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Participating In NEH Summer Institute A Privilege For Kelleher

Published: December 18, 2012

History’s Marie Kelleher participated in the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for College and University Professors held in Barcelona in July to explore the theme “Networks and Knowledge: Synthesis and Innovation in the Muslim-Christian-Jewish Medieval Mediterranean.”

The NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes touch on a number of themes including the Middle Ages as seen from the point of view of the medieval Mediterranean. They are meant to support faculty development programs in the humanities for school teachers and for college and university teachers. NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics, texts, and issues; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build a community of inquiry and provide models of civility and excellent scholarship and teaching; and promote effective links between teaching and research in the humanities.

“This was a wonderful opportunity. I felt pleased, honored and privileged to be invited to participate,” said Kelleher, a member of the university since 2003. “An opportunity like this brings you together with faculty members from all over the United States and from several different disciplines. There also was a chance for graduate students to participate. We all learned together.”

The seminar’s theme of “Networks and Knowledge” focused on the interaction and transmission of information between Jews, Christians and Muslims living around the Mediterranean Sea when medieval Barcelona was a center for religious, social and economic interaction.

One reason for Kelleher’s invitation to the seminar, she believes, is the series’ goal of attracting participants who work on research or pedagogical projects.

“In my case, it was both,” she said. “My research focuses on the medieval city of Barcelona and, at CSULB, I am responsible for the History Department’s course on the medieval Mediterranean. But when I attended graduate school, I was not trained as a Mediterranean historian. Here was a great opportunity for me to learn from some of the finest names in the field. It was a real honor and privilege. I learned an incredible amount and I was very excited to have the opportunity.”

Kelleher is a recipient of the $40,000 Solmsen Postdoctoral Fellowship funded through the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research in the Humanities in 2007. Her skill set includes paleography, Latin, French and German. Her next book, The Measure of Woman: Law and Female Identity in the Medieval Crown of Aragon is due from the University of Pennsylvania Press. She earned her B.A. from Portland’s Lewis and Clark College as well as her M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval History (the latter in 2003) from the University of Kansas.

The opportunities to network were everywhere, Kelleher recalls. “It was a transformative experience,” she said. “It created the kind of situation where a discussion revealed a world-class expert on the topic sitting beside you. In the aftermath of the conference, I wanted to keep the conversation going so I set up a Facebook group to continue the exchange of information. I feel there is a misunderstanding about scholarship being an essentially solitary job. That can be true. I have spent a lot of time in libraries and archives. But scholarship is collaborative. There is only so far we can go on our own. We need the chance at seminars like this to interact with other scholars. You are surrounded by people thinking about the same ideas you are. They are dedicated to learning. Not only were we thinking more; we were thinking better.”

Kelleher encourages other faculty members to seek out travel. “It offers fantastic opportunities and there is nothing to lose by applying,” she said. “It is an opportunity to extensively workshop a project that you may have wanted to do for a long time. It is a chance to get feedback on your work from experts. It was a fantastic privilege to attend this conference and I would highly encourage any and everybody to apply.”

–Richard Manly