The Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University has received a major award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The $650,000 NEH Challenge Grant was awarded to support research and programs that advance the humanities across the Case Western Reserve campus and in the Cleveland community. Because the NEH program is designed to help programs attract philanthropic support, the university must raise $2.6 million by December 2013 to match the NEH award at a ratio of 4:1.

The Baker-Nord Center’s long commitment to collaboration was key to its winning proposal, according to NEH program director Bruce Cole. “[Peer] reviewers were especially impressed with the center’s strong record of collaboration with local cultural institutions,” Cole said. “They found the wide range of programs to result from sound and thorough planning to involve significant issues and intellectual perspectives central to the humanities.”

With total funds of $3.2 million that will be allocated through the award, the NEH grant furthers considerably the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities’ aim to raise the visibility, quality, and educational potential of the humanities. The center plans to expand and intensify its current activities, becoming an even more important hub for the humanities on campus and across University Circle and the broader Cleveland community, as well as around the world, in part through the development and use of new digital technologies. Case Western Reserve received the third largest of the 18 NEH Challenge Grants awarded in this cycle. “The humanities have a proud history at Case Western Reserve University,” said President Barbara R. Snyder. “This grant is an outstanding example of the kind of philanthropic support our humanities scholars have inspired. Cyrus Taylor, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and I will do everything in our power to persuade our friends and donors of the value of this initiative.”

Founded in 1996 with a generous gift from Case Western Reserve alumni Eric T. (CIT ’39; HON ’98) and Jane Baker (GRS ’76) Nord, the center supports faculty and student research in the humanities and sponsors a rich slate of humanities-oriented public programs, including lectures, workshops, symposia, arts events, and collaborative endeavors, like the American Music Masters Series (with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Cuyahoga County Public Library).

The center’s annual “Humanities Week” provides a showcase for these initiatives by structuring activities around annual themes, like this year’s “Museums,” which featured a keynote presentation by essayist and commentator Adam Gopnik.

With the support of the NEH grant, the center will be poised to build on Case Western Reserve’s expertise and infrastructure for networked global communication and collaboration. In particular, the Baker-Nord Center will contribute to the free public humanities programming distributed via Internet2, the centerNet international network of digital humanities centers, and other networked channels. Funding from NEH will also allow the center to develop a sub-specialization in the digital humanities by supporting faculty research utilizing new media and emergent technologies for digitization, data gathering, data analysis, and networked collaboration. Funds will support a Digital Humanities Coordinator to supervise technical acquisitions and coordinate appropriate consultants.

The NEH funding will also allow the center to provide a new humanities focus in the undergraduate curriculum by creating an upper-level course in the humanities enriched with new media and technology. The Baker-Nord Center expects this to be a first step in enhancing and elevating the humanities experience for undergraduates.

“The grant resoundingly affirms the importance of the humanities on campus and gives us momentum to take advantage of the intense interest expressed by so many of Cleveland’s cultural institutions, libraries, and other community organizations to work with us to develop distinctive scholarly and public programs,” said Cyrus Taylor, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve.

Read Crain’s Cleveland Business Article on the challenge grant!