GRANT COORDINATORS AND DISTRICT STAFF: A(NOTHER) HELPFUL WEBINAR ON THE WAY

Connecting with the Past: A Native American Specific Webinar

The NEH will be hosting a webinar for grant coordinators and district staff on how they can help constituents related to Native communities with the grant process. The webinar will provide information on specific grant programs, the programs’ deadlines, and resources available to applicants. It will take place on Tuesday, July 30th at 3:30 pm.

What the Webinar Will Offer

The webinar will discuss grants offered by the NEH that are applicable to Native communities and their affiliates. It will also provide important tips and recommendations about the grant process that grant coordinators and district staff can pass on to their constituents.

The webinar will enable grant coordinators and district staff to assist tribal organizations, tribal colleges, museums, Native American scholars, universities, and other cultural institutions in applying for funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Interested coordinators and staff can RSVP for the webinar by emailing msanders@neh.govNative American Webinar slides here.

Cover of the report recently released by the NEH describing the agency's impact on Native American communities.

Cover of the report recently released by the NEH describing the agency’s impact on Native American communities.

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The NEH and the NEA: Who’s Who?

This is the first post in a series called “Who’s Who?” where Humanities Insights will compare the NEH to other federal agencies and independent humanities organizations. From these posts, we hope to explain how the NEH is similar to, different from, and in collaboration with a number of different organizations.

The NEH and the NEA are similar in acronym. Their office space overlaps in D.C.’s Old Post Office Pavilion.  Both are federal grant-making agencies, but the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts serve different constituents, and notably different purposes.

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Logo for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

NEH Logo MASTER_082010

Logo for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Humanities and the Arts: Who Does What?

The NEH and the NEA are distinct from one another most fundamentally in that one funds programs supporting the “humanities,” and the other the “arts.” The salient distinction, then, is how the humanities and the arts differ. The humanities look at the human experience through literature, philosophy, language, and history, among other things. The arts, on the other hand, explore human experience through expressive media like paint, dance, music, and the written word, among others.

Because of this difference in focus, the NEA and the NEH often fund distinct types of grantees. Grantees from the NEH might include schools, colleges, individual scholars, cultural centers, libraries, and museums. NEA recipients are often theaters, art museums, dance companies, community groups, and schools with strong arts programming.

Where Do These Overlap?

It may seem that there is little opportunity for the NEH and the NEA to be involved in the same project, given their disparate missions and grantees. However, the two agencies’ areas of interest are not mutually exclusive, and programs often bridge the divide. Projects that have both strong humanistic and artistic value might be funded by both agencies. The arts can and do overlap with the study of philosophy, language, history, or literature.

An example of one such overlap is the documentary Charles and Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter, narrated by James Franco. The NEA supports American Masters on PBS, which produced this feature. The two agencies were brought together when the NEH awarded a grant to assist in the scholarly, historical research that provided the background for this particular documentary.

eames

The NEA and the NEH were both involved in the funding of the PBS documentary Charles and Ray Eames: the Architect and the Painter. Some projects qualify for support from both agencies. Photo courtesy of PBS.org.

How to Choose

The NEH seeks to promote excellence in the humanities and convey the lessons of history. The NEA seeks to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation. They both award grants to exceptional cultural institutions that feature innovative and compelling programming. While they work in different fields, their grant application processes and their missions to protect and expand cultural programming in a variety of communities support one another.  

When you wish to advise a cultural institution whether to apply to the NEA or the NEH, many people can point you and your constituent applicants in the right direction. In particular, staff members in the Office of White House and Congressional Affairs can answer questions about the qualifications for NEH funding, and put applicants in touch with the appropriate grant program for their project.

Art, or Art History?

How to tell if an artistic project is more appropriate for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) or the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

Art:

If your project involves the creation of musical compositions, dance, painting, poetry, short stories, novels, or projects that focus on arts performance or training, you should apply to the NEA.

Art History:

If your project involves an analytical, reflective, or historical perspective on the arts, you should apply to the NEH.

What’s in Your District?

This post was written by one of our summer interns, Micah Khater, who is a rising junior at North Carolina State University. Her experience discovering NEH-funded projects that took place at her school may inspire others to see what the NEH has supported at their own colleges and universities.

