Saint Mary's Awarded $173,000 NEH Grant for Mexico City Immersion Program for School Teachers

MORAGA, Calif. (July 1, 2011) - Saint Mary's College of California has received a $173,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to administer the NEH Summer Institute "Dialogues in the Americas: Mexican Literature and Culture in Context."

The NEH Summer Institute is designed to promote multicultural understanding in U.S. classrooms through the integration of Mexican cultural materials into academic curricula and provides professional development opportunities for 23 middle and high school teachers and two graduate students.

During the month of July 2011, the 25 NEH Summer Institute Fellows will spend four weeks focusing on Spanish language acquisition techniques, student engagement and literary analysis of Spanish authors at LaSalle University in Mexico City. Each of the NEH Fellows will receive a stipend of $3,300 to cover their travel, study and living expenses.

Brother President Ronald Gallagher said the grant acknowledges the international commitment Saint Mary's has to study abroad opportunities to improve academic training for students and in teacher development. "It underscores the importance of the College's global Lasallian network," said Gallagher. "We are proud to partner with the NEH on the Summer Institute and look forward to future collaborations"

Frances Sweeney, Saint Mary's vice provost for undergraduate academics and a Spanish professor, will serve as the project director for the Summer Institute. Sweeney will provide administrative oversight and collaborate with the project's co-directors, Iliana Holbrook, a professor of Latin American literature and culture with an emphasis on Mexico at California State University, East Bay and Lettie Ramírez, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education at California State University, East Bay. Holbrook and Ramírez will serve as visiting professors at Saint Mary's College during the Summer Institute.

The NEH Summer Institute will feature a distinctive Saint Mary's academic stamp said the Vice Provost. "It utilizes the College's Great Books tradition founded in the ‘shared inquiry' seminar approach to provide an instructional template for the NEH Fellows," said Sweeney. "As the NEH Fellows immerse themselves in the literature and culture of Mexico, they will develop this methodology for their own classrooms."

One of the goals of the institute, she adds, is to help teachers learn how both instructor and students build a learning environment together, rather than just a having a traditional lecture by a teacher. "The Fellows learn to be the sage on the side, an expert who works with students to promote their development," said Sweeney.

For more information about the Saint Mary College of California / NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers, visit the project's website.


Michael McAlpin
Director of Media Relations
(925) 631-4222

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