North Central News

Teagle Foundation grant provides opportunities for underserved students to explore the humanities and prepare for college

Jacob Imm

Jun 15, 2021

North Central College has received a $25,000 planning grant from the Teagle Foundation to help the College create the Civic Humanities Project (CHP), a bold initiative designed to increase exposure to the humanities, enhance college readiness, and cultivate service to the community for an increasingly diverse body of students.

Stuart Patterson, associate professor and chair of the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College, was at the forefront of securing the grant for the College. He will be instrumental in the CHP, which will bring rising high school seniors––called Freedom Scholars––from at-risk Chicagoland school districts to North Central’s campus for instruction beginning in June 2022. The project will entail three phases: a three-week series of seminars during the summer, which the students will take while staying on campus; mentoring sessions the following fall to help the students learn best practices for being a college student; and service projects the students will design themselves.

The Freedom Scholars will experience engaging college-level humanities teaching and discussion and meet current North Central students, who are participating in planning for the CHP and will also be key to its implementation, giving them a sense of investment in the project’s success as well as experience working with younger students.

Two Shimer Great Books School students, Claire Mikulcik ’23 and Alexandra Huston ’22, are helping plan the syllabus for the summer seminars along with a panel of College faculty. “(North Central) students from all majors will be able to serve as teaching assistants and residential counselors during the summer program, as mentors on college applications during the fall and as assistants to the Freedom Scholars as they devise and implement their civic engagement project in the spring semesters,” said Patterson.

Patterson spoke to why the grant and the CHP are critical to the College at this time.

“The College has been putting much thought, effort and resources into ensuring that we offer as diverse, inclusive and equitable a place as we can for learning and working––the Civic Humanities Project joins those efforts in a number of ways,” he said. “Working effectively toward diversity, equity and inclusion will mean examining closely different answers to the project’s guiding question: ‘How do ideas about human nature and about good government shape each other?’

“It will also mean bringing as diverse and inclusive a set of communities into the College’s conversation as we can; the Project helps in this effort by bringing students to campus who can speak from experience about deeply inequitable aspects of American society, while it also aims to encourage the same students to conceive ways to mitigate those inequities.”

The planning process for the CHP includes preparing an application for a follow-up grant from the Teagle Foundation. That $350,000 implementation grant would allow the College to operate the project for three years. Patterson said the College is also exploring other sources of revenue to fund the CHP as an ongoing project in the coming years.

North Central joins a distinguished group of colleges that have created similar landmark programs thanks to funding from the Teagle Foundation’s Knowledge for Freedom Initiative. Other colleges benefitting from the initiative include Columbia (New York), Yale, Rochester, Ursinus, Miami (Ohio), and Boston Universities, among others.

For more information on the Civic Humanities Project and North Central’s grant from the Teagle Foundation, contact Stuart Patterson or Shelly Galasso, the College’s director of grants.