On the first day of my internship at the NEH I was directed to the “Funded Projects” section on neh.gov. Here it is possible to search previous NEH grants by year, region, institution, or name. Naturally, as a curious undergraduate, I searched for my own university to see what kinds of grants we had been awarded. I learned that since the 1970s, the NEH has awarded 91 grants to North Carolina State University (NCSU)—a strong statement about the depth and breadth of our research and scholarship in the humanities.

court of carolina ncsu

The Court of North Carolina at North Carolina State University, which is a central area on campus. Photo courtesy of ABC11 News.

More about My School

NCSU was founded in 1887 as a land-grant institution with a particular focus on agriculture and, later, engineering. Even though it is known primarily for its strength in STEM, NCSU is emblematic of a new trend in research—building strong universities in all disciplines. So while NCSU is ranked among the best schools for engineering, it can also boast excellent, research-driven programs in the humanities. The NEH has encouraged our interdisciplinary initiatives that propel research in the humanities.

NCSU: Technology and the Humanities

In particular, my school has received grants from the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities (ODH). The ODH offers grant programs that fund projects designed to study digital culture and harness new technology for research in the humanities. Programs housed in this office range from Digital Humanities Implementation Grants to Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities. These grant programs may seem complicated, but essentially they support the intersection of digital tools and humanistic exploration.

ST PAULS TODAY WEST FRONT

Saint Paul’s Cross in England, photo courtesy of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, funded by an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant.

One project I found on neh.gov from 2011 serves as a perfect example.  The NEH granted NCSU a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to begin research to study acoustics for sermons at St. Paul’s Cross,England’s most important public pulpit in the early modern period. Using advanced modeling and acoustic algorithms, the Virtual St. Paul’s Cross Project (in which the School of Architecture collaborated) combined the humanities, technology, and design.

st pauls virtual model

A screen shot of the architectural model software used to study what a public Paul’s Cross sermon may have looked like in 17th-century England. Photo courtesy of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project.

What Does This Mean For You?

The NEH supports interdisciplinary initiatives nationwide, and in my case the NEH has supported many in my own backyard. The NEH looks for excellence in research, scholarship, and public outreach in the humanities, whether at a land-grant university or a small liberal arts college.

If you are interested in the grants awarded to a particular university or college (like your alma mater), please visit https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx. And, of course, constituents in your district or state—beyond university faculty—may be eligible for grant opportunities provided by the NEH. To search for grant programs, please visit http://www.neh.gov/grants.

Humanities Insights from a NEH Intern: Part 3

by Eleesha Blackwell

Eleesha at the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Parade this past January.

Eleesha at the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Parade this past January.

As my time as an intern at the National Endowment for the Humanities comes to a close, I realize I made a fantastic decision in applying here.  When the NEH internship announcement came to my inbox, I had fulfilled the internship requirement for my degree and already had a full course load.  But as I read the internship description, I remember thinking that I had always imagined that I might end up at the NEH someday—and maybe that time was now.  So despite having a full schedule and graduation requirements that I needed to complete, I decided to work at NEH. I know now that it’s a wonderful institution, so I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

I had already done six internships when I came to NEH. In my previous internships I repaired Roman ceramics in Portugal, wrote exhibition text for a museum in Houston, and helped rehouse hundreds of historic objects at the National Air and Space Museum.  I had no idea what to expect when I began work at NEH. All I knew was that for the first time I wouldn’t be handling objects in a museum. Instead I would be assisting in making a big impact on museums and other humanities institutions, which was really exciting.

On my first day at the NEH each of the interns was tasked with a work plan designed to take advantage of our previous experience and skills, so as to help achieve the goal of the office. I was going to help the Office of Congressional Affairs by developing a more effective outreach to Congress and congressional staff. This was perfect for me, as I had previous experience in outreach and recruiting for my university. When I started, I was given a short outline of what the office was currently doing and how a typical meeting with congressional staff went. I immediately understood that the meetings with congressional staff would be short. I also realized that the reading materials we handed out would probably be what would stick—plus it would give us something to reference during meetings. So I took it upon myself to design and create engaging and informative handouts. I’m proud of the handouts that I created, such as fact sheets, informational handouts, and program-specific highlights. Best of all, I got to use my creativity and my design skills.

