National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar: Life after Graduation Leads Michael Ayers to Native Studies

by Steve McNutt (LLC Newsletter) | Oct 16, 2013

It’s no secret that Native American history can receive, at best, a cursory treatment in most school curriculum.

A desire to see how he might do his part in correcting that imbalance led recent Language, Literacy and Culture graduate Mike Ayers to apply for acceptance as a “Summer Scholar” by the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute.

Mike was accepted and spent three weeks in July in Amherst, Massachusetts as one of twenty-five teachers taking part in an NEH Summer Institute called Native Americans of New England: A Historical Overview and run by Neal Salisbury of Smith College and Alice Nash of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Over email, Mike reflected on the experience comparing it to “an intense, three-week graduate seminar” with a steady stream of “top-notch scholars.” Going into the program, Mike knew The Institute’s primary audience was teachers of social studies, but as an English teacher he thought the program would still be useful to him and his school (Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa).

“English teachers don't know nearly enough about Native history, literature, and contemporary issues to be very effective with what little we do teach of Native authors,” said Mike. “So this was very helpful and interesting on that score.”

Regardless of their subject areas, a recent article in Indian Country Today drives home the need for greater effectiveness and knowledge among educators when it comes to Native Studies with Nash saying that New England Native Americans are part of school curriculums across the country and yet textbooks say little about them beyond mentioning the Thanksgiving story.

As far as Mike is concerned, the seminar was a success and it made a deep impression about the need for students across the country to learn more about native populations of New England, not only because of their importance in shaping our country’s history, but because it helps spark interest in native populations throughout the country.

LLC Newsletter Desk Editor Rossina Liu contributed to this report.

About NEH Summer Programs

NEH Summer Programs in the Humanities for School and College Educators offer a diverse array of seminars and programs for teachers looking to strengthen humanities education at pre-collegiate and post-secondary levels. The seminar topics vary from year to year and residencies range in from two to five weeks long. Summer Scholars receive awards to help cover travel, room and board, and research expenses and awards amounts are based on the length of the program and are tuition-free.

According to the program’s web site, the topics offered emphasize the critical role played by the humanities in promoting understanding, respect and interest in diverse cultures and subcultures both inside and outside of the United States. For more information, and to see if one of their offerings fits your interests, see the NEH web site for details and deadlines at:

The application deadline for most seminars is March 4, 2013.


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