The Environmental Stewardship, Place, and Community Initiative

The humanities-led Environmental Stewardship, Place and Community Initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, began summer 2019. This $1,077,000 grant centers on Indigenous epistemologies and concepts, working with faculty, staff, and students on the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris campuses, and in collaboration with community partners. This initiative will reach across Minnesota and further the mission of research, education and outreach at the University.

Read the press announcement here!

Over the next three years, the IAS will establish and sustain a network of UMN-system scholars and community partners to focus on:

  • creating collaborative work that centers on culturally informed community engagement and place-based knowledge, which promotes responses to environmental challenges and new learning rooted in the unique local conditions, history, environment, culture, economy, literature and art;
  • developing new curricula that integrate diverse ways of knowing and inclusion of Indigenous research methodologies and concepts of environmental stewardship within the humanities;
  • encouraging Indigenous and other underrepresented students to see themselves included in the academy, demonstrating the value of studying the humanities and arts for their own aspirations;
  • addressing critical environmental challenges facing our local and global communities through collective response at the intersection of place, community, and stewardship.

By incorporating local community-based participatory research and Indigenous epistemologies, the University of Minnesota is seeking to expand the methods of the humanities and create greater intellectual diversity in the academy. This initiative will amplify efforts to decolonize our university and serve as a national model in the humanities by establishing a systematic approach for integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and research methodologies in humanities scholarship.

The Environmental Stewardship, Place, and Community Initiative includes these key components:

  • A foundational year of collective intellectual engagement, consultation, and community listening by faculty and community partners.
  • An Environmental Stewards cohort composed of faculty, staff, students, and community partners from three University of Minnesota campus communities.
  • A Summer Institute where cohort members will forge their connections and set agendas for their community-engaged scholarship and curriculum development.
  • Guidance on Indigenous epistemology and methods from Critical Indigenous Studies scholars.
  • Community participatory research and activities in each campus community that tie community concerns about environmental issues to humanistic inquiry informed by Indigenous perspectives.
  • Workshops, activities, and mentoring for Indigenous and underrepresented undergraduates and graduate students that demonstrate strengths of the humanities and arts.
  • Development of humanities environmental stewardship curricula and learning modules drawn from academic and community knowledge, the work of the cohort, and related campus initiatives.
  • Support for knowledge sharing through digital platforms, including the Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community online journal.
  • Capstone symposium to disseminate results.

Leadership Team:

PI: Jennifer Gunn, History of Medicine Endowed Professor and Director of the UMN Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)

  • Project Manager, Laurie Moberg
  • Faculty Advisor in Critical Indigenous Studies: Christine Taitano DeLisle, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies
  • University of Minnesota Duluth: Roxanne Biidabinokwe Gould, Associate Professor of Indigenous Education
  • University of Minnesota Duluth: Wendy Smythe, Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies, and Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • University of Minnesota Morris: Becca Gercken, Associate Professor of English, and Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • University of Minnesota Morris: Kevin Whalen, Assistant Professor of History, and Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities: Christine Bauemler, Professor of Art
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities: Vicente M. Diaz, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities: C̣aƞte Máza (Neil McKay), Dakota Language Specialist, American Indian Studies

Get Involved

Are you interested in being involved in this project? Over time, we will be posting about ways you can contribute your ideas and join the initiative. There will be opportunities for students (graduate and undergraduate), faculty, staff, and community members to be involved. If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].