Photo of College Hall Bell Tower
University News

English Professor Awarded NEH Grant

Humanities scholars will create new academic major studying today’s social, political and cultural issues

Posted in: Homepage News, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

Melinda Knight

Montclair State University Professor of English Melinda Knight has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) “Sustaining the Humanities Through the American Rescue Plan” (SHARP) grant totaling $499,966, the organization announced today.

Knight’s proposal, titled “Rediscovering American Democracy: Teaching the Humanities in the Time of COVID,” is one of under 300 proposals nationwide out of more than 900 submissions that will receive funding as part of the Endowment’s initiative to aid institutions impacted by the pandemic.

Knight, who is also the director of the Center for Writing Excellence, will be joined in directing this project by co-investigators Jonathan Greenberg, chairperson of Montclair’s English Department, and Jeff Strickland, chairperson of the History Department.

The award will fund a year-long initiative designed to reimagine humanities programming with today’s world — and the social and political issues that have moved to the forefront amidst a global pandemic — at the heart of the coursework.

The funding will help create a network of scholars, which will include four new postdoctoral fellows in the humanities, nine current Montclair State faculty, and five experts from various disciplines of American Cultural Studies. The group will come together to develop a new academic major in American Cultural Studies that will engage students by illustrating the relevance of the humanities to the desire for social, racial and environmental justice. The collaboration will conclude with a public conference in 2022.

“The pandemic presents an extraordinary opportunity to transform the teaching of the humanities by directly engaging social and political issues of urgent concern to students,” says Knight. “This will also help to maintain demand for current humanities programming by examining the historical injustices and inequalities in American life that the pandemic has brought to public awareness, making it a critical endeavor at such an important time in our country’s history.”

NEH’s SHARP grants provide emergency relief to help offset financial losses sustained by humanities organizations over the last 18 months. The grants allow cultural and educational nonprofits to retain and rehire staff, maintain operations essential to their missions, and rebuild programs and projects that have been disrupted by the pandemic. The humanities activities they support include education, preservation and access, public programming, digital humanities, and scholarly research.

Knight’s work is the latest example of Montclair State University faculty developing academic programming designed to create innovative, high-quality educational experiences for students while advancing scholarship in their respective fields.

“This award is a recognition of Dr. Knight’s forward-thinking vision,” says Peter Kingstone, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “There has never been a more critical time in our history to bring the events taking place in the world into the classroom. I cannot wait to see what this network of scholars will create over the next year, and how they will shape how we teach the humanities for years to come.”

For more information on the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University, visit