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NIU is NEH strong

January 13, 2014
A boy flees Paris during the Battle of France. The photograph is the work of Theresa Bonney and published in her “Europe’s Children, 1939-1943” book of photographs.

A boy flees Paris during the Battle of France. The photograph is the work of Theresa Bonney and published in her “Europe’s Children, 1939-1943” book of photographs.

Northern Illinois University faculty members have been named as recipients of three highly competitive funding awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

NIU received more grants in this latest award cycle than any other Illinois institution. NEH grants went to:

  • Heide Fehrenbach, a Board of Trustees Professor of history, who received a $50,400 Fellowship for University Teachers for her research project titled, “The Humanitarian Eye: Photography and the 20th-Century Quest to Save Innocents Abroad.”
  • Jeffrey Einboden, a professor of English, who received a $50,400 Fellowship for University Teachers for his research project titled, “Islamic Literacy in Early America: Muslim Sources of U.S. Authorship.”
  • And Jennifer Kirker-Priest, director of The Anthropology Museum at NIU, who received a $6,000 Preservation Assistance Grant for the museum.

The Fellowships for University Teachers support independent scholars pursuing advanced research. They are highly competitive, with an application success rate of less than 7 percent this year.

Only three fellowships were awarded to universities in Illinois, with NIU receiving two of them and the University of Chicago receiving the third.

Across all award categories, only seven awards were made to Illinois institutions.

“For our faculty and staff to have won three awards in one year speaks first to their own strengths and accomplishments, and second to the overall breadth and depth of our engagement in the humanities,” said Christopher McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Heide Fehrenbach

Heide Fehrenbach

Fehrenbach has been recognized as one of NIU’s most accomplished scholars. This is her second NEH award and follows prestigious awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and others, as well as her recognitions as an NIU Presidential Research Professor and NIU Board of Trustees Professor.

Her research project, “The Humanitarian Eye,” is a study of child-centered humanitarian imagery over the past century.

The book project explores how, since the late 19th century, humanitarians and image-makers have deployed photographic media to stir emotion, shape social values and stimulate response to distant suffering.

“It is conceived as an interpretative history of the rise and spread of humanitarian imagery and ethics, articulated via the symbolic figure of the child,” Fehrenbach said. “The project evolved from a set of undergraduate and graduate courses I have developed and taught at NIU since 2006 on the histories of human rights and humanitarianism, photography and film.”

Jeff Einboden

Jeff Einboden

For his NEH-funded research, Jeff Einboden combines two seemingly unrelated interests – early American literature and Middle Eastern languages – in an innovative and exciting project. His investigation of Islamic literacy in early America aims to uncover Islam’s formative impact on the nation’s literature.

“This project traces covert genealogies of Arabic and Persian influence on seminal American writers, extending from Revolutionary beginnings to the Civil War,” Einboden said.

“Exposing manuscripts previously neglected or lost, this project reveals the ‘Islamic literacy’ which inhabits the intimate fabric of American diaries, letters and marginalia, with authors from Ezra Stiles to Ralph Waldo Emerson privately appealing to Muslim sources as a means of catalyzing their emergent American identity,” he added.

Einboden’s 2014 NEH Fellowship will result in a scholarly monograph, which has recently been contracted to Oxford University Press.

Jennifer Kirker Priest

Jennifer Kirker Priest

The NEH Preservation Assistance Grant to Jennifer Kirker-Priest will provide a boost to NIU’s Anthropology Museum, which opened in its new Cole Hall home in 2012. The new location presents great opportunities for increasing the profile and impact of the museum.

Grant funds will support conservation training for museum staff, supplies to improve textile storage and environmental monitoring kits. New environmental monitoring equipment will be used to more rigorously monitor and prevent temperature and humidity fluctuations, which could harm museum collections.

“This preservation award is just another example of the ways in which Jennifer Kirker-Priest, her staff and her students have risen to the opportunity,” Dean McCord said. “They are creating a shining example of the ways in which the humanities and social sciences can promote student engagement and community engagement.”