DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER
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NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers
From the Yucatan to the 'Halls of Montezuma'
Mesoamerican Cultures and Their Histories
July 14 to August 8, 2008
University of Oregon
We enthusiastically invite you to apply to attend our summer institute “From the Yucatan to the 'Halls of Montezuma' - Mesoamerican Cultures and Their Histories,” where we will share with you the latest discoveries in archaeology, ethnohistory, and art history, exploring the cultures and histories of Mesoamerica, particularly of that area we now know as Mexico. We will offer readings and presentations about Mesoamerica and some of its better-known culture groups, including the Olmecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Mayas, and Nahuas (Aztecs). We will learn about what sculpture can convey about society, the nature of creation stories, recent understandings of the Maya "Classic" period and its supposed "collapse," the great leaps forward that have come with the cracking of the Maya code, and the growing depth of understanding of the Mesoamerican ballgame and its complex significance. We will hear suggestions about how to teach the topic of human sacrifice, experience a hands-on approach to studying ceramics, and enjoy a film series about Pre-Columbian cities, with tips about incorporating new visual technologies into your curriculum.
Our institute will also explore some new ways of viewing the European conquest through the eyes of the indigenous people who struggled to survive and preserve the remnants of ancient traditions while also adopting and adapting some of what was new, including Christianity. Historical narratives and pictorial records, written and painted in native languages and pictographic styles, will receive special attention for the light they shed on the Spanish colonial experience for native peoples. We will have three sessions that highlight women, in general, as well as two iconic figures, in particular -- Malinche and the Virgin of Guadalupe (Tonantzin). Modern Amerindian perspectives on Mesoamerica will conclude the content component of our institute, showing us how to bring sensitivity to our studies and the advantages of learning native languages and collaborating with indigenous communities.
We are assembling a top-notch team of specialists in Mesoamerica, including two colleagues from Mexico, three from across the nation, and five from our own campus. But let us first introduce ourselves, the co-directors, whose introduction will help us highlight the fact that this institute offers yet another special dimension -- the use of technology to access, interpret, and teach Mesoamerican cultures and their histories. Judith Musick, Director of the Wired Humanities Project at the University of Oregon and an early member of the international movement to establish the new "inter-discipline" of digital humanities, will direct the technology component of this institute. She is assembling a team of experts who will share their skills in working with still images, slide presentations, and simple video editing, all with an eye to enhancing curriculum development. She will also explore with us, more generally, the ways in which digital humanities methods can present unique approaches to cultural heritage materials for scholars and teachers.
Stephanie Wood, author of four books, dozens of articles on Mesoamerica, and a co-editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies' "Mesoamerican Ethnohistory" series since 1995, is directing the Mesoamerican content portion of the institute. She is a specialist in pictorial and textual manuscripts produced in indigenous communities of New Spain. She and Musick collaborate at the University of Oregon on the Mapas Project, which has benefited from a two-year NEH grant, 2006–08. This is a digital resource that will feature prominently in the institute, along with the Virtual Mesoamerican Archive (VMA), a finding aid and repository for Mesoamerican heritage materials at Oregon and around the globe. Building the VMA over the past half-dozen years has helped Wood keep abreast of the latest developments in all aspects of Mesoamerican cultures and histories.
Additional members of the core faculty, from the University of Oregon, include Robert Haskett, a history professor who shares with Wood an expertise in ethnohistory, co-editing with her the HLAS, and brings to the institute his special familiarity with religion, pre- and post-conquest; and, Lynn Stephen, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, with twenty-five years visiting and studying what is now Oaxaca, Mexico, who will introduce us to the Mixtecs and Zapotecs and discuss important social, political, economic, and religious aspects of their societies.
Faculty coming from other institutions include Professor Carolyn Tate, who has expertise as a curator for museum exhibits and experience researching the better-known Pre-Classic civilization, the Olmecs, among other cultures; Sandra Noble, Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI), who is a specialist in the Classic Maya; Professor Marc Zender, an epigrapher from Harvard who will give us a lesson in reading Maya glyphs; and John Sullivan and Delfina de la Cruz from an institute in Zacatecas, Mexico, who will lead the final workshop on indigenous perspectives on Mesoamerican studies.
We welcome your special qualifications, to add to the fascinating mix of people and topics at this institute. We especially welcome social studies teachers who desire to enrich their History and Social Studies courses with more Mesoamerican content, whether for the sake of their students of Mexican heritage or to prepare everyone with a better appreciation of the civilizations and cultures of the ancient Americas. We are eager to have social studies teachers participate who may be experiencing an influx of Latino students in their classrooms, and who wish to understand and appreciate that heritage better for themselves as well as to cover topics (with more expertise) that will be of interest to such students and/or their classmates.
The co-directors are both former history teachers, and while we are targeting social studies teachers, we will also consider accepting a few applicants who teach Spanish and aspire to augment their lesson plans with more Mesoamerican cultural content. Professor Wood has taught colonial literature courses in Spanish, and although she speaks Spanish and works with Nahuatl translation, language teaching is not her area of expertise. Presentations and discussions at the institute will all be in English; Spanish is not a requirement, but it would be an asset, in so far as readers of Spanish will be able to take advantage of more of the electronic resources we will be offering.
We also hope many of our applicants will be seeking some assistance with technologies that may enhance their curricular materials and we will welcome those who come already armed with special technical skills they are willing to share with others. We will ask all participants, once selected, to provide an indication of their knowledge of some basic technology, so that we will be better prepared to offer workshops that will benefit you. Although not a requirement, we ask that all participants bring their own laptop computer if they have one. As our labs will be primarily stocked with Macs, this is especially important for those who prefer PCs.
