College receives grant to focus on history and culture of the Lehigh Valley

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William C. Buck Hall, Williams Arts Campus © Chuck Zovko / Zovko Photographic llc April 18, 2015

Jane Collins

The college was awarded a $950,000 grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in June, intended to fulfill several goals established by the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges and other organizations including the Easton Area Public Library and the Karl Stirner Arts Trail.

The grant will go toward community-based learning and engagement for the faculty, funding for artists’ and writers’ residencies and a digital component in building an archive of materials about the Lehigh Valley. The digital archives component will explore the economic and social effects of the deindustrialization of the Lehigh Valley and the death of Bethlehem Steel.

These goals derive from the collaborative initiative called the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium: Understanding Transformations of the Past Half-Century, according to Director of Digital Scholarship Services Charlotte Nunes.

According to Nunes, Provost Abu Rizvi spearheaded the grant conceptually and worked with a development team to propose the grant last year.

“We initiated a process with other colleges and museums and other arts and community organizations to develop a proposal that would be about using the talents of our own communities to help increase understanding of the unique history and culture of the Lehigh Valley,” President Alison Byerly said.

According to Nunes, work on these projects will kick off as soon as the college is able to hire a grant coordinator, which is expected to happen next week. There were over 50 applicants for the position and the coordinator will be responsible for working with other coordinators across the Lehigh Valley, Nunes said.

Once a coordinator is hired, a committee of representatives from all the schools and organizations will convene and make decisions about how the funds will be broken down, Nunes said.

“What areas do we want to prioritize first? We can work on things all at the same time but are there some things that we can hit the ground running on? We will need to get the steering committee together to determine our near term and long term vision for the grant,” Nunes said.