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Bringing Community College Voices to the AAR

July 21, 2014
Kim Bowes, Lauren Braun-Strumfels and Chris Celenza at "The Future of the Arts and Humanities"
Kim Bowes, Lauren Braun-Strumfels and Chris Celenza in the cortile
Note from the chief agent of Ellis Island to the Italian Ambassador dated 1895
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At a discussion on “The Future of the Arts and Humanities” on June 4th, Director Kim Bowes pointed out that as rising tuition costs have made university education increasingly unaffordable, greater numbers of Americans have turned to local community colleges. How can we nurture the future of the humanities at these institutions?

For many years the Academy has recognized the importance of reaching out to community college faculty who have virtually no opportunities for overseas study through their colleges. This year the AAR established an Affiliated Fellowship in association with the Community Colleges Humanities Association, which will in future years be funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The program is open to teacher-scholars in the humanities who hold a master’s, doctorate (or other terminal degree) and have affiliation with a community college institution.

Joining the AAR community for a month from May to June, Lauren H. Braun-Strumfels, a history instructor from Raritan Valley Community College in Somerville, New Jersey, became the first CCHA Affiliated Fellow. Time at the AAR enabled Braun-Strumfels to return to the archives of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where she has been researching Italian immigration to the American South. She says her work in Rome “has re-framed my view of U.S. history, erasing arbitrary boundaries because my work must be refracted through Rome's influence.”

In addition to her research, Braun-Strumfels contributed to the Academy’s ongoing discussion about the future of the humanities by leading a vibrant roundtable discussion on “Teaching the Value of the Humanities” with Literature Fellow Peter Bognanni and Early Modern Fellow Gabrielle Piedad Ponce. “Teaching at a Community College,” she says, “puts me on the front lines of education.” Noting the unique diversity of a community college classroom, she points out, “We as humanities scholars have the opportunity to teach the humanistic lens to the nursing student, to the English major, and everyone in between… We are accessible institutions, and the more that we can support and challenge our students, in my mind, the more our students and we as faculty can influence our world to be a more democratic place.”

AAR Development Associate Caroline Jennings and Executive Director of the Community Colleges Humanities Association David A. Berry were instrumental figures in establishing this collaboration. Jennings remarked, “this is a model program for other institutions such as ours” and in an earlier public statement David Berry observed, “This program is the first in the nation. The American Academy in Rome and CCHA have taken the lead.”