Humanities Advocacy

The Society of Architectural Historians advocates for the increase of federal funding streams that support scholars affiliated with SAH. One of the key ways it does so is through its membership in the National Humanities Alliance, a coalition of organizations that advocates for federal funding for humanities research, teaching, programming, and preservation and access.

NHA monitors and cultivates support for the following agencies and programs:

NHA Quarterly Columns

NHA Quarterly Column: Introducing Our Impact Survey Toolkit

by Cecily Hill, NEH for All project director | Apr 21, 2020

As of this writing, colleges and universities around the nation have closed their doors; most have shifted to online learning. In-person public programs are on pause, indefinitely. For the majority of us, large components of our work have come to a screeching halt, while we have had to abruptly shift to scores of new personal and professional challenges.

At the National Humanities Alliance, we are continuing our work to document the impact of the humanities in a variety of contexts, but with a particular eye toward how humanities organizations and institutions are serving their communities and constituencies during this challenging time. We are also using this time to support humanities faculty, practitioners, and organizations as they plan for the future.

With this in mind, we are launching a new resource for humanities faculty, practitioners, and organizations. Our new toolkit, Documenting the Impact of Your Humanities Program, is aimed at helping the humanities community collect data about the impact of programs such as professional development seminars, public humanities projects, and programs for students that prepare them for college and help them imagine humanities careers. By collecting this data, you can better make the case for the impact of your work and the resources to support it.

With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, since 2018 our NEH for All initiative has been helping National Endowment for the Humanities grantees document their impact through surveys of participants in their programs. In partnership with project directors, we’ve designed and implemented pre- and post-program surveys that take into account the programs’ immediate goals and their broader social impacts, including impacts on trust, empathy, community connection, and appreciation for and pride in local culture and heritage. Our goal has been to help these partners collect information that makes the case for their work to a range of stakeholders, including funders, organizational leadership, and policymakers. The surveys are designed to be broadly useful for humanities faculty and practitioners in highlighting and evaluating their programs.

The toolkit includes:

  • An introduction to impact-driven surveys;
  • Information about why to survey, how to construct a survey, and how to administer a survey; and
  • Advice for interpreting and using your data.

Many programs that we have surveyed to date took place on college campuses, and the toolkit also includes a suite of editable surveys that can be used in programs run by faculty. These include:

  • Pre- and post-program surveys for a humanities summer bridge program offered to first-generation college students. Among other measures, this survey includes questions about college preparedness, interest in internships with humanities organizations, and understanding of and interest in the humanities.
  • Pre- and post-program surveys for two faculty professional development seminars, one focused on an oral history program and the other on integrating local culture and authors into humanities classrooms. The surveys focus on access to resources, the benefits of building interdisciplinary communities of practice, and gains in content knowledge and capacities appropriate to the curricula.
  • Pre- and post-program surveys for humanities courses designed specifically for veterans, aimed at helping them reflect on their experiences through humanities texts. These surveys assess how these courses respond to some of veterans’ specific needs, such as help dealing with social isolation and building community. They also assess how humanities resources (art, film, literature, etc.) promote self-reflection and understanding.

Additionally, sample survey questions, grouped according to impact, are designed to help you build strong surveys that document your program’s strengths. In addition to using these questions as they are presented, you can adapt many of them for pre- and post-program surveys, making your evaluations even stronger. These questions have been tested—we’ve used them across many programs and found them successful.

These surveys have provided us with compelling insights into how humanities programs—from professional development seminars to reading and discussion programs—have an impact on higher education institutions, their faculty and students, and the communities they serve. They have also provided our partners and us with robust quantitative and qualitative data that speaks to the humanities’ broad-ranging impacts and can be used to engage policymakers, funders, leadership, and the public.

During this crisis, we know that humanities courses and programs are continuing to offer crucial opportunities for people to learn, reflect, and engage in dialogue. And we know that they will provide still more significant opportunities for reflection and connection in the months and years to come. As you plan for the future, we hope that you find this toolkit useful. And we want to hear from you! If you have questions or need advice, please contact Emily McDonald at emcdonald@nhalliance.org.

About the National Humanities Alliance

The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is a nationwide coalition of organizations advocating for the humanities on campuses, in communities, and on Capitol Hill. Founded in 1981, NHA is supported by over 200 member organizations, including colleges, universities, libraries, museums, cultural organizations, state humanities councils, and scholarly, professional, and higher education associations. It is the only organization that brings together the U.S. humanities community as a whole.

What they do:

  • Cultivate support for federal funding for the humanities
  • Promote the public value of the humanities
  • Promote the value of studying the humanities
  • Convene the humanities community to explore best practices for advocating for the humanities on campuses, in communities, and on Capitol Hill

Promoting the Humanities on Capitol Hill

NHA advocates for federal funding for the humanities and policies that promote engagement with the humanities. It hosts Humanities Advocacy Day each March, during which state delegations travel to Capitol Hill, and supports year-round advocacy in congressional districts. When a high volume of constituent letters promises to sway congressional opinions on a legislative issue, NHA issues action alerts to its members, to its large mailing list of advocates, and on social media. To ensure that their advocacy is effective as possible, NHA supports advocates’ efforts by researching the impact of federal funding for the humanities and creating resources that communicate the value of the humanities.  

Promoting the Humanities on Campuses

NHA supports faculty, administrators, and scholarly societies in making the case for the value of the humanities in a higher ed context. Through their Study the Humanities initiative, they have developed a toolkit that compiles quantitative and qualitative data on the benefits of studying the humanities as an undergraduate. They are also surveying the field for on-campus strategies that have successfully reversed declining enrollments in the humanities and will share these effective strategies with the higher ed community over the coming year. Through their Humanities for All initiative, they have collected over 1,800 examples of publicly engaged work at higher ed institutions. This collection of examples allow them to support scholars in deepening their publicly engaged practice and showcasing the value of their work.

Promoting the Humanities in Communities 

NHA promotes public engagement with the humanities with the logic that the more people engage with the humanities, the more supportive of the humanities they will become. Through their NEH for All initiative, they are documenting the impact of humanities research, preservation, teaching, and programming in communities across the country. They harness the results of this impact research to make the case for the broad public value of the humanities and the need for public and private investment in the humanities ecosystem.

More information on NHA’s activities can be found here.

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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
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