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University of Iowa News Release


March 26, 2007

UI Leaders Head To D.C. To Promote Humanities Funding

A delegation of University of Iowa leadership is headed to the nation's capital to stress to lawmakers the value of humanities funding.

The group consists of Meredith Hay, vice president for research; Jay Semel, associate vice president for research and director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies; and Derek Willard, special assistant to the president for governmental relations and associate vice president for research.

The three will participate in Humanities Advocacy Day Tuesday, March 27. The event, which is part of the National Humanities Alliance 2007 Conference, provides constituents a key opportunity to meet with their representatives in the new Congress to communicate the public value of the humanities.

Hay, Semel and Willard will visit the offices of U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and the offices of all five Iowa members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Federal funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian museums and other cultural organizations is critically important to the UI," Semel said. "The NEH is by far the primary source of funding for scholars conducting research in fields such as religion, philosophy, history, literature and languages. NEH is also a major supporter of public programs in those fields."

UI humanities scholars depend on holdings of federally funded archives, libraries and museums to do their research. In addition, NEH funds go directly to competitively selected UI scholars for research and curriculum development. From 1995 to 2005, the UI received more than $3 million in NEH money.

"Humanities grants are relatively small compared to bioscience grants, but they're essential to the work of humanities scholars," Semel said. "Increases really can make a difference."

Numerous UI projects were made possible by NEH grants. Ed Folsom, professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), received money to create a comprehensive online archive of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Lauren Rabinovitz, a professor of American Studies in the CLAS, was awarded money to develop an educational CD-ROM showing how 20th century amusement parks contributed to urban modernism and consumerism in the United States. The resource is used in American studies and American history courses.

Several UI scholars in the CLAS received $40,000 NEH fellowships in recent years, including history Professor Colin Gordon, who used the money to study U.S. economic development policies, and women's studies and anthropology Professor Ellen Lewin, who used the money for a study called "Family Values: Fatherhood in an American Community."

The NEH budget also supports state humanities boards, including Humanities Iowa, which bring humanities to the public. Bridget Tsemo of the Department of Rhetoric in the CLAS received $6,100 to develop a documentary on urban African-Americans migrating to Iowa. And Lynn Alex of the Office of the State Archaeologist received $15,000 for educational programs associated with Iowa Archeology Month.

"The beneficiaries of this money are students and the citizens of Iowa, along with scholars in the field," Semel said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,