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FLC awarded $1.5 million for language revitalization through Mellon Foundation’s “Humanities for All Times” Initiative
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FLC awarded $1.5 million for language revitalization through Mellon Foundation’s “Humanities for All Times” Initiative

Fort Lewis College has been awarded $1.5 million for the “All Our Nations Language Revitalization Hub,” an initiative centering on Native concepts of animacy in language, empowering language learners and teachers, and teaching language revitalization program design.

"We have big dreams for the Mellon grant that relate to Indigenous resiliency and center Indigenous knowledge as valuable and necessary for survival,” says Deanne Grant, assistant professor of Sociology & Human Services and Native American & Indigenous Studies. “This project is about Indigenous reclamation, resurgence, and identity, and being a contributor to these efforts is both humbling and meaningful." 

Students at FLC represent more than 180 Native American tribes and Alaska Native villages. Indigenous languages are the ancestral languages of FLC’s Native student population, and they want to learn their languages, teach their languages, and support language revitalization. 

“When Native languages are lost or not spoken by children, the ability to live in the world with respect and esteem for all things also dies,” says Janine Fitzgerald, professor of Sociology & Human Services. “In order to disrupt and heal historical and personal trauma, empower youth, and deal with the ecological crisis in which we find ourselves, we need to speak in languages that bring animacy and esteem to all.”

All Our Nations Language Revitalization Hub

The All Our Nations Language Revitalization Hub (the Hub), housed under the Native American & Indigenous Studies Department, will provide a multifaceted (three-pronged) approach for dealing with the urgency needed to support global efforts towards Native and Indigenous language revitalization. 

  • The first prong, the All Our Kin summer language program, will provide for a three-week summer theme-based language learning. Students studying both themes and their own language will be able to connect the differences and similarities of Native cosmologies in their own languages. Through experiencing the joy and excitement of learning Native cosmology communicated in their traditional languages, students will be introduced to the importance of the humanities in a way that is relevant to their own cultures and lives. 
  • The second prong of the Hub will be a nine-month, three-credit course entitled Pedagogy for Language Revitalization that will teach community members, teachers, and students best language teaching practices. This three-credit course will explore innovative language teaching pedagogies that will support Native language teachers/practitioners in effective educational practices. 
  • The third prong of the Hub will be to develop a certificate at FLC in Native Community Based Language Revitalization that includes classes from Native American & Indigenous Studies, Borders & Languages, Sociology, and the School of Education to enable graduates of FLC to develop language revitalization programs in their home communities. This certificate will include classes on understanding tribal governance, how to develop allies and gain support within one’s own tribal context, best practices on how to teach Native languages, and opportunities to study one’s own Native language.

Mellon’s mission and continued support of FLC

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—the nation’s largest funder of the arts, culture, and humanities—awarded more than $16.1 million to 12 liberal arts colleges as part of its Humanities for All Times Initiative. Humanities for All Times was created to support newly developed curricula that both instruct students in methods of humanities practice and clearly demonstrate those methods’ relevance to broader social justice pursuits. Of the 50 liberal arts colleges invited to submit proposals, 12 institutions were selected to receive a grant of up to $1.5 million to be used over a three-year period to support the envisioned curricular projects and help students to see and experience the applicability of humanities in their real-world social justice objectives. 

This is the third grant FLC has received from the Mellon Foundation.

"We are thrilled to receive this Mellon Foundation grant, which provides the cornerstone for our innovative indigenous language revitalization efforts. Building on our previous awards, our partnership with the Mellon Foundation is transforming Fort Lewis's humanities programming and our work promises to provide national models for Indigenous studies. Mellon's ongoing support is allowing us to create meaningful new forms of pedagogy, program design, and community connection."

CHERYL NIXON

“We are thrilled to receive this Mellon Foundation grant, which provides the cornerstone for our innovative indigenous language revitalization efforts,” says Cheryl Nixon, FLC provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “Building on our previous awards, our partnership with the Mellon Foundation is transforming Fort Lewis's humanities programming and our work promises to provide national models for Indigenous studies. Mellon's ongoing support is allowing us to create meaningful new forms of pedagogy, program design, and community connection.”

While humanities thought and scholarship are broadly understood to influence developments in the social world, the last decade has seen a sharp decline in undergraduate humanities study and degree recipients – now occurring concurrently with a marked rise in undergraduate interest in and awareness of social justice issues. A recent study from Best Colleges noted that over 72% of undergraduates report that their awareness of social justice issues had increased over the preceding year, and 51% said that their involvement in social justice efforts had affected their coursework choices. The Humanities for All Times initiative aims to make clear the power of the humanities in solving societal challenges through distinctive analytical projects that ensure students are skilled in diagnosing the cultural conditions that hinder our achieving a fully just and equitable society, and identifying the steps necessary to change them. 

“The Humanities for All Times initiative underscores that it's not only critical to show students that the humanities improve the quality of their everyday lives, but also that they are a crucial tool in efforts to bring about meaningful progressive change in the world,” says Phillip Brian Harper, program director of Mellon Foundation Higher Learning. “We are thrilled to support this work at liberal arts colleges across the country. Given their unequivocal commitment to humanities-based knowledge, and their close ties to the local communities in which such knowledge can be put to immediate productive use, we know that these schools are perfectly positioned to take on this important work.”

“Deep engagement with the humanities gives us insight into complex cultural landscapes across the centuries,” says Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Mellon’s Humanities for All Times grants will support students and faculty at these 12 liberal arts colleges as they go about the good hard work of wrestling with ideas and knowledge that help us understand societal challenges and contribute to positive change. 

A full list of the winning projects can be found on the Mellon Foundation's website.

In April 2021, the Foundation’s Higher Learning program issued a call for proposals to 50 liberal arts colleges for up to three innovative curricular-development projects. The Foundation received 76 applications, from which the 12 winning proposals were selected by a jury of distinguished humanities scholars. 

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