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North Central College faculty awarded two National Endowment for the Humanities grants

May 31, 2023

When the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced its second round of funding for the year, only eight Illinois institutions were awarded prestigious NEH grants. Among them, North Central College had the added distinction of having two separate faculty research projects awarded funding. One will lay groundwork for a new undergraduate health humanities minor at North Central. The other is a book about Italian immigration to the suburb of Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Dr. Shaheen Moosa, associate professor of philosophy and assistant dean of interdisciplinary initiatives, is the Project Director of the first grant, a $35,000 Humanities Connections award. Through faculty workshops, pilot courses, and consultation with community advisors and experts, Moosa will begin the “Building a Community of Care Through an Interdisciplinary Health Humanities Minor” project with co-project directors Dr. Jennifer Smith, chair and associate professor of English; Dr. Kristin Paloncy-Patel, program director and assistant professor of health science; and Dr. Mary Groll, MD, chair of the department of medical sciences.

This grant will help us achieve our goal of connecting the humanities to matters of medicine and human health, which has proven to be effective in preparing future health care professionals to be more empathetic and avoid burnout,” said Moosa. “We believe the curriculum will be of interest to a broad range of our students, from future journalists, to policy makers, and business professionals who recognize the challenges facing health care in a tumultuous world.”

As Moosa and her team begin their project, Dr. Louis Corsino aims to finish his. A professor of sociology, Corsino is the recipient of the second grant — a $6,000 NEH Summer Stipend. With the funding, he will devote the summer to completing his book “’Hopelessly Alien,’ Italian Immigration to Chicago Heights, 1910-1950,” which explores the concept of hope as a force in the lives of immigrants.

As part of his research, Corsino has conducted more than 40 interviews with descendants of an original enclave of Italian immigrants to Chicago Heights, which by 1950 was one of the most Italian cities in the U.S. Corsino’s grandfather emigrated to the community in 1906 and Corsino grew up there. “My personal connections proved invaluable during the research phase. Now I look forward to writing the last chapter, the conclusion, thanks to the support of the NEH,” he said.

The question of what makes a good society is at the heart of Corsino’s research and his teaching. “A North Central education is about expanding both curiosity and compassion,” he said. “We want our graduates to go on to make their communities, our country and the world better. By challenging common narratives about the striving and success of previous generations, they can understand the challenges that today’s newcomers face,” said Corsino, who has presented at the Italian American Studies Association and The Calandra Italian American Institute.

“Congratulations to our outstanding faculty,” said Abiódún Gòkè-Pariolá, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This recognition by the National Endowment for the Humanities underscores the value and quality of their scholarship.”

The awards were part of the latest NEH funding round, with $35.63 million in grants going toward 258 humanities projects across the country. The NEH chose projects that “demonstrate the vitality of the humanities across our nation,” according to its April 18, 2023, announcement. The NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. The Endowment awards grants to top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers.