BSC receives NEH Challenge Grant

 Jan 23 2015
A grant writing team from Bismarck State College led by philosophy professor Tayo Basquiat has landed a highly competitive $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge grant, and the BSC Foundation has already identified the 2:1 match required by the grant.

The resulting $1.5 million BSC endowment will fund Bringing Humanities to Life - a project designed to meet the identified need in North Dakota for humanities-based workforce skills and lifelong learning.  BSC faculty will have the opportunity to do research, try interdisciplinary collaboration, and incentivize their ongoing professional development as they deliver the program to the business community.

NEH Challenge Grants strengthen the humanities by encouraging non-federal sources of support and helping institutions secure long-term improvements in and support for their humanities programs and resources. Recipients are required to match NEH funds on a three-to-one or, in some cases, two-to-one basis.

According to Gordon Binek, Executive Director of the BSC Foundation, meeting the 2:1 match proved not too challenging thanks to the generosity of Frank and Joanne Bavendick. The Bavendicks donated mineral rights that were designated for the humanities. Their intention, the grant and the need for humanities programming created a perfect match.

"In the past several years our donors have focused more on funding various technical programs in order to build the workforce," Binek said. "The humanities have not had the same level of support. The Bavendicks' generosity and this challenge grant gives us a great opportunity to promote the humanities."

Basquiat, who will serve as the coordinator of the project, says employers are becoming more and more aware of how humanities matter in the workplace.

"We know that we do a great job training people technically, but often employees need more training in people skills and decision making - that's where the humanities make a difference," he said.

In the first year, the endowment will provide about $15,000 toward the program. Binek expects the $1.5 million endowment to generate 7.5 percent interest per year by 2018. Basquiat says 2015 will be a building year to identify the first offerings.

"We'll start small," he says.

According to NEH Chairman William Adams, "NEH grants play a critical role in making the insights afforded by the humanities available to all to help us better understand ourselves, our culture, our society."

BSC's grant was part of $17.9 million in grants for 233 humanities projects awarded across the nation in December. The grants will support a wide variety of projects, including research fellowships and awards for faculty, traveling exhibitions, the preservation of humanities collections at smaller institutions, and training programs to prepare libraries, museums, and archives to preserve and enhance access to their collections.