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December 14, 1998

UC Humanities Research Institute receives NEH 'challenge grant'

By Chuck McFadden
UC Office of the President

University of California President Richard C. Atkinson announced today that the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $300,000 challenge grant to the University of California Humanities Research Institute (HRI).

The grant requires that $900,000 be raised by the institute during the next five years. The funds will be used to establish an endowment of $1.2 million for HRI. The institute, based at UC Irvine, is a unit of the UC Office of the President and serves the nine-campus University of California system.

As the humanities center for the University of California system, the institute promotes interdisciplinary scholarship in the humanities and fosters intellectual community across campus and international borders.

"There is a compelling need for different fields of knowledge to inform one another as fully as possible," said institute director Patricia O'Brien.

"The institute serves as a force to bridge gaps between and among humanities disciplines," she added. "Much of our work also overcomes barriers that tend to isolate humanities disciplines from the social and natural sciences and technology. This kind of collaboration often leads to new knowledge, especially about issues that cannot be resolved by any one branch of knowledge working alone."

The new endowment to be established by the NEH challenge grant and matching funds will enable the institute to include more specialists from around the world in its work. In addition, the endowment will generate funds for joint programs with California's state and community colleges.

"In light of the fierce competition for scarce NEH funding, we are especially proud of this award," Atkinson said. "HRI is committed to advancing humanities education and research not only on the UC campuses but elsewhere as well, and the funds will help the institute establish new partnerships to serve teachers and students throughout the state."

"UCI is proud to have HRI on its campus," UCI Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone said. "By mobilizing the strength of the faculty of the entire UC system and enabling them to work at length with each other and their national and international colleagues, the institute helps strengthen both UCI and the UC system as a whole.

"In 10 years' time, 36 research teams have come here to work on a wide range of topics," Cicerone added. "Some groups have devoted their time to literary texts or art historical studies, and others have focused on matters that more immediately challenge all our lives today, such as environmental questions, bioethical issues, debates on multiculturalism, and the criminal justice system."

Thirty challenge grants were awarded by the NEH this year to libraries, museums, historical societies, and professional training conservatories as well as colleges and universities.

In its own announcement of the 1998 challenge grants, the National Endowment for the Humanities stressed the merit of such awards for the well-being of the humanities in the United States. NEH Chairman William Ferris said that the grants have a multiplier effect because they provide an incentive to private donors, whose contributions release the federal funds pledged by the grants.

"This crucial partnership between the public and private sectors enables institutions nationwide to secure their humanities programs far into the future," Ferris said.

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