Tag: NEH

Kassor awarded year-long NEH grant to finish translation of Tibetan text

Constance Kassor

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Constance Kassor, an assistant professor of religious studies at Lawrence University, is the recipient of a substantial National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Award, allowing her to spend the next year collaborating with a Tibetan monk in the translation of an important 15th-century Tibetan Buddhist text.

It’s a project Kassor and Ven. Dr. Ngawang Jorden, principal of the International Buddhist Academy in Kathmandu, Nepal, have been working on off and on for six years. The prestigious NEH grant, valued at nearly $100,000, will allow Kassor to focus full-time on the project, with expectations it’ll be finished and prepped for publication by fall 2021.

“Without this grant, I don’t think I’d really be able to finish this translation,” Kassor said. “It’s at a point where if it’s going to get done, I really need to be working on it full time.”

The highly competitive NEH awards are not easy to come by. Kassor had applied for this grant for three years before getting approval.

The COVID-19 pandemic means adjustments will be made in Kassor’s work. In a pandemic-free world, she would have opted to spend the better part of the year in Kathmandu, working directly with Jorden.

“My plan, my hope, is that if things change with COVID, I’ll try to get myself to Kathmandu eventually,” Kassor said. “A big part of this grant is trying to facilitate collaboration with my co-translator. Obviously, I can’t get to Kathmandu right now, but I’m hoping by the spring I’ll be able to get over there to work with him to finish up the project.”

Kassor will spend the first few months of the academic year working solo in Appleton, getting done what she can on her own. Then she and Jorden will resume working together, if not in person then via Skype or Zoom.

“He’s a native Tibetan speaker who is fluent in English,” Kassor said. “I’m a native English speaker who is fluent in Tibetan. So, the two of us are working on it together to make sure we get an accurate and readable translation.”

See more on Religious Studies at Lawrence here.

The text, which was the focus of Kassor’s doctoral dissertation while studying at Emory University, is known as Synopsis of the Middle Way. She first read it with Jorden in 2009 and has been working on the English translation since 2014.

It is an encyclopedic, 459-page treatise, composed by the influential philosopher Gorampa Sonam Senge (1429-89), considered the most significant philosopher in a minority sect of Tibetan Buddhism known as Sakya. Gorampa is renowned for arguing against his philosophical rival, Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), founder of what later came to be known as the Gelug sect.

The text is written in classical Tibetan, which is different from modern spoken Tibetan.

In 2018, Kassor received a $6,000 NEH grant that allowed her to spend that summer in Kathmandu working on the translation. That provided a major boost for the project, but this new grant, which covers Kassor’s salary and related expenses, will allow for the sustained focus the project needs to get to the finish line.

Established in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities promotes excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions as well as to individual scholars. The grants are designed to strengthen teaching and learning in schools and colleges; facilitate research and original scholarship; provide opportunities for lifelong learning; preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources; and strengthen the institutional base of the humanities.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

German Professor Brent Peterson Awarded Third NEH Grant for Seminar in Berlin

For the third time since 2009, Lawrence University Professor of German Brent Peterson has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to co-direct a seminar in Berlin, Germany. The $169,950 grant will support a five-week long professional development seminar June 22-July 25, 2014 for K-12 teachers designed to enrich their knowledge of contemporary German culture and history.NEH Logo MASTER_082010

Peterson, in collaboration with Robert Shandley, professor of film studies and German at Texas A&M University, will lead the seminar “Migration and German Culture: Berlin’s Cultural Diversity Across Two Centuries.”  This will be one of 52 seminars and institutes the NEH will support next summer for school teachers and college professors.

Brent Peterson

The program targets educators in language, literature, social studies and modern history, but any K-12 teacher with intermediate-mid German skills is encouraged to apply. Up to 16 teachers will be selected from a national, competitive application process. Each participant receives a $3,900 stipend to help cover their expenses.

“Although Germany has long welcomed migrants from southern and eastern Europe, France, the Netherlands and more recently, from Turkey, many Americans still imagine it to be the quaint homogeneous land of Beethoven, bratwurst and beer,” said Peterson, a scholar on the construction of national and ethnic identities. “This seminar is designed to give teachers and ultimately their students, who are also very diverse, a more accurate and more appealing picture of a society shaped for centuries by migration. We use the tools of the humanities to see what it means to be German today in the midst of Berlin, Germany’s vibrant, complex and transnational capital.”