In addition to working on strategy in the office, I also met with members of Congress, whom I introduced to the NEH. In the meetings I highlighted one of our newer programs: a series of four films about civil rights called Created Equal. Capitol Hill was a completely different environment for me, but I caught on quick.  By the last few meetings, my quick description of NEH (my “elevator pitch”) seemed almost second nature. I was able to ad lib and add facts about interesting programs I had heard about. I also felt comfortable praising an organization I had grown to truly care about.

Another great part of the internship was getting to meet with the various program offices within the agency. As a Museum Studies graduate student, I had heard about the NEH in almost all of my classes and had even written two mock grant proposals. What I didn’t know was how the NEH works, how it gets its federal money, the effort that program officers put into their work, and the vast impact the agency makes on institutions across America. During lunches I attended, program officers and assistants would talk about the great things each of their divisions was doing—in particular the great work their grants were doing for the nation. I was amazed to hear about the educational programs that were being hosted by Ivy League schools, community colleges and tribal colleges. I was enamored with the work of the Office of Digital Humanities, whose grants have produced amazing apps (several of which I’ve downloaded). I also came to love the great work done by the Division of Preservation and Access. Each meeting made me more passionate about the field and more excited to share what I had learned with anyone who would listen.

As much as I enjoyed meeting with congressional staff and developing strategy, all my time wasn’t spent behind a desk—there was a ton of fun things, too! The other interns and the NEH staff I worked with were absolutely fantastic, and we often found ourselves laughing together in the office. Courtney, our director, was a very supportive boss who gave me great advice when I got some bad news while waiting to hear from schools to which I’d applied for my second masters. I also attended some interesting briefings at the Capitol and the Executive Office Building, was within arm’s reach of Martin Scorsese at the 42nd Jefferson Lecture, and was fortunate enough to meet some of the fantastic women who made up the panel at the screening of the NEH-funded film, No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII.

Had you told me a year ago that I would find myself awake at 2 AM on a weeknight watching a film called The Dust Bowl about America’s worst man-made ecological disaster, I would not have believed you. But in fact, you would’ve been right.  During my time as an intern, I grew to love everything the NEH stands for and works to promote. I now find myself in constant awe of the great work that NEH grants produce— even the films that air on PBS in the early morning hours.

Eleesha Blackwell (as of today!) has a MA in Museum Studies from the George Washington University. She holds a BA in Anthropology from Texas A&M University and will be pursuing a Masters of Public Service Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M this fall. A native Texan, she enjoys Fightin’ Texas Aggie football, wildflower season, barbeque, iced tea, and everything vintage. She plans to pursue a career in community-based arts and humanities work.

Humanities Insights from a NEH Intern: Part 2

by Kevin Donnelly

Kevin, pictured left, enjoying the company of one of his fraternity brothers after receiving the President's Cup for best Greek organization on campus.

Kevin, pictured left, enjoying the company of one of his fraternity brothers after receiving the President’s Cup for best Greek organization on campus.

As my internship at the National Endowment for the Humanities comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the experience as a whole. This being my first internship experience, I really had no idea what to expect. I had heard all of the classic intern horror stories: Scurrying to get coffee, make copies, answer phones, respond to emails, the monotony goes on. I was determined that my internship experience was not going to be like that, so when my program coordinator at the University of Maryland sent out an email about an internship opportunity in the NEH’s Office of White House and Congressional Affairs, I took immediate interest. Being a government and politics major, an internship at a federal agency seemed like the perfect match for me. Moreover, working in a Congressional affairs office presented me with the opportunity to interact with policymakers on the hill, something I sought from an internship from the beginning. To say my curiosity was piqued is an understatement, and the fact that I didn’t even know what the National Endowment for the Humanities did wasn’t going to stop me for trying to become a part of it.

Needless to say, when I was offered an intern position at the NEH I was thrilled. Arriving in the Old Post Office Pavilion for the first time was quite an experience, one I would come to appreciate as time went on. The tourist-filled food court and bombastic lunchtime performances gave the old place a unique character I won’t soon forget. The first meeting I had with the three C’s (All three women I worked with had names beginning with C) and my fellow interns demonstrated to me that this office was somewhere I wanted to be. Even though I came into the internship wary of what might be I immediately felt welcomed by colleagues and the staff. Each of us interns was assigned to a specific task, mine being the development of content for reports highlighting how the NEH serves certain constituencies. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and it has played a huge role in my academic career. I appreciated being given an assignment that took advantage of my existing skills while simultaneously teaching me new ones.  In looking up grants, images, and other data for each report, I was able to enhance my research skills and utilize methods of inquiry previously unavailable to me. Often I had to maintain email correspondences with program directors, museum curators, artists, and nonprofit staff, and I enjoyed the opportunity to fine tune my professional communication skills. I was also able to learn so much about how NEH programs benefit people across the nation. From family literacy programs to veteran-related projects, the NEH funds initiatives serving every demographic in all of the humanities fields. In researching the NEH’s broad spectrum of grants I gained a better understanding of the agency’s immense purview and impact.

