Hastings College awarded NEH CARES grant to support faculty, develop hybrid courses

Hastings College has received a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the NEH’s CARES Act Grants that were announced this week.

Funds from the grant will be used to support the Hastings College Arts and Humanities Division, which includes the History, Religion and Philosophy Department, and the Languages and Literatures Department.

NEH Preferred Seal820Grant funds will help support full- and part-time humanities faculty, prepare humanities faculty to offer interactive and engaging hybrid and online courses that will attract and retain students in the humanities, and redesign several foundational humanities courses for hybrid and online instruction. A hybrid course is one that’s partly in-person and partly online.

“Our goal isn’t to recreate online courses you could get at any other college or university but rather to create courses that replicate the faculty and student interaction Hastings College is known for,” said Dr. Robert Babcock, Hastings College professor of history who wrote the grant and will serve as the project’s director.

NEH CARES Act grants were awarded across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Humanities Endowment received more than 2,300 proposals from cultural organizations requesting more than $370 million in funding for projects between June and December 2020, and 14 percent of applicants were funded.

Organizations in Nebraska received about $800,000 in funding, and just more than half of those funds are coming to the community of Hastings — with Hastings College receiving $300,000 and Hastings Museum $123,000.

COVID-19 brought many challenges to Hastings College during the spring semester. Babcock said he knew there would be changes within the humanities division, and the grant was a potential resource to fund initiatives to help the division and College.

“We appreciate Dr. Babcock’s leadership in viewing NEH CARES Act grants as an opportunity for the humanities at Hastings College,” said Gary Freeman, executive director of the Hastings College Foundation. “His leadership in researching and then writing the grant made all the difference.”

When the pandemic pushed Hastings College courses online, some humanities faculty were unsure of the best way to transition their classes successfully online. To create more effective hybrid and online courses, the grant will fund professional development workshops offered this summer by a consultant with extensive experience in online humanities education.

Hastings College will work with Dr. Matthew Duperon, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Susquehanna University, to design a one-day professional development workshop for the humanities faculty.

The workshop will employ the Quality Matters rubric, a set of guidelines for online courses developed by a consortium of educators to outline and discuss the critical components of successful online courses. Duperon will work with each faculty participant to develop ideas for use in their hybrid and online courses.

The humanities division will then spend the following month redesigning at least one foundational humanities course to be offered in the hybrid or online modalities. These course redesigns will build directly on the lessons learned in the workshop.

“The humanities at Hastings College are an essential resource for the education of our students, and I am thankful we received this grant to help maintain faculty and to create new, engaging courses,” Babcock said.

Hastings College is Nebraska’s premier private college. A four-year residential college that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement, Hastings’ student-centered initiatives include providing books, an iPad Pro and a two-week study away experience at no additional cost. A block-style semester schedule allows professors and students to focus on fewer classes at a time and promotes hands-on experiences. Discover more at hastings.edu.

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