The National Endowment for the Humanities announced that Morningside will receive a Humanities Connections Implementation Grant.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that Morningside University will receive a $142,797 Humanities Connections Implementation Grant to support a three-year project that will implement an agricultural humanities minor at the University.

“Receiving an NEH grant is a great honor and certainly reflects the quality of faculty, students, and the great work being done within the humanities and the Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies departments,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Chris Spicer. “Morningside faculty do a great job of partnering across disciplines to create innovative programming. I look forward to seeing this evolve.”

English professor and humanities department head Dr. Leslie Werden will serve as the project director for the grant. Werden, an award-winning professor who teaches British literature, academic writing, mythology, film analysis, literary analysis, and public speaking at Morningside, is excited to begin the work the grant will fund.

“We are excited to showcase the interdisciplinary nature of humanities courses, starting with our connection to applied ag and food studies,” noted Dr. Werden. “We already have connecting courses like ‘Religion and Food’ and ‘Literature, Writing, and Empathy.’ We will add courses like ‘The Land Ethic’ as well as ‘Integrative Communications for Humanities and Agriculture.’”

Next steps for the grant will include beginning resource review and project development this summer, followed by faculty workshops and integrating admissions and potential community partners into the planning. From there, faculty training will continue, and data will be gathered from students to analyze interests and provide baseline numbers. The first community-wide book club will be launched in summer 2023 and the first cohort of students will be enrolled to launch the new ag humanities minor in fall 2023.

The team who completed the work on the grant proposal included Dr. Elizabeth Coody, assistant professor of religious studies; Dr. Brandon Boesch, assistant professor of philosophy; Dr. Jen Peterson, assistant professor of English; and Dr. Tom Paulsen, associate professor of applied agriculture and food studies.

The humanities have been at the heart of Morningside University’s academic programming since it was founded in 1894, and humanities coursework remains central to all undergraduate programs in addition to the academic awards offered in English, history, religious studies, and Spanish. The University affirmed its commitment to the humanities just last year with the announcement of the Esther Mackintosh Endowed Humanities Scholar of the University position, which is expected to be filled in the next year.

The Regina Roth Applied Agriculture and Food Studies department was established at Morningside in 2014 in response to the regional demand in the agriculture and food industries. It is one of Morningside’s fastest-growing programs with the recent addition of the Rosen Ag Center and Lags Greenhouse, as well as the purchase of 76 acres of land that will be developed and integrated as part of the active learning opportunities within the department.