Peterson and Shandley first taught their Berlin seminar in 2010 and co-directed the program again last summer. It incorporates 19th- and 20th-century literature (children’s and adolescent), contemporary films and television programs. Two Turkish German authors will lead sessions on their own writing and the seminar also includes several walking tours of Berlin’s diverse neighborhoods.

Conducted in German, classes are held in the mornings with afternoons and weekends free for participants to explore the diverse city of Berlin on their own.

Teachers interesting in participating in the 2014 seminar can apply online after Oct. 28 at https://www2.lawrence.edu/fast/petersob/NEH/.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence Awarded NEH Challenge Grant to Establish Humanities Institute

A new $2.7 million Lawrence University initiative designed to foster the professional development of faculty members in the humanities and attract recent Ph.D. recipients in the humanities for the Lawrence Fellows Program has received a $425,000 boost from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Lawrence was awarded a highly competitive NEH Challenge Grant to support the creation of the Lawrence Humanities Institute and two new positions at Lawrence through a permanent endowment for two Fellows exclusively in the humanities.

To receive the NEH Challenge Grant and fully fund the project, Lawrence will need to raise $2.275 million in matching funds toward the $2.7 million project goal by the end of 2016. The college already has received a lead gift of $1 million for the program from Tom and Julie Hurvis of Glenview, Ill., 1960 and 1961 Lawrence graduates, respectively.

The Lawrence Humanities Institute is an innovative twist on the successful Lawrence Fellows program that will leverage the expertise of talented post-doctoral fellows to create opportunities for sustained professional development for Lawrence faculty. By fostering greater curricular diversity, team teaching, interdisciplinary research collaborations, and incorporation of new ideas and techniques into research programs, the Lawrence Humanities Institute will help keep all participants at the forefront of their fields as scholars and teachers.

Conceived by humanities faculty, the Lawrence Humanities Institute will actively engage five faculty members and two NEH Fellows in the Humanities in year-long, graduate-style seminars on an emerging, rapidly evolving or other timely area of humanistic study under a two-year theme selected by the Institute’s director and advisory board. The goal of the seminars is to foster both an individual inquiry into the topic’s relevance to a faculty member’s scholarship as well as create a shared exploration of the larger implications for humanities teaching and learning in a liberal arts context.

“The activities of the endowed NEH Fellows in the Humanities and the Humanities Institute will advance the college’s mission of transformative liberal arts education,” said President Jill Beck. “Those activities also will support several key objectives in the college’s new 10-year strategic plan, including deepening and broadening the curriculum, enhancing faculty professional development programming and promoting cross-fertilization among disciplines.

“The NEH Humanities Institute will invigorate humanist discourse at Lawrence and stimulate greater integration of recent advances in the humanities into the scholarship and teaching of Lawrence’s excellent tenure-line faculty,” Beck added.

Established in 2005, the Lawrence Fellows program brings recent Ph.D. recipients to campus for two-year post-doctoral appointments. Each Fellow is mentored by a tenured faculty member, teaches a reduced course load and devotes significant time to developing their teaching and scholarly work. In any given year, Lawrence hosts 6-12 Fellows at a time across varied departments and interdisciplinary programs.

The Fellows program provides a successful transition from graduate school to life as a teacher-scholar in a liberal arts setting. Although doctoral candidates at major universities receive some teaching experience, relatively few graduate programs offer strong training in course development or pedagogical skills suited for small college environments. Unlike teaching assistantships where course materials and procedures may already be set, new liberal arts faculty bear full responsibility for all aspects of the several courses they teach each year.

“Lawrence is an ideal environment for Fellows to develop as teacher-scholars,” said Beck. “The focus on individualized learning that characterizes Lawrence’s approach to educating students translates naturally to nurturing Fellows’ individual development. Small classes, a highly engaged intellectual climate, and a campus ethos that values collaboration over competition, combine to help Fellows hone pedagogical skills quite different from those typically called for at research universities.”

This is the third time Lawrence has been awarded an NEH Challenge Grant, which are highly coveted and extremely competitive. Just 22 Challenge Grants were awarded in 2011 out of 108 proposals from leading colleges, universities and museums of all sizes.

Lawrence successfully completed a Challenge Grant in the mid-1970s to renovate Main Hall and received a $500,000 NEH Challenge Grant in 2001 to endow Freshman Studies, meeting the $2 million matching obligation more than six months ahead of schedule.

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries.