Mason Holds Summer Humanities Institute for Teachers

Posted: July 21, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

This summer, while students are getting a break from regular classes, their teachers are getting an education. Faculty members in Mason’s Department of English have brought 24 secondary school teachers from 13 states to the Fairfax Campus for a series of seminars, lectures, and workshops in a National Endowment (NEH) for the Humanities Summer Institute for Teachers. The theme of the ongoing institute is “Slavery, Literacy, and Freedom: African American Literature, Culture, and Folklore.”

Designed to help teachers understand and incorporate new ideas and ways of teaching difficult or challenging subject matter in their classrooms, the institute, one of only 14 such programs nationwide this year, features well-known specialists in the field of African American Studies. Next week—the final week of the institute—attendees will hear a lecture by Carolyn Denard, founder and director of the Toni Morrison Society and associate dean at Wells College. Past guest lecturers this month have included Linda Nelson, a cultural anthropologist and writing professor from Stockton College; Maurice Wallace, a teacher of African and African American literature from Duke University; and Herman Beavers, a professor of African American literature from the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, Marilyn McKenzie, associate provost for educational programs and associate professor of English, gave a special lecture on Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, this week. McKenzie is a former president of the Toni Morrison Society and current member of its advisory board. She is also director of the summer institute, along with Associate Professor Winifred Keaney. The project team also includes Associate Professors Robert Matz and Amelia Rutledge.

Associate Professors Keith Clark and Scott Trafton, some of Mason’s own experts in African American Studies, are participating in the discussions and workshops. All sessions are taking place in the African American Studies Research and Resource Center, located in the Paul Robeson Room of the Johnson Center. Field trips to the Gunston Hall Plantation, the Library of Congress, the Frederick Douglass home, the Anacostia Museum, and the U Street neighborhood in Washington, D.C., complement the sessions and allow for a more fully recognized cultural experience.

Mason NEH Committee
Marilyn McKenzie, center, with other institute organizers (left to right) Herman Beavers, Winifred Keaney, Robert Matz, and Keith Clark.
Photo by Creative Services

“This institute is a stellar example of our university partnering with scholars and teachers from around the country to enhance the quality of education we provide for our nation’s young people,” says McKenzie. “I can think of no better contribution and opportunity for stimulating intellectual exchange than to provide such an institute for some of our nation’s finest teachers.”

Each year NEH offers full-time teachers in American K-12 schools opportunities to study humanities topics in a variety of seminars and institutes. They are designed to present the best available scholarship on important humanities issues and works taught in the nation’s schools. The participating teachers compare and synthesize the various perspectives offered by the faculty, make connections between the institute content and classroom applications, and often develop improved teaching materials for their classrooms.

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