The Miami University Humanites Humanities Center has distinguished itself nationally for its emphasis on integrating faculty and student inquiry. Bo Adams, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, called the Humanities Center "a model for integrating undergraduate training into advanced multidisciplinary scholarly efforts in the humanities. The NEH awarded Miami a $500,000 Challenge Grant to permanently underpin its growing portfolio of programs that place students and experienced scholars to work, side-by-side on problems of consequence.
In this program, a small community of ambitious student-scholars work one-on-one with peers and faculty, experiencing the rhythms of scholarly life in a historic setting. Students earn 6 credit hours while working on a departmental honors thesis, a University Summer Scholars project, a University Honors experience, or an independent research project.
Each year we select several exceptionally promising undergraduates to join the Altman research community. Fellows receive a $250 scholarship attend some Faculty Research Seminars and all major lectures and conferences associated with the Altman Program. They will also enroll in a 400-level course taught by the Altman Fellows, where they have the option of undertaking independent research for honors credit. Undergraduate Fellows engage in some kind of independent project, sometimes for honors or departmental credit, and often do a public humanities service, such as interviewing distinguished scholars for a podcast, writing for our newsletter, or helping with program events. The goal of the program is to give outstanding undergraduates experience with active research collaboration in the humanities, an opportunity to plan independent research, and a sense of what it is like to be a humanities professor. Students have called the experience “incredible” and “life-changing.”
This three-week, 1-credit workshop, aims to boost the number of undergraduates who undertake independent research. Intended for sophomores, it will introduce students to best practices in major disciplinary traditions; the writing of a research proposal and annotated bibliography; collaborative commentary and feedback; and presentation of work to an audience. The workshop will include day-long visits by faculty in literature, language, classics, philosophy, and religion. Students will complete a proposal for a Miami University Summer Scholarship, Dean’s Scholarship, Honors project, or departmental thesis.
Research experience is invaluable for graduate admission, virtually expected for major scholarships or fellowship, and increasingly sought by employers. Yet because humanities scholars do not work in laboratories, they often find that supervising undergraduate research is a drain on their other teaching responsibilities and their own research. The Research Apprenticeship Program attempts to foster new models of faculty-student collaboration in which supervising research is less onerous and more rewarding for faculty. Such models exist in many disciplines, where students provide valuable assistance in a laboratory, do library research, or gather data while pursuing an independent project closely related to the faculty member’s research. To put it more bluntly, whereas independent student projects in the humanities have often been modeled on the graduate-level thesis or the independent tutorial courses, undergraduate research in other fields is often premised on students working as an apprentice on the faculty member’s current research project.
In order to help faculty explore such collaborations, the Humanities Center will solicit proposals from faculty who could employ a Research Apprentice to do work such as reading and taking notes on primary or secondary material, proofing and editing, combing archives or other evidence, coding or digital work, or other public humanities work. Viable proposals will be listed on the Humanities Center website. Students will apply through the center and, after vetting, be chosen by the faculty researcher. Involved faculty will receive modest stipends for research or tuition. Ideally, successful partnerships will lead eventually to more individual student projects.
Humanities Teaching Laboratory
This program aims to provide flexible, low-cost, high-impact interdisciplinary study. Each fall, the Humanities Center will call for proposals from teams of four faculty from different fields of study. Applicant groups will propose a topic that each faculty member will address in a regular course during the subsequent Spring Term (i.e., 15 months after application). For example, a group of faculty in philosophy, English, environmental studies, and American studies might propose a Teaching Lab called “The Warming Planet.” In the semester of the program, each faculty member would teach a related course within his or her own department as part of a normal teaching load. The course would be open to all students, as usual. Teaching Lab students would enroll in at least two of the four themed courses, plus a special one-credit Lab course team-taught by the four Teaching Lab faculty. The one-credit course would include structured small-group discussions; staged faculty dialogues or debates; a formal dinner and social gatherings with faculty; visiting lectures and workshops; films, exhibits, and other public events. Topics could mix “enduring” and “emergent questions” in a wide range of disciplines. Some topics might be specific in character (e.g., “Slavery and the Atlantic”); others could be broad (e.g., “The Body,” “Food,” “Race,” “Democracy,” “Disease and Technology,” etc.). Faculty might arrange to lecture in each other’s courses or develop other forms of engagement and dialogue. The semester would conclude with a conference at which all of the Lab Students present a research project synthesizing their work in multiple program classes. Each year, the program topic and faculty would change. Faculty would receive compensation for offering the one-credit Lab course and developing the Lab course. Enrolled students would, we hope, satisfy Miami’s “Thematic Sequence” requirement (contingent on approval from the Liberal Education Council). The Humanities Center would provide logistical and programming support, work with department chairs to smooth scheduling issues, find participants, and create opportunities for public engagement.
The humanities have, for centuries, developed powerful approaches to the historical, ethical, and interpretive problems facing lawyers, judges, physicians, and business leaders. This program aims, first, to engage pre-professional students more directly with philosophers, historians, linguists and cultural critics, and second, to make the issues of law, medicine, commerce and sustainability the focus of cross-disciplinary humanities inquiry. The initial practical goal of the initiative is to produce courses and thematic sequences (a Miami Plan requirement) in legal studies (including legal history, law and literature, legal ethics) and medical humanities (narrative medicine, medicine and literature, history of medicine or science). If successful, we might later generate similar offerings in business studies (history of commerce, business ethics, political economy, literature and business) and environmental studies (environmental writing, history and ethics). The Humanities Center is currently supporting new research clusters in Medical Humanities and Science, Gender, and Technology. Both have organized conferences (“Medical Humanities Symposium,” “Disease and Development,” and the current Altman Program on the “Human and the Nonhuman”) and are now moving into curriculum building, including an interdisciplinary minor in Science, Gender, Technology. The Humanities Center will support this work with summer salaries, staff assistance, and programming funds.
The Student-Scholar Initiative
Departments that support faculty supervision of undergraduate research tend to have far more students engaged in advanced study than those relying on ad-hoc supervision. Yet many humanities departments, especially small ones, struggle to support one-on-one supervision of undergraduates. This initiative would address that problem in three ways. First, the Humanities Center will provide modest research stipends to faculty who take on undergraduate research projects. Second, the center will offer summer salary for faculty to build or enhance their departmental honors program. Finally, the center will fund special multi-disciplinary research seminars for departments too small to support their own such courses.