Project Yellowstone at CCM Awarded Humanities COVID-19 Response Grant

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In 2019, the “Project Yellowstone” team at County College of Morris (CCM)  Dr. Michelle Iden, Professor Samantha Gigliotti, Dr. Maria Isaza, and Professor John Soltes traveled to Yellowstone National Park for an exploratory and education trip. “Project Yellowstone” recently received a New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH) COVID-19 Response Grant. Photo Credit: Project Yellowstone at County College of Morris

MORRIS COUNTY — “Project Yellowstone,” an academic interdisciplinary program at County College of Morris (CCM) was one of 82 organizations statewide to receive a New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH) COVID-19 Response grant.

The award-winning “Project Yellowstone” is part of a CCM Community and Civic Engagement initiative that offers high-impact, interdisciplinary programs.  “Project Yellowstone” brings together the academic disciplines of history, journalism, and biology to enhance student learning and community engagement. Programs offered on and off-campus focus on environmental history and conservation via the lens of the National Park system and has served over 500 students each year.

“This NJCH grant means ‘Project Yellowstone’ will be able to continue with programming that allows for student and community engagement of the public humanities at a critical time.” said Dr. Michelle Iden, History and Political Science Department and “Project Yellowstone” faculty member at CCM.

Three years ago Iden, Professor Samantha Gigliotti, biology and chemistry, Dr. Maria Isaza, biology and chemistry, and Professor John Soltes, communication, developed and implemented “Project Yellowstone.”  For the past two years, they have traveled to Yellowstone National Park to create greater awareness about conservation and protected lands and to share their experiences with CCM students and the public.  In October 2020, the team had scheduled an experience of a lifetime for six CCM students for an educational and exploratory trip to Yellowstone National Park. Due to COVID-19, the educational trip was indefinitely postponed. They are hoping to travel to the National Park in May 2021.

“This award is a testament to the quality of the program and the hard work of a very creative group of faculty.  Students are learning about the natural environment from several perspectives and coming to understand how different academic disciplines work together,” said John Marlin, vice president of Academic Affairs at CCM.

According to NJCH, CARES Act funding, allocated through the NEH, allowed NJCH to build a brand new COVID-19 Response Grant program. Funds were made available as operational and programmatic support for nonprofit organizations that provide humanities programming to public audiences and who are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NJCH grant will help “Project Yellowstone” programming scheduled for Fall Semester 2020 and Spring Semester 2021.  In September, a guided tour of the Great Swamp in Morristown will be given by Professor Samantha Gigliotti via a video-conferencing tool. A public book discussion of John Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” will occur in October. Dr. Shane Doyle, Native American Scholar and member of the Crow nation will give a public zoom presentation. Rounding out the Fall Semester programming will be a faculty and staff book discussion of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Complete details of other “Project Yellowstone” programming will be forthcoming when adjustments are decided upon corresponding to the pandemic.

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