NEH Grant to Oaxaca Summer Institute


At the beginning of this month, I found out that I was chosen to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute. The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the Federal Government. Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study humanities topics in a variety of Summer Seminars and Institutes.  It seems that the seminars are allowed fewer participants than the Institutes, but the topics of all are fascinating and inspiring.

I first caught sight of these offerings last year and really REALLY wanted to go to the one on St. Francis of Assisi and the 13th Century.  It was going to be held in Siena and Assisi for 6 weeks last summer, but it didn’t seem feasible to go.  Along with that, the only things I really had to put into my proposal letter were that St. Francis was my grandmother’s favorite patron saint.  There is also some reference to him in my favorite book, House of the Scorpion (by Nancy Farmer), but I didn’t think that it was enough to spend the whole summer studying about his life. (Sorry Gran – RIP!)

So, I was eagerly awaiting this years announcements, stalking the NEH Summer Institute page for weeks until they finally got this year’s offerings up!  At first, I was disappointed – last year, there had been offerings all over the world (Asia, Africa, Europe – my favorite was the South African one where they must have said at least 50 times that, if you were chosen to participate in their seminar, you had better be there NOT just to have fun and go to the beach… WOW, they sure know their school teachers! LOL).

I looked over the offerings, wondering why on EARTH anyone would want to spend 5 weeks in the summertime in MACON, GEORGIA  studying Cotton Culture in the South from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement (I should not be mean, but have you BEEN to South Georgia in the summertime?).  Because my husband is a musician, and I have never been to Germany, I considered making him attend classes for me in drag to participate in the Johann Sebastian Bach Institute in Eisenach, Leipzig, and Potsdam, Germany or for the Mozart Institute in Vienna, Austria.  I was less inclined to have him do this for the Dvořák Institute, as it only involved a trip to Pittsburgh.

Then, all kidding aside, I saw it:  Mesoamerican Cultures and Their Histories:  Spotlight on Oaxaca.  Instantly I felt a rush of excitement!  The last time I visited Oaxaca was in 2003, when I treated my husband and father to a trip to Mexico.  I wanted to return in the summer of 2007, when my husband and I went to Morelia for my Fund for Teachers Grant – but the logistics were not easy.  I love Mexico, and I knew that I could come up with many ideas for research and contribution here.

The only obstacle was that this institute will run up until August 7th, causing me to miss two pre-planning days.  It could have been worse:  I postponed any thought of applying until the school calendar had been set.  One of the calendar options started school at the beginning of that week, so that would have been a deal-breaker.  But, I think that it will work out okay for me now – it’s not like I am extending a trip to the beach, after all.

Here is a link to the Institute Overview and to the Syllabus. It is truly awesome.  Each of the four weeks of the Institute has a distinct theme:

  • Week 1:   Archaeology:  “Art and Architecture as Windows into Cultural Realities in Prehistory”
  • Week 2: Ethnohistory: “Seeking Indigenous Perspectives and Cultural Memories through Manuscript Studies”
  • Week 3: The Arts: “Cultural Continuity and Innovation in Music, Textiles, Pottery, and Photography”
  • Week 4: Film:  “Mesoamerican Histories through Film:  Representations of Cultures and Societies”

So far, I have already purchased airplane tickets for my husband and myself.  I have an apartment reserved for us at a place right around the corner from most of the class meeting sites.  It is called Casita Camila and the little one bedroom apartment looks great!  I found them on VRBO (Vacation rentals by owner), which was the source of our lovely yurt last summer.  My school system was kind enough to put a press release about my grant up on the system website – I am so excited!

I promise to get back to blogging – it’s going to be a truly wonderful experience, I am sure.  Here is a link to Moon Travel Guide’s section on Oaxaca – it has some great maps.  The institute has a page on BlogSpot for a group blog that you can peruse to see about the other participants.  Here is the link.  I am so thankful for this opportunity – can’t wait!!!!


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