The American Council of Learned Societies grant was made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and supports outstanding publicly engaged humanities programs

TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound was awarded an ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) Sustaining Public Engagement Grant, part of a $3.5 million responsive funding program made possible by the Sustaining the Humanities Through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Tanya Erzen
Tanya Erzen

The $109,000 grant was awarded for the project “The Critical Inquiry Collective Before and After Prison,” which will rebuild a collaborative prison reading group that disbanded due to the pandemic and publish a book about the project that reimagines reentry and intellectual community for women leaving prison after long sentences. Members of the principal project team include Tanya Erzen, director of Puget Sound's Crime, Law, and Justice Studies Program and visiting associate professor of religion, spirituality, and society, as well as Jennifer Smith, dean of equity and inclusive excellence and associate professor, Pacific Lutheran University; Kathryn Gillespie, postdoctoral scholar, University of Kentucky; Tonya Wilson; Gail Brashear; Alyssa Knight; and Felicia Dixon.

ACLS Sustaining Public Engagement Grants support public humanities programs based at accredited American colleges and universities that have experienced staffing reductions related to pandemic conditions, programming setbacks, and/or loss of institutional capacity for publicly engaged work. Puget Sound is one of 24 grantees representing outstanding public programs at a variety of public and private institutions in 18 states and Puerto Rico. Awarded programs have demonstrated a deep commitment to the co-creation of knowledge with diverse communities outside of academia and promising approaches to addressing the most pressing issues our society faces today.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is grateful to the American Council of Learned Societies for administering American Rescue Plan funding to speed economic recovery within the higher education sector,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “Our colleges and universities are important centers for public humanities, with immense potential to serve their communities through educational resources and public programs that reach broad audiences. These ARP awards will expand public access to new information and discoveries in the humanities, and foster greater collaboration between academic institutions and community partners.”

“ACLS is proud to support these outstanding examples of publicly engaged, community-centered scholarship,” said ACLS President Joy Connolly. “Direct engagement with communities beyond the walls of academia is essential to the continued creation of knowledge for the public good. At the same time, these programs will help in expanding our definitions of humanistic scholarship and in contributing to solutions for a brighter future for all.”

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 appropriated supplemental funding to the NEH to provide emergency relief to cultural organizations and educational institutions and organizations working in the humanities that have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The act recognizes that the humanities sector is an essential component of economic and civic life in the United States.

Stay updated with information about this and other ACLS fellowship and grant competitions. 


About Puget Sound 
A nationally ranked residential liberal arts and sciences college in Tacoma, Wash., University of Puget Sound enrolls 1,800 undergraduate students from across the country and around the world, as well as 300 graduate students in education, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health. A low student-faculty ratio provides Puget Sound students with personal attention from faculty members who have a strong commitment to teaching and offer 1,200 courses each year in more than 50 areas of study. Puget Sound graduates include Rhodes and Luce scholars, notables in the arts and culture, scholars and scientists, entrepreneurs and elected officials, and leaders in business and finance locally and throughout the world. A top producer of Fulbright U.S. Students, Puget Sound is the only nationally ranked independent liberal arts college in Western Washington, and one of just five independent colleges in the Northwest granted a charter by Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society.