I was also responsible for setting up meetings with the offices of freshmen members of Congress, a task I had looked forward to since I arrived in the Office of White House and Congressional Affairs. Don’t worry – it’s not that I actually enjoy the logistics of setting up meetings, I’m not crazy – but I do support what the NEH does and jumped on the opportunity to spread the word on Capitol Hill. Because I potentially want to pursue a career in public service it was especially interesting to experience a Hill meeting firsthand. Though I’m not always the most organized person, scheduling meetings on the Hill taught me respect for an organized schedule, an invaluable skill if I want to succeed in the future.

I was also fortunate enough to have some great times thanks to my colleagues and the agency in general. Being able to attend the 42nd Jefferson Lecture featuring Martin Scorsese was a truly enlightening privilege, and one I won’t soon forget. Seeing the reports I had worked on for three months come to life before my eyes was totally gratifying. Covering our Director’s office in googly eyes on April Fool’s Day on the other hand was 100 percent fun. I can safely say that all of the internship myths about fetching coffee or answering phones did not apply to my experience at the NEH, which provided me the best of both worlds.

I have really found a place in my heart for the NEH. I’m so thankful that I was able to better myself and the agency, and am even more appreciative to gain the knowledge that I have. Before interning at the NEH I barely knew what the humanities were. Now I’m left with a deep and lasting respect for the humanities that will stay with me forever. I’ll miss the NEH and I’m so happy knowing that I’ve made lasting relationships with great people at a great agency. Thank you all!

Kevin Donnelly is working towards his Bachelors of Arts in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. He is planning to pursue a master in Public Policy, focusing either on International Economic Policy or Education Policy. Originally from Rockville, MD, Kevin is a local who loves D.C. but resents taking it for granted. He loves cars and hopes to one day have a garage the size of Jay Leno’s. He plans on graduating in May of 2016 and pursuing a career in public policy.

Humanities Insights from a NEH Intern: Part 1

by Katherine Kipp

Katherine posing with a very photogenic camel in India, 2011. After her NEH internship ends, Katherine will head back to India for a six-week trip.

Katherine posing with a very photogenic camel in India, 2011. After her NEH internship ends, Katherine will head back to India for a six-week trip.

As I approach the end of my internship at the National Endowment for the Humanities, it occurs to me that the internship’s end coincides with my fourth year in graduate school, equaling the amount of time I spent as an undergrad. By the time I graduate with my Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing next May, I will have spent more time in graduate school than as an undergraduate.

It also occurs to me that my time at NEH, while my third time working as an intern, comes after a five-year gap from my last internship. Coincidentally, my last internship was also in D.C., when I was studying at the Washington Journalism Center for a semester.

I entered the NEH internship with really no idea of what to expect. Would I be stapling papers? Making coffee? Hailing taxis? My last two internships had been at newspapers, and I had spent most of my time interviewing, transcribing interviews, and turning interviews into stories.

Plus, up until the point I received an email from the Academic Coordinator in my Master’s program, advertising the internship, I had never heard of the National Endowment for the Humanities. I wasn’t even completely sure what the humanities were, and I’m an English major three times over! All I knew for sure was that my internship would be in the Office of White House and Congressional Affairs, the three women I would be working with all had names that start with a “C,” and the offices are located in the Old Post Office Pavilion, floors above where hordes of middle schoolers gather to eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and cookies during their school trips to Washington, D.C.

I learned quickly that I, and my fellow interns, would all be assigned specific tasks to work on. Each task made use of a particular skillset of ours that we were already bringing to the table, and pushed us to expand that skillset and apply it to our day-to-day work at the NEH. I was charged to develop and write material for the new Congressional Affairs blog. I’ve been writing in some form or fashion since 2nd grade. This interest of mine has taken me from writing for my college’s newspaper, to writing short stories for local competitions, to freelancing for small-town newspapers, and, most recently, to obtaining a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing.

