NEH Grant Connects Criminal Justice, Humanities

PARAMUS, N.J. – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $35,000 Humanities Connections Grant to Bergen Community College to expand the role of the humanities in the College’s criminal justice courses. Selected from 139 proposals, Bergen was the only community college in New Jersey to be awarded NEH’s Humanities Connections grant this cycle. The grant aims to educate communities about law enforcement and empower future law enforcement officers to work with diverse communities through humanities, literature, and art.

“We are confident that this combination of integrated academic experiences and practical hands-on application will benefit our criminal justice students, and by extension, our criminal justice system and our society as a whole,” project co-director Eileen Fitzgerald, assistant professor of English, said.

“We are taking and offering a humanistic approach to policing,” project co-director Richard Kuiters, criminal justice department chair, said. “The community wants highly aware law enforcement who have strong communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

According to the pair, a series of classes will be tailored for criminal justice students in a three-pronged approach of interdisciplinary courses, a capstone project, and community interaction. The cohort of students will experience an integrated learning environment where they will be exposed to a greater variety of narratives in text, film, art and music to enrich their critical thinking and communication skills to prepare them for the workforce.

The project embraces the College’s larger vision for an interdisciplinary approach between skills-based training and the humanities. For example, to create a field-based experience, the program will collaborate with the New Jersey Police Chiefs’ Association as well as other local professional organizations and potential employers. The program will be articulated with a comparable baccalaureate degree program at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Students will also have the opportunity to apply their classroom studies to service learning projects.

Set to begin during the summer 2019 term, instructors from art, history, literature, philosophy and religion will collaborate with instructors from criminal justice and legal studies to design learning communities and contextualized courses that integrate concepts, readings, assignments, and competencies with a criminal justice theme.

“The planning committee is very excited about receiving this grant because the generosity of the National Endowment for the Humanities will enrich the pre-professional experiences of our criminal justice students,” Fitzgerald said.

Bergen’s popular criminal justice program includes approximately 850 students who seek to enter positions in law enforcement, homeland security, corrections, forensic science, private security and legal services.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the NEH and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 14,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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