In March 2021, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) released a report that identifies effective strategies for reversing declines in humanities majors and enrollments titled Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities: A Comprehensive Resource. The report features a case study about the Water in Central Eurasia project, an NEH funded project for which World History Center Director Dr. Ruth Mostern was the co-PI alongside PI Dr. Nancy Condee, the Director of Pitt's Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (REEES). The project was also sponsored by Pitt's Asian Studies Center.
The project’s goal was to strengthen interdisciplinary connections among Pitt faculty and students across the humanities, social sciences, and pre-professional programs in business and engineering. The project resulted in the development of a three-course series taught in different departments: Water Past: Climate Change in the Pre-industrial Era (history); Water Present: Engineering in the Industrial Post-Empire (political science); and Water Future: Encounters in the Anthropocene (business).
The NHA described the Water in Central Eurasia project as one that fostered a highly visible curricular innovation and in doing so, elevated the profile of the humanities at the University of Pittsburgh. Innovative curriculum, noted the report, is an important strategy to demonstrate the value of the humanities to students and the public.
The report also praised the initiative for its success in forging connections between the humanities and other schools at the University, in particular the schools of business and engineering. As an interdisciplinary project by design, the three courses were successful in providing impactful humanities experiences to students who can sometimes face barriers in accessing them. The report quotes WHC Director Ruth Mostern as saying: “Humanistic thinking is most vibrant and transformative when it is placed in dialogue with other modes of inquiry. This initiative has demonstrated how eager students are to enrich all their courses with insights about history, culture, and the arts.”
To read more about the Water in Central Eurasia Project in the report, visit pages 43-44