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Humanities Action Lab, National Collaboration Featuring Northeastern University, Awarded $150,000 Grant By Whiting Foundation

NEW YORK, June, 2015 – The Whiting Foundation has announced a $150,000 grant to the Humanities Action Lab (HAL), a coalition formed by Northeastern University and 19 other universities from across the country, coordinated from The New School in New York City, to foster public engagement on urgent social problems.

The funds will bolster the lab’s current project: Global Dialogues on Incarceration, a project and curriculum that applies humanities perspectives to questions of crime and punishment at 20 universities, through which students and community partners create a corresponding exhibition, online platform for public dialogue and series of public programs. The exhibition will open at The New School in New York City in April 2016 and, over the next three years, travel to each of the project’s participating universities. The exhibit will come to Boston in spring, 2018, with the venue yet to be determined.

Marty Blatt, Director of the Northeastern Public History Program, said that he is “delighted that our program is a part of this national project focused on incarceration. For the exhibition, our students will focus on the fascinating story of the Norfolk [MA] Prison’s successful debate team. When the exhibition comes to Boston, we will develop related public programming with faculty from the Law School and Bridge to Northeastern as well as community partners including the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition of MA.”

“This grant from the Whiting Foundation, one of the country’s most prominent supporters of humanities scholarship, will enable us to bring rigorous research to a broad and diverse public audience and to help confront the most pressing social issues of our time,” said Liz Sevcenko, Director of HAL. “Our socially engaged approaches equip students with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century, and make the humanities a central part of civic dialogue.”

“One of the most important roles of the humanities is to provide history, context, and insight into contemporary social questions,” said Daniel Reid, executive director of the Whiting Foundation. “We are proud to support the Humanities Action Lab consortium’s work to unearth new aspects of the history of crime and punishment in America at a moment when incarceration has emerged as a central issue facing us in the present. The project stands to make important contributions to public understanding while training a new crop of students and faculty in the techniques of translating scholarship for audiences beyond the academy.”

Universities partnering with Northeastern University in the Humanities Action Lab are Arizona State University—Tempe, Brown University, DePaul University, Duke University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, The New School, Parsons Paris, Rutgers University—New Brunswick and Newark, Skidmore College, University of California—Riverside, University of Connecticut—Storrs, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Miami, University of Minnesota, University of New Orleans, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, University of Texas—Austin, and Vanderbilt University.

HAL has its roots in the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, a similar initiative that united 300-plus students from Northeastern University and several other universities to research, document, and interpret the history of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo, Bay, Cuba and foster public dialogue on the questions it raises today.

Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. Learn more at

The Whiting Foundation has supported scholars and writers for more than forty years. This grant is part of the Foundation’s efforts to infuse the humanities into American public culture. For more information, visit

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