Even though writing the blog would allow me to use part of a skillset I’m comfortable with, I was tasked with developing material for blog posts in a field I was mostly unfamiliar with just a few months ago. Luckily, I work with some amazing people (not just in my office, but the whole of NEH) who were happy to share ideas for potential blog posts. Through this, I was able to learn about the Division of Education Programs’ Summer Institutes, the many documentaries and radio shows Public Programs has funded, and the ways people and institutions are combining humanities and technology to provide updated and innovative ideas. So, while I was writing blog posts informing congressional staff members and constituents about the amazing contributions NEH has made and continues to make to the humanities world, I was also able to truly understand the great impact NEH has had on society—and it was right underneath my nose the whole time. I even went so far as to research NEH-funded programs and events in my hometown: there have been 36, dating back all the way to the early 1980s!

In addition to detailing the good work NEH does on our blog, I was able to do so in person as well through visits with the staff of freshmen members of Congress. Of all the experiences I have had since beginning my time at the NEH, those meetings were the most unexpected for me. I had not been seeking out a Congressional affairs position, so meeting with Congressional staff on a regular basis was a pleasant surprise. I’m glad to be able to communicate the good work NEH does to congressional staff members, knowing they’ll pass the message along to fellow employees and constituents in their districts.

And then there was the fun stuff! I became friends with my two fellow interns, people I probably would never have met otherwise, and with them (and a little help from our advisors as well) covered our Director’s office in googly eyes for April Fool’s Day. I attended the 42nd Jefferson Lecture on the Humanities, featuring Martin Scorsese, and an event centered on the NEH-funded documentary No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII, featuring Soledad O’Brien. I trekked to the Executive Office Building for a meeting and came within inches of meeting Joe Biden. (Kidding—I just like to imagine that he was there.) From days with special events like the White House briefing to trekking through mazes of 8th graders on my way to grab Indian food, working at the NEH was always an adventure.

But the biggest skill I gained was a newfound respect for the humanities, an educated understanding of what NEH does, and admiration for the people who work every day to make the NEH great. I will miss this place once I’m gone!

Katherine Kipp is working toward her Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing at the University of Maryland. She has a MA in English from Southeast Missouri State University (Cape Girardeau, MO), a BA in English and Journalism from Union University (Jackson, Tenn.), and worked for several years as a freelance journalist. A Tennessean at heart, even though she lost the accent (or never had it to begin with), she loves drinking coffee, smelling old books, running, and, obviously, writing. She plans on graduating in the spring of 2014 and pursuing a career in education.

Technology and the Humanities: the Fort Vancouver Mobile App

The NEH Office of Digital Humanities is a pivotal supporter of projects that pair technology and the humanities. Just this year, the Office gave 23 awards to new projects through the Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant – one of many ways the Office encourages the development of digital tools with a humanist purpose.

The Fort Vancouver Mobile App is one such digital tool that received a Start-Up Grant in 2011. Since then, the app has won numerous honors including the Historic Preservation Officer’s Award for media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the John Wesley Powell Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government – one of only two projects nationwide.

Creation of the App

Dr. Brett Oppegaard, an assistant professor at Washington State University, assembled a team of historians, archeologists, and academics to create a mobile device for the Fort Vancouver National Historical Site. Though it was already one of the most popular historical attractions in the Portland area, the device has completely changed the dynamic between park and visitor.

Vancouver App 1

The app connects to landmarks at Fort Vancouver and encourages user interaction.

What it Does

The app – designed to suit most smartphones – lets guests learn about the people who lived at Fort Vancouver throughout its history. It includes maps, images of archived documents, and other interactive features such as video portrayals of interesting individuals. All of these materials can be accessed through visitors’ phones as they explore the Fort’s reconstructed village and stockade.

Vancouver App 4.png

Visitors receive a wealth of information about the Fort from downloading the app onto their phone. Photos courtesy of The Columbian newspaper.Vancouver App 3.png

As a 19th century fur trading outpost, the Fort was a hub of commerce and attracted a number of races and cultures, giving it the nickname “New York of the Pacific.” One character in particular – a Hawaiian pastor named William Kaulehelehe – is a star of the app’s Kanuka module, which explains the rich history of the Fort’s Hawaiian community.

