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St. Bonaventure University

St. Bonaventure receives NEH grant to help humanities collaborate with School of Education

Jul 15, 2022

dr-phillip-payneSt. Bonaventure University has been awarded one of only 18 Humanities Connections Planning Grants by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The $34,924 NEH grant will support a project titled “Collaborative Pathways for Inquiry-Based Education: Piloting a Humanities Education Partnership.”

One of just 18 Connections grants awarded in the country, the project will initially focus on collaborations between the Department of History and the School of Education, said Dr. Phillip Payne, professor and Department of History chair.

Payne and Dr. Gabriel Swarts from the School of Education developed the project proposal. Swarts, who was named associate dean of education at Baldwin Wallace University in May, will continue to serve as a consultant on the project.

The pilot phase of the Collaborative Pathways project will promote student engagement with two community partners — the Seneca Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca and Cuba Circulating Library in Cuba, New York — with inquiry-based experiential learning supported by technology in both history and education courses.

“Modern technology will allow us to build bridges to experiment and build on existing strengths. Working with our community partners allows our students to work on real-world history projects that they can use in their careers. Working with new technologies and techniques that are grounded in old-fashioned historical archival work is exciting, and a process that will prove extremely valuable to future educators,” Payne said.    

“The curricular innovations introduced through this project will strengthen history faculty members’ understanding of the needs of education students, train both history and education faculty members to incorporate inquiry-based experiential learning activities and assignments into their courses, and better prepare education students to teach history in the K-12 classroom,” Payne said.

The grant was a “natural fit” for St. Bonaventure, Swarts said.

Gabriel Swarts“We are incredibly excited to elevate the amazing work that students and faculty are already doing with technology and their respective disciplines,” Swarts said. “With the collaboration between history and the humanities and education already strong, this grant will strengthen student experiences and our relationships with community partners.”

If the pilot project is successful, the university will scale up the project to incorporate additional humanities disciplines and multiple institutions, Payne said.

The project planning team included Dr. Steven Pitt and Dr. Lori Henning, assistant professors of history; Chris Dalton, history lecturer; Dr. Tracy Schrems, assistant professor of adolescence education; and Bethanne Chimbel, visiting assistant professor of adolescence education.

The planning team will participate in professional development workshops and meet regularly to explore ways to work together and use technology to facilitate inquiry-based experiential learning in history and advance cooperation between faculty in history and education. In the upcoming academic year, a history course and education course will be paired in a virtual learning community to complete a shared project with a community partner.

The project will feature a technology-rich Humanities Hub to link project participants, curriculum resources, and collaborative work and provide a platform for shared research, analysis, and scholarship.

History was identified as the pilot academic program to partner with the School of Education because approximately two-thirds of SBU’s education majors choose a concentration in social studies education, which requires taking multiple history courses. Payne said.

“Despite a large number of cross-enrollments in history and education courses, we’ve historically had little collaboration between history and education faculty,” Payne said. “History faculty members lack understanding of the education curriculum and pedagogical training that future teachers receive. At the same time, humanities education needs to be integrated more intentionally into education courses with a focus on how historians work.”

Additional goals of the year-long project include:

  • developing at least seven stand-alone classroom activities or assignments that incorporate the use of technology to promote inquiry;
  • offering two professional development workshops for faculty led by visiting scholars on how to teach digital history and use technology to develop experiential learning projects for courses.

By the end of the project period, Payne said, the team will develop recommended strategies for scaling up the curricular model and implementing it more broadly across humanities disciplines and the School of Education.


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 college rankings edition.