CSU Los Angeles -- October 29, 2003

New Cal State L.A. Humanities Center Opens

Center will house Rockefeller- and NEH-sponsored Research on American Identity

Two new programs will strengthen humanities teaching and research at California State University, Los Angeles.

Beginning October 30, 2003, the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Natural and Social Sciences will inaugurate the University’s new Integrated Humanities Center.

A prestigious $325,000 Rockefeller Humanities grant supports two visiting and two Cal State L.A. humanities scholars at the Center. This year, visiting distinguished professor Victor Valle inaugurates the Joseph A. Bailey II, M.D. Endowed Chair for the University’s new American Communities Program.

Major funding for the American Communities program resulted from a National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant that raised nearly $1 million to build the College of Arts and Letters’ first major endowment.

“It is highly unusual for a public comprehensive university to garner either one of these awards, and it is probably unique for an institution like ours to be honored by such major support from both the most important public humanities agency and one of the best known private philanthropies that supports humanities projects,” notes Carl Selkin, dean of Arts and Letters. “The NEH and Rockefeller grants acknowledge Cal State L.A.’s unique strengths and underscore the importance of the humanities to the students we serve.”

The Center

“Cal State L.A.’s Integrated Humanities Center makes available new opportunities for increased collaborative research involving students, faculty and nationally-recognized scholars,” says Selkin.
“As in the sciences, students will conduct original humanities research in a mentoring relationship with established experts.”

The center will focus on topics of special interest to the Cal State L.A. community: the nature of American identity.

Selkin explains: “As children of recent immigrants or as immigrants themselves, many Cal State L.A. students – and faculty – are engaged in the challenge of creating their own identities as Americans. While forging new connections, they also maintain the link with their heritage cultures.”

Selkin points out that pairing the experiential understanding of Cal State L.A. students with the scholarly insights of faculty creates a new balance in the teaching dynamic.

Desdemona Cardoza, dean of Natural and Social Sciences, adds, “This model will connect our academic work much more closely with the communities in which our students live and which they ultimately help to transform.”

Says Selkin, “Most people think of the humanities as more at home at elite private ivory towers. But the ability to reflect on, critically analyze, communicate, and evaluate human experience, culture and history is not a luxury but a necessity. If we don’t have the tools to understand who we are and where we come from, we cannot create a future that embodies the ideas and values that are important and enduring.”

The Programs

American Communities
The American Communities program is funded through the Challenge Grant Program of NEH-matched contributions. This has created an endowment of nearly $1 million for ongoing research and teaching. Prominent San Bernardino-area physician and philanthropist Dr. Joseph A. Bailey II has donated the culminating gift to establish the Joseph A. Bailey II, M.D. Endowed Chair to lead this program. The gift establishes a component of the program focusing on African-American culture and history, including internal migration.

The American Communities Endowed Chair
The first professor to hold the Joseph A. Bailey II, M.D. Endowed Chair, Victor Valle, began his two-to-three-year term at Cal State L.A. in September.

Valle, whose unique scholarship includes the integral relationship between cuisine and culture as well as the history of the Chicano labor movement, was selected after a national search. He was chosen in part for his ongoing research on “(Im)migration,” which includes recognizing the contributions of such well-established Los Angeles cultural groups as the African-American, Latino and Jewish heritage communities and the relatively more recent experiences of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Pacific Islanders.

The Rockefeller Humanities Residencies
The prestigious Rockefeller Foundation grant of $325,000 spans three years and complements the American Communities program. Each year, under the auspices of this grant, two visiting research fellows will join two Cal State L.A. faculty fellows, also selected annually, to work on interdisciplinary humanities projects. The Rockefeller Humanities Grant will expand our understanding of three facets of contemporary American multicultural experience—the changing nature of the family, the challenge of fundamentalism, and the increasingly complex interplay of gender and work.

The Cal State L.A. Rockefeller proposal, “Becoming and Belonging: The Alchemy of Identity in the Multicultural Metropolis,” receives an added dimension from Cal State L.A.’s new Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities. Faculty scholars in this Center will address identity issues that have a gender component. The Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities will also be located in the University’s Integrated Humanities Center.

For further information about Cal State L.A.’s Integrated Humanities Center, call the College of Arts and Letters, (323) 343-4001.

Media Contact: Carol Selkin, Media Relations Director, (323) 343-3044


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