Six key humanities programs at the University of Oklahoma will benefit from a $500,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the largest ever total grant from the NEH for OU. The funding originated through the American Rescue Plan, intended to help humanities organizations across the country that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Kimberly J. Marshall, director of the OU Arts and Humanities Forum and an associate professor of anthropology, spearheaded the “New Stories of the West, for the West” grant team. She said the humanities funding provided through the American Rescue Plan is evidence of the value of the arts and humanities and a recognition of the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted humanistic work.
“Among all the other things that the American Rescue Plan did, it recognized that the humanities sector is an essential component of economic and civic life in the United States, and that this sector had been negatively impacted by the pandemic,” Marshall said.
Noting that the ARP: Humanities Organization grant program specified that they would only accept one application from each humanities entity, Marshall said their first challenge at OU was to coordinate all the varying needs of different humanities entities and projects across campus into one compelling narrative.
Janet Ward, senior associate vice president for research and partnerships, knew that the Arts and Humanities Forum was ideally positioned for such coordination and asked Marshall to lead the grant team. Marshall organized the application coordination, writing and submission as the lead principal investigator.
“Since the forum is a Provost-Direct center and serves units across the entire campus, Dr. Marshall was ideally positioned to lead this application's initiative,” Ward said. “We are immensely proud of her team's success."
The humanities entities at OU funded by the grant are the OU Press, the OU Native Nations Center, the OU Arts and Humanities Forum, World Literature Today, the Oklahoma Weather Community Oral History Project and the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair.
According to Marshall, each of the six public-facing projects receiving the NEH funding “reinforce the core mission of the OU Press to document and study the story of the West, but also carry the energy of the Native Nations Center to expand the authorship and dissemination of this story beyond those who have traditionally controlled and accessed it.”
She added, “A land of vast space, new possibilities, self-reliance and extremes both natural and social, the West occupies a unique place in the story of America. Understanding the diverse voices that have shaped this region, most especially those from Native North America, and engaging a broader swath of participants in a dialogue about the expanding meanings of this region will help to establish a story of America better reflective of both this nation’s complex past and its idealism for the future.”