SIUE CODES Project Secures $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

SIUE’s Jessica DeSpain, PhD, professor in the Department of English Language and Literature and co-director of the SIUE Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics (IRIS) Center.

“Designed for first-generation, Black, Latinx and/or Pell-eligible students, CODES aims to help students understand the integral role of the humanities in transdisciplinary problem solving at the earliest stages of their college careers.”

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville continues to excel in the digital humanities, gaining national funding for its innovative, collaborative programming. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced $24 million in grants for 225 humanities projects nationwide. SIUE’s project, CODES: Community-Oriented Digital Engagement Scholars, has received $100,000 in funding.

CODES is a three-year project that will implement a general education pathway that introduces underserved students to digital community engagement. It’s first cohort of scholars will begin in fall 2022.

The project is led by principal investigator (PI) Jessica DeSpain, PhD, professor in the Department of English Language and Literature and co-director of the SIUE Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics (IRIS) Center, and co-PI Connie Frey Spurlock, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and director of the SIUE Successful Communities Collaborative (SSCC).

Additional key SIUE personnel include Jessica Harris, PhD, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, and Howard Rambsy, PhD, professor in the Department of English Language and Literature. CODES is a collaboration with Lewis and Clark Community College, whose team members are Jennifer Cine and Jill Lane.

“Designed for first-generation, Black, Latinx and/or Pell-eligible students, CODES aims to help students understand the integral role of the humanities in transdisciplinary problem solving at the earliest stages of their college careers,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain will handle most of the project’s curricular design and administration, while Frey Spurlock will focus on building community partnerships. CODES Scholars will work in small research teams that focus on a seemingly unsolvable problem, such as climate change or poverty’s manifestations across rural and urban environments.

“Embedded with community organizations, students will learn how to engage ethically and effectively in digital and face-to-face environments, a skill the humanities are uniquely equipped to address,” explained DeSpain. “Research team courses are designed to focus on the problem first and give students hands-on experience with essential 21st century career skills, including creative problem-solving, collaboration, ethical literacy and adaptability.”

The CODES project blends and builds on multiple successful initiatives that make SIUE stand out regionally and nationally. The IRIS Center introduces more than 300 students to digital humanities methods through programming and classroom support each year. The SSCC pairs community organizations and municipalities with faculty and students to address environmental, social and economic needs.

Additionally, SIUE has been named a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Center by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). By preparing college and high school students to work alongside community members, SIUE’s TRHT Center endeavors to establish authentic, trusting relationships for the upbuilding of sustainable communities where people of all backgrounds can thrive.

Complementary to this project, Lewis and Clark has implemented cohort-based programming grounded in high impact practices in its honors college, which are specifically designed for underserved students. The Honors College currently enrolls 22 students, but will add an additional 10 enrollees through the CODES partnership. By strengthening ties to SIUE, the CODES program will give honors students a four-year experience.

With its announcement, the NEH noted the diverse range of exemplary humanities projects receiving funding. The CODES project is among 26 grants, totaling $1.4 million, awarded within the NEH’s Humanities Connections category.

“NEH is proud to support these 225 new projects, which embody excellence, intellectual rigor, and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, even as our nation and the humanities community continue to face the challenges of the pandemic,” said NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “We look forward to the contributions these projects will make to our understanding of ourselves and our society through exemplary humanities research, publications, documentary films, exhibitions and undergraduate programs.”

A full list of NEH grants awarded in April 2021 is available here.

By preparing the next generation of leaders in a knowledge-based economy, SIUE’s Graduate School fulfills the region’s demand for highly trained professionals. Graduate school offerings include arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, nursing, and interdisciplinary opportunities. SIUE professors provide students with a unique integration of theoretical education and hands-on research experiences. Students can obtain graduate certificates or pursue master’s degrees, and be part of a supportive learning and rich intellectual environment that is tailored to the needs of adult learners. The Graduate School raises the visibility of research and creative activity at SIUE, which ranks highest among its Illinois Board of Higher Education peers in total research and development expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Doctoral programs are available in nursing practice and educational leadership. Cooperative PhD programs in history, environmental resources and policy, engineering science, and computer science are offered with SIU Carbondale.

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