Italian Professor Teresa Fiore, the Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, World Languages and Cultures, was one of 21 professors nationwide to receive a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Award for Faculty.
On December 16, 2020, the NEH announced a total of $32.8 million in various types of grants, including the faculty awards, that will support 213 humanities projects in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
In the Awards for Faculty category, 21 grants totalling $987,500 will support advanced research in the humanities by teachers at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities, according to the NEH announcement.
“I am truly honored and humbled by this award,” Fiore said. “Mostly, I am very glad that the results of the project will be in the service to Montclair State University’s substantial and growing body of Hispanic students, whose transnational linguistic and cultural background is a resource and an enrichment opportunity for our campus’ academic goals in terms of diversity and inclusivity.”
Only about 14 percent of the submissions to the NEH were awarded grants, and only four universities in New Jersey received NEH grants – Montclair State, Princeton, Rutgers and William Paterson University.
“As we conclude an extremely difficult year for our nation and its cultural institutions, it is heartening to see so many excellent projects being undertaken by humanities scholars, researchers, curators and educators,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “These new NEH grants will foster intellectual inquiry, promote broad engagement with history, literature and other humanities fields, and expand access to cultural collections and resources for all Americans.”
Fiore’s $10,000 award is for a project titled “Memoria Presente: The Common Spanish Legacy in Italian and Latin American Cultures” that was developed in connection with “Italian for Spanish speakers,” a course she has been teaching for three semesters. The project will result in a digital repository of material for cultural comparison in Italian language instruction for Spanish speakers and oral testimonies of Latinx students whose family history is also linked to Italy.
Work on the project will be conducted during the summer of 2021 with an additional goal of organizing materials from interdisciplinary sources that connect Italy, Spain and Latin America to create an advanced class for Hispanic students so that they can further understand the common past, linguistics and culture of the three areas.
“The success of an NEH grant of this nature is deeply linked to the institution it entrusts,” Fiore added. “Montclair State has the tools to attract many more Hispanic students to classes specifically designed for them, such as the NEH-supported sequence of Italian for Spanish speakers.”
Fiore said resources from the project will also be useful to teachers of existing classes, including K-12 and community college classes, where approaches based on inter-cultural comprehension and translanguaging are identified as the most innovative tools in the teaching of languages and the humanities to respond to diversity on university campuses and enhance inclusivity.
Story by Laura Griffin