Large grant expands options for Cleveland humanities students

Virginia Behmer, Staff Reporter

A $2 million grant to the Cleveland Humanities Collaborative (CHC) will expand opportunities at Case Western Reserve University for local humanities students. An existing collaborative humanities program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) will become available to students at Lorain County and Lakeland Community Colleges, 30 minutes east and west of CWRU, respectively.

The CHC was created in 2014 by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and it initiated the Tri-C and CWRU collaborative program. It is one of 11 collaborative humanities programs funded by the Mellon Foundation.

According to their website, these programs aim to respond to the growing presence of community colleges in higher education. Community college students make up one-third of the United States’ undergraduates and represent the most diverse population. Many of these students seek liberal arts and humanities degrees.

The CHC intends to bring this mission to other locations in Northeast Ohio, potentially forming a “consortium of humanities programs,” according to The Daily.

The current program at Tri-C creates a path for participating scholars to transfer to CWRU for a Bachelor of Arts degree in the humanities after completing an associate’s degree at Tri-C. It also includes research funds for independent study or short-term study abroad, as well as mentoring and advising opportunities for participating faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students.

Seven Tri-C students were accepted by the program to CWRU in the past two years, with nine more accepted this past fall.

The CHC director Kurt Koenigsberger, who is also an associate professor of English and an associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at CWRU, emphasized the nationally unique nature of the CHC.

“The [CHC] remains one of the few partnerships between a public two-year university and a four-year private research university that builds deep and enduring relationships among all of our academic constituencies: undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty,” Koenigsberger said.

The CHC is the first of its counterparts to receive a second round of funding. Koenigsberger attributes this to the CHC being one of the first programs originally funded by the Mellon Foundation, as well as the program’s “significant signs of success and [worthiness of] continued support.”

With this $2 million expansion, Lorain County and Lakeland Community Colleges will create their own collaborative humanities programs with CWRU.

According to their website, Lakeland Community College has a mission to “provide quality learning opportunities to meet the social and economic needs of the community,” fitting in well with the CHC mission.

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) Provost and Vice President for Academic and Learner Services, Jonathan Dryden, believes the expansions in funding will further develop the school’s existing University Partnership programs.

“The [CHC] represents an outstanding opportunity for Lorain County Community College students interested in the humanities,” said Dryden. “Raising the educational attainment level of our community, especially bachelor degree attainment, has been a top priority for us, and providing our community affordable access to great universities like CWRU is what our University Partnership is all about.”

LCCC has been named the top community college in the country for Excellence in Student Success by the American Association of Community Colleges, the leading advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges.

“Key to that success is building clear academic pathways that prepare students to thrive in a quickly changing world, a world characterized by technological innovation and the growth of artificial intelligence. The humanities in particular teach students to think critically and creatively, to collaborate with others, to communicate, and they also foster a sense of social justice,” said Dryden.

Although participating students are not given merit scholarships toward CWRU, Koenigsberger says the CHC is “absolutely working toward fostering access to CWRU.”

“Where the CHC really works on the question of access is in helping to break down the cultural

and logistical obstacles to transfer from a public two-year institution to a private four-year research institution and by providing holistic support and opportunities to our scholars when they are at Case Western Reserve,” said Koenigsberger. “Such obstacles often present students with insurmountable barriers to transfer.”

“It’s fair to say that simply providing [LCCC] students an avenue to the high-level academic courses and programs at CWRU will be huge,” said Dryden. “It will help our students see that anything is possible.”

Current Lorain County and Lakeland Community College students will be able to apply to their respective programs for the 2021-22 school year.