Editorial: $5.75 million grant reaffirms the role of the humanities

UConn History Professor Peter Zarrow presents his research on Chinese democracy and liberalism in the UConn Humanity Institute in Austin. Arrow's research covered the period from the late 1800s to early 1900s. (Amar Batra/Daily Campus)

Earlier this month, the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute received a $5.75 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, according to coverage from Jon Hull of The Daily Campus.

This grant affirms the success and public recognition of the Humanities Institute, and will allow the institute to support public forums, including “a series of awareness-raising initiatives, an online course based on the project theme and summer education programs for high school teachers on how to embody civil discourse with their own courses.” As higher education continues the shift toward Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) programs, it is important that the humanities continue to gather support and funding.

A New York Times report from Patricia Cohen discussed the push towards STEM education, which has come at the cost of cutting funds and focus on the humanities. Cohen cited the Obama Administration’s potential usage of earnings after graduation as a metric in ranking colleges as a particularly troubling result of the push for STEM degrees.

Though moving toward funding STEM education is a reality of modern education, and one based upon a real need, there is still value in supporting the humanities. The UConn Humanities Institute (UCHI) aims to provide this support, especially through “conferences, symposia, and lectures where the learning of the humanities can inform public issues.”

This grant, one of the largest in American history according to the Daily Campus, will fund the sort of conference sponsorship the UCHI lists as crucial to its mission. These conferences and symposia allow students and faculty to engage their education and research in a collaborative and enlightening manner. Applying concepts taught in the classroom to real-world analysis is vital for the humanities, and is an area in which humanities education is irreplaceable.

UConn has built a robust College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in part based upon the excellence and creativity fostered by the UCHI. Since this grant will aid in the continued growth of the UCHI, this funding will in turn prove beneficial to humanities students and faculty in CLAS. Moving forward, it may be difficult to secure funding and grants for this area of academia on such a large scale. However, it is imperative, especially as budget cuts continue to affect UConn, that the university maintain support for the humanities and the UCHI as a vital part of the university community and educational foundation.