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The Our Shared Humanities Initiative at Union College

Integrating the Arts & Humanities Across Disciplines

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Union College

The History of the Our Shared Humanities Initiative

In 2015, funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made it possible for Union College to establish the Our Shared Humanities initiative. The initiative enabled the college to build upon traditional strength in crossing disciplinary boundaries by supporting the development of a Maker Web, a Faculty Development Institute (FDI), the growth of the library’s interdisciplinary catalogue, and a mini-grant program for faculty project-based-support. The mini-grant program provided faculty with broad range opportunities to work collaboratively to integrate the arts and humanities with other disciplines. More than one third of all faculty have contributed to Our Shared Humanities projects. The results of these collaborations have been exciting and inspiring: New friendships and research partnerships have been forged, and faculty are working to develop new, challenging pedagogies that engage with emerging technologies, that contribute to developing dialogues in emergent theories in the environmental humanities, medical humanities, and experimental humanities.


8×8 Leaps of Faith: 8 stories about Cultivating Complex Thinkers for a Messy World

In April 2019, we held our 8×8 event. The 8×8 event highlighted 8 presentations, each being 8 minutes long which were focused on how to engage students in learning. The speakers used what they had learned in the FDI program to build on their ideas and create these presentations. This capstone event celebrated and highlighted the tremendous effort and instructional renewal we have achieved as a community of dedicated educators over the lifecycle of the Our Shared Humanities Grant that has come to a close this June. This event featured Joy Wang, Megan Ferry, Lorraine Cox, Matt Anderson, Jeff Corbin, Nicole Theodosiou, Kara Doyle, Joe Johnson, Deidre Hill Butler, and Barbara Danowski as speakers.


Design Grants
Design Grants
Design Grants

The Mini-Grant Program

The Our Shared Humanities Initiative provided smaller-scale grant opportunities for Union College tenure-track faculty over the three year period of the grant. More than one-third of all faculty, and more than one-half of all tenure-track faculty participated in mini-grant projects. The mini-grant program contained three funding vehicles: the Discovery Grant, the Design Gran, and the Zones of Inquiry Grant.

Make Co-Curricular Activities

The Our Shared Humanities Initiative has allowed Union College the opportunity to create and promote a range of co-curricular activities for faculty and students centered on critical making and hands on learning pedagogy. Faculty members and students from the arts and humanities have collaborated with faculty from across disciplines and with the Union College Maker Web to create maker-related projects for their courses. Additionally, Faculty have had the opportunity to visit conferences around the country and the world to learn more about the maker pedagogy and active learning. Finally, the initiative has allowed Union College to create and host a series of maker events including a Maker Lecture Series and a Maker Faire which will become annual events.

Faculty Development

At the core of Our Shared Humanities is the development of enduring initiatives through pedagogical projects of various dimensions, centering on the lasting effects of exploring new teaching approaches. These enhanced faculty development programs are designed to reinvigorate faculty members’ own teaching and research interests, with the goal to produce (re)designed modules, courses, programs, and even departmental requirements in a way that will elevate arts and humanities as a whole at Union. Through our FDI programs, we successfully challenged faculty to reevaluate teaching methods to best ensure student learning and increase student engagement.

Library Acquisitions

The Our Shared Humanities initiative has made it possible for the Schaffer Library to acquire more than 300 new interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary texts and resources.