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UW-Eau Claire awarded $150K by National Endowment for the Humanities

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Dr. Louisa Rice, professor history, is teaching a new spring 2022 course as part of the health humanities curriculum. The class visited an exhibit of "The Bias Inside Us" at Pablo Center as a springboard for discussion of how implicit bias plays out in health care settings.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has received a $150,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant aimed at elevating the role of the humanities on campuses across the U.S.

The mission of the NEH, an independent federal agency established in 1965, is to “strengthen our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans.”

The NEH Humanities Connections Grants like UW-Eau Claire’s are designed to foster “interdisciplinary focus in bridging humanities and non-humanities academic fields such as business, engineering and the health sciences.” The funding received by UW-Eau Claire focuses on connections between health care and the humanities. Read the official NEH press release

“Earning this highly competitive NEH grant is an incredible mark of distinction for UW-Eau Claire,” says Dr. Michael Carney, acting provost and assistant chancellor for strategic partnerships and program development. “It builds upon our core strength in humanities and strategic emphasis on health and wellbeing.

“The new certificate this grant establishes will provide experiential integrative learning opportunities for students who are pursuing health science degrees and for humanities students who wish to connect their learning to health and wellbeing.”

The requirements of the three-year implementation grant play perfectly into experiential learning — a core academic goal for all Blugolds, says Dr. Louisa Rice, professor of history and a primary investigator on the grant.

“At UW-Eau Claire, this grant will fund three distinct avenues for students to connect humanities with health care and the health sciences through new interdisciplinary curriculum, through experiential learning opportunities we refer to as our high-impact practices and through education outreach,” Rice says.

The creation of a 15-credit Health Humanities Certificate is the core of the curricular goal, available for students to pursue beginning in the fall 2022 semester. This will include new courses developed to explore the ways in which the humanities can inform health care, and vice versa.

“In the planning phase of this application process, we surveyed over 300 pre-health career students on campus who all indicated a strong interest in something like a health humanities certificate program,” Rice says, emphasizing that it will be a program of interest to health science students and humanities students alike.

“I am teaching a course in the new curriculum right now,” Rice says. “We just finished examining poetry and the artwork of Van Gough, finding the mutual influences between art and mental health. Next week we will be hearing from psychology faculty about the impact of societal trends and scientific discovery on the ways in which we perceive and talk about mental health.”

Rice says that the Health Humanities Certificate will require the completion of a health humanities immersive learning experience not tied to a class. The experience could be an internship, service-learning experience, collaborative research or a cultural immersion.

The outreach element, in the initial phase, at least, will include creating an archive of health humanities research to be housed in McIntyre Library, and establishing a team of student peer educators trained to speak to fellow students about health and the humanities and how health practitioners of all kinds can better “see the humanness in their patients,” Rice says.

Dr. Julie Anderson, professor of biology and director of the Health Careers Center at UW-Eau Claire, will be among the team of faculty devising the curriculum and other elements of this grant, and she is thrilled to be able to offer students at UW-Eau Claire yet another unique way to enhance health careers and health care education at UW-Eau Claire.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to focus on the humanities and their application to medicine, public health and health care,” Anderson says. “UW-Eau Claire has very strong programs in the humanities, STEM and the health sciences; a Health Humanities Certificate draws all these strong programs together. It will offer unique opportunities to enhance the competencies of any student who is interested in health, health care and the human condition.”

The grant implementation team includes representatives from the departments of history, biology, psychology, social work, philosophy, English, and public health and environmental science.