A challenge grant to Bentley from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is equal parts recognition and call to action. The $395,000 award, disbursed as the university raises matching funds, advances efforts to enrich business education with rigorous work in the humanities.
NEH grant is a rare honor for business school. Valente Center Director Chris Beneke will oversee the NEH grant.
“It is extremely gratifying for a business institution to be recognized by one of the most prestigious supporters of education in the humanities,” says Dan Everett, dean of arts and sciences. “The NEH has shown an appreciation for our progressive curriculum, our leadership, and the general excellence of our faculty.”
The grant and matching contributions are earmarked for an endowment to support humanities programming at the Valente Center for Arts and Sciences. Specific initiatives include a research seminar to investigate compelling issues in literature, history, philosophy, modern languages and other areas of the humanities; short-term visits to campus by leading humanities scholars; and intensive seminars where faculty and undergraduates read and discuss “great books.”
“These initiatives capitalize on Bentley’s unique ability to shape the education and outlook of business professionals,” says Valente Center Director Chris Beneke, who submitted the proposal and serves as grant administrator. “This permanent endowment advances our work, making the humanities integral to preparing career-minded students.”
Rising to the Challenge
The terms of the NEH challenge require Bentley to raise funds in a 3-1 ratio. By the end of the grant period, in 2018, the humanities endowment should reach $1.185 million.
Beneke is convinced that alumni, parents and other donors will rise to the occasion. The center’s namesakes – Dan ’55 and Jeanne Valente – set an early standard for such support. More recently, Diane and Dennis Albano, parents of Michael ’08, funded student-run seminars that explore topics such as drama, music and politics.
“There’s an understanding now that liberal learning and a humanities-focused education help students take on more complex tasks as their careers progress,” observes Beneke, an associate professor of history who has led the Valente Center since 2008. “Students, alumni and parents expect Bentley to offer this kind of broad education.”
Community of Scholars
Two beneficiaries of NEH funds – the Visiting Scholars program and Great Books seminar – expand efforts already underway at the Valente Center. The research seminar is a wholly new endeavor that aims to engage faculty and students at Bentley and other Boston-area schools.
“We want to create a campus-based community of faculty and undergraduates, who would spend a year studying a humanities-centered topic such as religious toleration or the history of global capitalism,” explains Beneke. Over time, he adds, the seminar should raise Bentley’s profile among academic peers and the general public.
With business majors accounting for about 20 percent of college students nationwide, the NEH has impetus to support schools outside the traditional universe of liberal arts colleges.
“The NEH is recognizing that business education is an important area for them and for the nation,” says Beneke. “They see a need to increase rigor and challenge, and to ensure that business students get substantive training in the liberal arts.”
For more information about Valente Center programs and the NEH grant, visit https://www.bentley.edu/centers/valente-center.