A Model for Future Projects

Dr. Oppegaard and others call this innovation digital storytelling, and it has struck a chord with Vancouver visitors. Tourism in the area has skyrocketed, and the app’s website has been visited over thirty thousand times. The app uses open-source technology, which means other parks interested in digital storytelling can replicate Oppengaard’s work. The Fort Vancouver Mobile App marks the beginning of an exciting new trend towards interactive – and mobile – park programming.

 

Exploring the Constitution Across the Nation

Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, will be asking probing questions about the Constitution to Americans across the country on the new PBS show CONSTITUTION USA with Peter Sagal, premiering tonight.

Peter Sagal. Courtesy of Christopher Buchanan / Insignia Films.

Peter Sagal. Courtesy of Christopher Buchanan / Insignia Films.

With a grant from the NEH, Sagal explores contemporary constitutional debates about free speech in the digital age, same-sex marriage, and separation of church and state. He speaks with everyday Americans as well as legal scholars, historians, and public figures. To collect these intriguing and sometimes surprising insights, he travels on his beloved and patriotic Harley Davidson motorcycle.

The series will air every Tuesday in May. Each one-hour episode focuses on a central theme of the Constitution: “A More Perfect Union,” “It’s a Free Country,” “Created Equal,” and “Built to Last?” For more information on each episode, visit Constitution USA’s website.

The website provides video clips further resources on each of the four themes to be covered in the show. It also has games for younger audiences (take the citizenship quiz!), a summary of the show’s background and purpose, and the episodes themselves once they air.

Be sure to tune in tonight at 9 p.m. eastern time for the show’s premiere!

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care

In order to better serve their patients, health care professionals in Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country are participating in a ground-breaking new program: every week, doctors, nurses, receptionists, and lab technicians sit together and discuss books.

The Maine Humanities Council launched Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care in 1997 with a grant from the NEH. It is a hospital-based, scholar-led humanities reading and discussion program that encourages health care professionals to approach their work from a different perspective. Through a carefully selected anthology of short stories, poems, and plays, hospital workers reflect on their role as caregivers to the men and women who serve in the armed forces.

Courtesy of Literature & Medicine.

Courtesy of Literature & Medicine.

Where Literature & Medicine is implemented, health care professionals and patients attest to vastly improved relationships. After reading Echoes of War: A Literature & Medicine Anthology one participant reported: “Our discussions have significantly reordered how I think about medicine. I live with the experience of the protagonist in one of William Carlos Williams’ ‘Doctor Stories,’ a physician who acted without listening. I do not want to be like him. I am learning to sit quietly and listen.”

Courtesy of Literature & Medicine.

Courtesy of Literature & Medicine.

 A survey conducted in 2008 found that participants between 2005 and 2008 reported a staggering 79% increase in empathy for patients, and a 62% increase in job satisfaction. Though the reading selections focus on issues prevalent in Veterans Affairs hospitals, the Main Humanities Council believes any group of health care professionals can benefit from the readings, or from discussing a similar anthology of their own choosing.

When the worlds of literature and science are linked, the human body and all of its physical and emotional wounds can be better understood. The Literature & Medicine program is one way of linking these often disparate fields at a low cost.

So far, Literature & Medicine is the only program in which hospital personnel on a state and national level read literary works to help them think more carefully about their jobs. More than 2,000 health care professionals from hospitals in 25 states have participated since its creation. Every year, new state humanities councils partner with the program, proving that the relatively simple concept of reading and talking in communion has the power to transform the experience of working in a veterans’ hospital.

Meet the National Student Poets

On Friday we posted an interview with Olivia Morgan, the founder of the new National Student Poets Program (NSPP). NSPP selects five poets from those who received a National Gold or Silver Medal in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition.

539029_485061978224579_1643518629_nThese five serve as ambassadors – each representing a different region of the country –   who encourage other young writers at schools with few resources for teaching poetry. During their yearlong tenure, the poets participate in readings across the country and organize a service event in their region. Below are short biographies of the first winners of the NSPP.

The inaugural class of National Student Poets from left to right: Miles Hewitt, age 17, of Vancouver, WA; Lylla Younes, age 17, of Alexandria, LA; Natalie Richardson, age 17, of Oak Park, IL; Claire Lee, age 16, of New York, NY; and Luisa Banchoff, age 17, of Arlington, VA. Each of these poets currently serve as literary ambassadors for National Student Poet Class of 2012. Courtesy of NSPP Facebook page.

