GVSU receives portion of $36.6 million in grants to create summer institute

Phyllis Vandenberg, professor of philosophy, will co-direct the 2016 summer institute
Phyllis Vandenberg, professor of philosophy, will co-direct the 2016 summer institute

A Grand Valley project is among 212 humanities projects by institutions and independent scholars in 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to receive funding from a portion of $36.6 million in grants from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). 

Grand Valley will be receiving more than $150,000 to fund a four-week institute for college and university teachers entitled “Moral Psychology and Education: Putting the Humanities to Work" during the summer of 2016.

Phyllis Vandenberg, institute co-director and professor of philosophy, explained that the institute aims to create discussions about the positive benefits of the humanities in education through a rigorous examination of the moral psychology behind effective moral education.

“In the case of moral education, studies are showing that students who are exposed to various humanity classes and experiences are changed in ways that make them more aware of others and their influence on others,” Vandenberg said. “The research presented at the institute, and the extended research community created as a result of the institute, will continue to secure the place for the humanities in higher education.”

Vandenberg explained moral education enhances human moral development.

“It can be common to teach students what is right versus wrong and call that sufficient moral education,” she said. “However, studies have shown that there are more effective ways to educate students to be more sensitive in their decisions and understanding the impact they make on others and society.”

Moral psychology, on the other hand, is a combination of philosophy and psychology in which one studies human behavior that involves morality.

The Institute will take place in June 2016 on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus and provide 25 scholars with the necessary background in moral psychology to support the humanities as a key piece in the development of student morality. Participants will be guided by 17 internationally renowned faculty while studying texts, exploring new areas of interdisciplinary research, and developing teaching and research projects.

Vandenberg will co-direct the institute along with Deborah Mower of Youngstown State University.


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