Community Colleges and Universities Collaborate to Foster the Next Generation of Humanities Scholars

A new initiative from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the CUNY Graduate Center and LaGuardia Community College supports students on their pathway from an associate to a baccalaureate degree in the humanities.

students in front of community college signPhoto courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

Community colleges represent one of this country’s major contributions to higher education. At the pinnacle of their expansion in the 1960s and 1970s, community colleges pioneered many of the core educational values and goals of the 21st century: access, diversity, affordability, innovation, community partnerships, distance learning, and career preparedness.

Today, community colleges are an increasingly important part of the higher education ecosystem because of their potential influence on intergenerational mobility and their immediate impact on addressing the causes of social inequality. Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States are enrolled in two-year institutions. There are 17 million community college students in all — including students from first-generation, disadvantaged, and underrepresented minority backgrounds. Seven million of them are enrolled for credit and are working toward an associate degree.

Community colleges face challenges serving these students as they strain under state legislature demands that produce mismatches between growing enrollments and shrinking resources. The partnership between community colleges and universities is a relatively new area of focus for the Mellon Foundation. We believe that Community Colleges are quickly becoming one of the most important sectors in higher education.  Since 2014, Mellon has made 14 grants supporting humanities partnerships between community colleges and research universities, totaling $20.584 million. In response to the prevailing opinion that the humanities have minimal relevance to contemporary issues or the public good, many community colleges have demonstrated the applicability of research in the humanities to the public interest.

In this series, we will examine the different types of partnerships between community colleges and universities in an effort to increase the student-transfer success rate. We believe these efforts should also bolster support for the humanities and for university faculty and doctoral students who want first-hand experience with the diverse, inclusive classroom practices prevalent in community colleges.

Our CCUP series begins with interviews and stories from The Humanities Alliance, a Mellon-funded program that fosters a partnership between the CUNY Graduate Center and LaGuardia Community College.

College for Everyone: Cathy Davidson on The CUNY Humanities Alliance 

The first story in our Community College-Research University (CCUP) series features an interview with renowned scholar of cultural history and technology Cathy Davidson of The Graduate Center, CUNY. She spoke with us about the Graduate Center (GC) of the City University of New York (CUNY)’s Humanities Alliance, an initiative launched in 2014 dedicated to training PhD students in the most successful methods for teaching humanities courses to diverse undergraduates.


Gail Mellow on Broadening Access and Strengthening Engagement with the Humanities at LaGuardia Community College 

Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, shares insights on the value of the humanities in a community college setting, as well as the transformative nature of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, a Mellon-funded program that trains graduate students in the most successful methods for teaching humanities courses to a diverse student body.


From Theory to Practice: Learning How to Teach the Humanities 

Anton Kociolek is one of nine 2017 CUNY Humanities Alliance Fellows. The Alliance, founded in 2016, is a two-year program designed to help prepare graduate students to teach humanities courses at community colleges with support from faculty mentors at LaGuardia Community College. Read about Anton’s experience working with mentor Emmanuel Nartey build an effective humanities-driven curriculum for students from disparate academic backgrounds.


More In This Series

Community Colleges and the Humanities in the 21st Century

“If you can figure out how to help more community college students be successful, you can solve some big problems for the country as a whole,” says Mellon Executive Vice President Mariët Westermann.