In 2017, Fontbonne University was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of Humanities. This grant is being used to develop new courses and programs that focus solely on MEMORY.
Memory is a major component in the formation and development of every human being’s life. We use our memories to do more than we consciously know; we use it to retrieve data, make decisions, and even breathe. Memory helps us to shape our individual and collective identities.
Memory is vitally important but, ironically, often goes unthought of. So how and why was it chosen as the dedicated semester topic and the core of four new courses? Well, the idea was born over a piece of cake.
Dr. Corinne Wohlford—Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Fontbonne University and Project Director—began discussing the topic of memory with Assistant Professor of Psychology and co-Project Director Dr. Jason Finley over pieces of cake in Ryan dining hall.
Dr. Wohlford was interested in the theories behind collective memory: how a culture or a group of people come together to remember history over multiple generations. Dr. Finley was interested in individual memory: how an individual uses retrieval and externalized mental cues to remember.
“There was a sort of synergy . . . It was interesting to see how another discipline understands something that interests someone else.” Dr. Wohlford noted. “We came together with similar interests. We don’t speak the same language academically.”
This conversation led to many more conversations, and soon included Dr. Ben Moore—Associate Professor, Co-Founder of the Bosnia Memory Project, and co-Project Director—and Julie Portman—Professor and Technical Services Librarian at Fontbonne University. Together, the four professors built four new courses that will be offered in the 2019 Spring and Fall semesters, as well as co-curricular activities in preparation for the dedicated semester including a Memory Conference held earlier this year and other future Dedicated Semester events.
Dr. Wohlford attended a conference in January 2018 in Washington DC where all of the grant recipients explained what they were doing with the funding in regard to the humanities. “I was proud of our project because the humanities weren’t playing the supporting role to any STEM discipline” said Dr. Wohlford. “We put the humanities in the spotlight.”
In May 2018, Fontbonne hosted a conference in collaboration with the Missouri History Museum on the study of memory. The international conference hosted speakers from all over the world who presented on a plethora of topics. One of the most interesting? Fontbonne’s Dr. Kelly Lane-deGraaf—Assistant Professor of Biology—explored and explained how the DNA in raccoons relates to the human experience and memory in St. Louis.
“We just want students!” enthuses Dr. Wohlford. The humanities are generally associated with teaching, and rightly so: the study of the humanities provides a strong base of reading, writing, and communication skills, allowing any individual to potentially become an educator.
These four special courses will connect the humanities (English, Language, History, Literature, etc.) to other disciplines, such as Psychology and the Library Sciences. The four courses are:
- Memory and the Human Experience
- Genocide, Migration, and Transgenerational Memory: The Case of Bosnia
- Memory and Public History
- Collective Memory, Migration, and Identity in American Culture
THE CRAZY CHART
What started as a wall of sticky notes eventually became a uber-detailed flow chart. The chart (pictured below) depicts the “synergy” between each of the courses and the connections that the disciplines make, as well as what they already have in common.
All of these foci—from historical topics like immigration to scientific topics like the repression of memory—intertwine to provide a new context to, a new perspective of, and a new appreciation of memory for each individual participating in the course.
Information released within this article came from the university’s project proposal, as well as an interview with Dr. Corinne Wohlford, Project Director.
For more information about the four courses or the Memory project, please contact Dr. Corinne Wohlford at firstname.lastname@example.org