The Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians has been awarded funding from the American Historical Association’s Grants to Sustain and Advance the Work of Historical Organizations Program, which provides relief to institutions adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This opportunity was made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The Berkshire Conference’s project is entitled Creating Student Affiliates and Speakers’ Networks to Diversify and Expand Women’s Histories and Reach. The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians will be developing a two-part pilot program to address one of the central challenges that the discipline of history faces: declining enrollment, particularly as it is shaped by the discipline’s poor performance recruiting and retaining women and students of color and by students questioning the value of historical work. This program includes developing pilot student chapters of the organization at six diverse institutions: Norfolk State University, Santa Clara University, Texas State University, University of California, Irvine, Western Kentucky University, and William & Mary. Each institution will be selecting undergraduate and/or graduate student fellows as vital participants in this process. The Berkshire Conference will also broaden its outreach by developing a speakers’ network which will emphasize speakers whose expertise focuses on history relevant to questions of social justice and/or diverse histories, experiences, and voices. The Berkshire Conference will promote these speakers and the potential for virtual visits to a broader network of institutions with significant student of color populations. Together, these initiatives, and the data and feedback collected through these pilot programs, will facilitate collaborations across differently configured institutions, develop student mentorship opportunities, and create models to recruit and retain all women and men of color into the discipline. The pilot’s emphasis on programming that historicizes social justice and centers diverse histories will also contribute to the discipline’s broader efforts to articulate its value to students, particularly students underrepresented in the field.
The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians is one of fifty grant recipients, which include site-based organizations, membership associations, and history departments at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Like the Berkshire Conference, each of these recipients will implement short-term projects that explore new ideas or build on experiments initiated during the pandemic—from online programming or publications to using new technologies or expanding audiences and accessibility.
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April 8, 2022