The inaugural class of National Student Poets from left to right: Miles Hewitt, age 17, of Vancouver, WA; Lylla Younes, age 17, of Alexandria, LA; Natalie Richardson, age 17, of Oak Park, IL; Claire Lee, age 16, of New York, NY; and Luisa Banchoff, age 17, of Arlington, VA. Each of these poets currently serve as literary ambassadors for the National Student Poet Class of 2012. Courtesy of NSPP Facebook page.

Luisa Banchoff, 17, is the NSPP poet from the Southeast. She is a senior at Washington-Lee School in Arlington, Virginia. Her passion for poetry has already taken her many places. She edits her school’s literary magazine, attended the Kenyon College Young Writers Workshop, and has had the honor of reading at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. In April she was a featured guest at Writers of Social Justice: How One Pen Changes the World, as part of the Red Mountain Writing Project in Birmingham, Alabama.

She has received the 2011 Scholastic Gold Medal in poetry, a 2012 American Voices Medal, and even a Girl Scout Gold Award (she has been a Girl Scout for ten years). Outside of receiving her many awards, Luisa also finds time to give back to her community: she led a poetry workshop at her former elementary school and set up an interactive poetry bulletin at her high school.

Miles Hewitt, 18, is the NSPP poet from the West. He is a senior at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics in Vancouver, Washington. An avid writer from an early age, he began songwriting in eight grade and has self-recorded two albums. Poetry is a new passion, and one that he follows while serving as founder and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and taking a high level Literary Arts class.

In April, Hewitt participated in workshops with middle school students at the Boise State Writing Project and read with three other poets for the Idaho Commission on the Arts “Coasts of Idaho” at the Log Cabin Literature Center. Along with Christopher Luna (the Clark County, Washington, Poet Laureate), Hewitt led a poetry workshop at Washington State University’s At Home At School program.

Claire Lee, 16, is the Northeast NSPP poet. She attends the Chapin School in New York, NY. As a little girl, Lee chose writing stories over playing with dolls. That focus has staying with her into high school. She is the photo editor and a columnist for her school newspaper, Limelight, and is the editor-in-chief of an out-of-school newspaper, NY Girls’ Squash. In 2012, she attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College (Bread Loaf). Her hard work paid off; she won the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Regional Gold and Silver Keys for her photography and second place in the Ayn Rand’s Anthem Essay Contest.

In April, Lee was a featured presenter at the Academy of American Poets 11th Annual Poetry & Creative Mind gala at Lincoln Center. Her service project was working with the East Harlem Tutorial Program on developing a poetry workshop.

National Student Poets Miles Hewitt (far left), Lylla Younes, Claire Lee, Luisa Banchoff and Natalie Richardson (far right) pose with former U.S Poet Laureate, Philip Levine (center).

National Student Poets Miles Hewitt (far left), Lylla Younes, Claire Lee, Luisa Banchoff and Natalie Richardson (far right) pose with former U.S Poet Laureate, Philip Levine (center).

Natalie Richardson, 17, is the NSPP poet from the Midwest. She attends Oak Park and River Forest High School in  Oak Park, Illinois. Richardson has been active in her school’s Spoken Word Club and Slam Team for two years, and competed in the Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival in 2012. Her poetry has been featured on the radio station WBEZ. In addition to writing, Richardson enjoys painting and drawing.

From April 18-20, Richardson participated in 826 Michigan’s Feed Your Soul Poetry Festival in Detroit. The festival engages adults who are new to poetry, and includes schools and independent creative writing program. She is currently working on bringing Louder Than a Bomb to schools lacking a spoken word program.

Lylla Younes, 17, is the NSPP poet from the Southwest. She attends The Louisiana School, a public magnet boarding school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and is from Alexandria, Louisiana. She credits her imagination to her mother’s storytelling when she was a child. Younes finds inspiration in works that span a variety of literary genres, and loves science and philosophy.

On April 24 and 27, Younes took part in a reading and poetry conference with inner-city youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On April 23,  she participated in poetry readings, performances, and workshops with the Sante Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

For more information on the NSPP, visit its website. For another dose of poetry news, visit the website for the National Endowment of the Arts’ Poetry Out Loud National Competition, which features poets from all fifty state. The competition takes place in Washington, D.C. on April 29th-30th and is free and open to the public.