The institute will span four weeks. We will meet Monday through Thursday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with optional workshops offered on Fridays. You will be free on weekends. We will begin each weekday with a half-hour "homeroom" coffee period and we will make the last hour of each day an optional lab time. Lunch breaks will last 90 minutes. It will be during the third week that films will be screened, between 7:30 and 9:30 PM (attendance optional). Typical of an NEH institute, we will have more lectures and discussions and less emphasis on independent work. That said, we ask that participants come to every lecture and presentation with a list of comments or questions from the assigned readings to present to the speakers for their consideration during their lectures.
Besides participating in discussions and presenting feedback from the readings, participants, working in teams of two or three, will develop model lessons for their courses, utilizing the content and resources being made available to them. The last two days of the institute will be devoted to participant presentations of such new or reshaped lesson plans. We will also provide space on our institute web site for sharing all resulting curricular materials within and outside our group.
The institute directors will be available at the homeroom sessions and during lunch hours, where participants may approach them with specific questions or to make individual appointments. We will also have a master teacher, Ron Lancaster from the College of Education, available at the same time; his job will be to encourage discussions on curricular applications of the institute content. Our institute website provides our daily schedule and the syllabus with readings, most of which can be consulted in advance of arrival in Eugene.
Stipends: Participants will receive $3,000 to help cover their transportation to and from Eugene, housing, and other living and educational expenses. This amount will be disbursed in two checks, one-half upon arrival and the other half midway through the project (unless you request our help making a housing deposit on your behalf to the university). If you accept housing in the university dorm, you will need to authorize us to deduct a housing deposit from your first check.
Housing: While participants are free to make their own housing arrangement, we have reserved housing on campus in a centrally located dormitory, Carson Hall. Participants can choose either a single or double occupancy room. All have sinks and access to a shared bathroom and shower. The cost of a single room is $42 per night; a double room is $30 per night per person. If you wish help linking up with someone else in the institute in order to share a room, please let us know and we will see if we can put you together. We anticipate that participants will arrive by (and check-in with us on) Sunday, July 13, and depart on Saturday, August 9. Therefore, the full cost of housing will be for 27 nights ($1176 for a single room; $810 for a double room). Please visit the UO Conference Center website to learn more about the dormitory (http://conferences.uoregon.edu).
Meals: Three meals a day can be purchased in either Carson or Hamilton cafeterias at the rate of $25/day (or separately $7.50 for breakfast, $7.75 for lunch, and $9.75 for dinner -- all you can eat).
Courtesy Appointment: As mentioned above, participants will be offered a courtesy appointment as a "visiting scholar" at the University of Oregon, which will come with full library privileges, a University of Oregon email account, and access to many campus facilities. For the unpaid courtesy appointment with the Center for the Study of Women in Society, participants will be sent a form to complete. This status will give participants important ID numbers for use on campus, and enable those who wish to purchase Photo IDs at a cost of $5 for the ID card.
Library and computer resources: Participants of this institute, all of whom will be offered courtesy appointments as University of Oregon visiting scholars, will have access to our research library, the Knight Library. Computers are available in the Knight Library for bibliographic searches, Internet access, and for e-mail. The library is open in the evenings during summer session; see this web page for library hours: http://libweb.uoregon.edu/acs_svc/hours.html. We are also providing assisted computer lab time every day from 4:00 to 5:00 PM at the Yamada Language Center, where computers will be equipped with additional software for developing curricular materials, such as slide shows and video clips. Those who bring their own laptops will find Internet connections available in their dorm rooms. We will also be making available a huge number of Mesoamerican digital resources to institute participants -- materials that they will have permission to download and incorporate into their lesson plans.
University and Continuing Education Credit: We will graduate credits (Pass/Not Pass) in Education or History to those who are interested; please indicate your interest in this option and we will see what we can do to help. All participants will also receive, on letterhead, a letter acknowledging their participation in the four-week institute that they may use to request continuing education credit from their home school districts.
Recreational and Cultural Opportunities: Eugene, Oregon is a wonderful place to be in the summer. It is located between two spectacular rivers, the Willamette and the MacKenzie, and within an hour drive of the Oregon coast and the beautiful Cascade mountain range. You will have just missed the 2007 Olympic Trials that will be held at the UO from June 27 - July 6, 2008, but Eugene is a spectacular place in the summer with plenty to do in town and a myriad of recreational opportunities within an hour’s drive. Visit our Institute website for links to recreational and cultural events.
Application information is included with this letter. Your completed application should be postmarked no later than March 3, 2008 and addressed as follows: Stephanie Wood, Wired Humanities Project, 1201 University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1201. Perhaps the most important part of the application is the essay that must be submitted as part of the complete application. This essay should include any personal and academic information that is relevant; reasons for applying to the particular institute; your interest, both intellectual and personal, in the topic; qualifications to do the work of the project and make a contribution to it; what you hope to accomplish by participation, including any individual research and writing projects; and the relation of the study to your teaching.
Again, we appreciate your interest and invite you to apply to participate in our Institute. We have additional information, including detailed a syllabus and bibliography on our website http://whp.uoregon.edu/mesoinstitute/. If you have additional questions, please contact Stephanie Wood by email (email@example.com) or telephone (541-346-5771).
Stephanie Wood and Judith Musick
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.