer 2017.

Since fall of 2012 the team has put together a schedule of Brown Bag talks that give faculty the opportunity to share their research and experiences with students and the community and that allow students to see their faculty outside of class and explore the humanities and liberal arts in a more focused way than course outcomes may allow within a semester schedule. Now in their fourth year, the Brown Bags have become so popular that seating is often standing room only and faculty are asking the HLC team to find a place for them on the schedule rather than the coordinator having to make individual requests to faculty to present. This November, in response to a community member whose family housed those fleeing the Nazis, the HLC coordinated a last-minute Brown Bag offering to a packed house of over 150.

As funding allows, the HLC team seeks to bring speakers to campus to ignite further interest in humanities/liberal arts topics. They pair those speakers with a book group. One of the first of these was nationally-known author, Ted Conover, who spoke in 2013 about his book, Routes of Man. The team then led a college-wide read with the Michigan Humanities Council 2013-14 Great Michigan Read selection, Annie’s Ghosts, and in spring 2015 partnered with the Women’s History Month Committee to lead a group of faculty, staff, and students in discussing Women Heroes of World War II. The HLC team has become so well known for their book circles that other groups have asked the team to run book groups associated with their events.

The HLC Team hosts a celebration of Humanities Advocacy Day on campus. The first year of this celebration, the team decorated library display windows with information about humanities activities at the campus, state, and national levels and created a display of buttons bearing words that students surveyed had indicated as associated with the humanities (original, radical, poetic, social, and artistic). Last year, faculty and staff from across the college as well as community visitors on campus for a career fair wore stickers boasting their various majors, and the team distributed magnets, cards, and other promotional materials raising awareness of the breadth of the humanities and ways to engage the community in the humanities in our region. Honoring two students who won a competition to create a catchphrase and logo for the HLC was a highlight of the advocacy day.

To further the goal of raising awareness of educational opportunities in the humanities outside of the campus community, in its first year (2011) the team applied for and received funding to install display cases and brochure racks across our main campus as well as our three campus centers. These information points highlight campus events and any literature regarding local humanities events in our service communities. The team has hosted educational travel trips to the Holocaust Memorial Center spring 2014 in conjunction with the Annie’s Ghosts book group) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (spring 2015). These trips were open to students and community members and were free of charge. The team also provides promotional services to any group on campus hosting a humanities/liberal arts event and publishes a monthly calendar of events that, in the last nine months, has featured more than 90 events. One of those events was a grant writing workshop for the Great Lakes Bay Region from the Michigan Humanities Council.

In spring 2015 the HLC team led Delta College to become the first Michigan community college to host a THATCamp, The Humanities and Technology Camp (thatcamp.org), attended by college and K-12 faculty from across the region, as well as some students. In the wake of that camp, one of our HLC Fellows was asked to present on how to begin sharing an organization’s or individual’s work or collections through digital and social media at the State History Conference this fall. The second HLC THATCamp was offered August 2016 and will be repeated in August 2017.

In four very busy years, this team has moved from vision to institutionalized reality. They have expanded the visibility of the humanities/liberal arts as a possibility for study and careers, which is a challenge in a culture firmly in the grip of the STEM movement. They have moved the institutional needle with their groundbreaking work on building clear pathways from associate’s to bachelor’s degree for students wishing to major in humanities disciplines. They have reenergized a faculty dispirited by the current cultural climate regarding the value of the humanities and liberal arts, and dramatically expanded learning opportunities for students outside the classroom—and taken responsibility for promoting them to ensure students have access to those experiences. By working with students, faculty, staff, and community members, the HLC team has encouraged and modeled lifelong learning and engagement in the humanities and liberal arts. Through their outreach to local K-12 schools, including a highly disadvantaged middle school, they continue to work to expand access to humanities and liberal arts education to the entire community. For these many reasons, I believe this team meets the award selection criteria for the LAND Institutional Excellence Award and is highly deserving of the recognition it would bring. This is a model for promoting the humanities and liberal arts that is replicable and adaptable at other institutions and, given the outreach mission of the HLC team, I am sure they would be happy to mentor anyone interested.

Humanities Learning Center Website