September 26, 2022
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded a $173,680 grant to Ursuline College to host a NEH Summer Institute for higher education faculty. This June 2023 seminar, “Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Rust Belt: Co-creating Regional Humanities Ecosystems,” will bring 25 national scholars to Cleveland and the Ursuline campus to discover the best teaching practices for sharing the story of the Rust Belt.
“To teach the rise, fall and revival of the Rust Belt, you need to experience it,” states grant author Katharine Trostel, PhD, Ursuline assistant professor and English department chair. “This prestigious NEH grant enables Cleveland to serve as the ultimate learning lab.”
Seminar participants will be immersed in Cleveland’s history and culture through special field trips to Cleveland neighborhoods, iconic places like the West Side Market and new learning spaces such as EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute. They will also participate in discussions generated by an extensive reading list featuring works from the locally-rooted Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards and from Belt, a Cleveland-based publisher of regional literature.
This reading list is the product of a previous NEH grant awarded to Ursuline, “Cleveland Divided: Rust Belt Revival Curriculum,” which allowed Dr. Trostel and other Ursuline faculty to develop an undergraduate certificate program called “The Rust Belt Pathway.” The certificate program’s curriculum serves as a foundation for the NEH summer institute and examines poverty, discrimination, neglect, and population decline in the Rust Belt, as well as social solutions, all while reimagining the humanities through readings, discussions, digital skills, multi-media presentations, mapping, and field trips. In addition to NEH, the College’s Rust Belt Pathway is being supported in part by a Cleveland Foundation-funded Anisfield-Wolf Fellowship for the Public Humanities. The hope is to empower Ursuline students, most of whom are from Northeast Ohio and stay in the area after graduation, to participate in the Rust Belt’s revival as community-based problem-solvers and critical thinkers.
Dr. Trostel notes, “For too long, the Rust Belt narrative has been one of emptiness, decay, decline, and vacancy. Our stories are often neglected in the national sphere or controlled by cultural outsiders.”
She continues that this seminar, like the pathway course work, emphasizes the power of regionally based storytelling and the importance of uplifting local voices. Her hope is that the work from the seminar and its participants will result in the publication of a new teaching resource, Approaches to Teaching the Rust Belt.
“As a prototypical Rust Belt city, Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs include an array of distinct neighborhoods that are historically divided by ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status, but our story is far from finished,” explains Dr. Trostel. “The more our students and students across the nation understand that story, the better they will be at writing its next chapter.”