UMKC Center for Midwestern Studies Awarded $190K NEH Grant to fund K-12 Teacher Workshops in Summer 2024

The UMKC Center for Digital and Public Humanities is pleased to announce that the Center for Midwestern Studies, which is associated with the DPH Center, has been awarded a $190,000 Landmarks of American History and Culture Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Landmarks program funds “workshops for K-12 educators that enhance and strengthen humanities teaching.” The NEH Landmark’s program funded only 16 workshops throughout the nation. Diane Mutti Burke, Sandra Enríquez, David Trowbridge, and Rachel Forester from the History Department will organize and deliver the workshops next summer.

Educators from throughout the nation will travel to UMKC in Summer 2024 to attend a week-long workshop called Wide-Open Town: Kansas City during the Jazz Age and Great Depression. Guided by a team of historians and museum professionals, the Wide-Open Town K-12 educators will gain a deeper understanding of the important role that Kansas City played in the transformation of America in the decades between the two world wars. The teachers, who will be selected through a competitive application process, will visit museums and cultural institutions, including the National WWI Museum, the Truman Library and Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Thomas Hart Benton State Historic Site, the 18th and Vine Historic District, the Country Club Plaza, and the Guadalupe Centers that illuminate this history.

At the crossroads of American transportation networks and cultural norms, Kansas City in the 1920s and 1930s typified broad trends in American history. The decades bounded by the world wars were marked by intense political, social, and economic change as the United States reluctantly took its place on the world stage while simultaneously struggling with significant challenges at home. The upheaval of World War I, the massive migration of people of color into urban America, the entrance of women into both the labor force and electoral politics, resistance to Prohibition and changing social mores, and an economic collapse and near revolution in national politics all redefined the national character. Understanding how these changes influenced Kansas City—and how the city responded—reveals how citizens of the age adapted to the rise of modern America.

Building upon the success of a previous workshop that focused on the Missouri-Kansas region in the Civil War, the Wide-Open Town workshop will mark the seventh time that UMKC has hosted a Landmarks of American History and Culture teacher program. Program director Diane Mutti Burke believes the NEH’s support for this new program reflects both the agency’s confidence in the UMKC team to deliver an excellent educational experience for the teachers and an acknowledgement of Kansas City’s important role in US history. “My colleagues and I believe that understanding this city’s history is crucial to understanding the history of the early twentieth century United States. We are excited to share this important history and the city’s wonderful historical landmarks with primary and secondary school educators from throughout the nation.”

For more information, please contact Diane Mutti Burke at

Assistant Professor of English Antonio Byrd Joins Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and Writing

In January 2023, Dr. Antonio Byrd, Assistant Professor of English, joined the Modern Languages Association (MLA) – Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Joint Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and Writing to discuss interventions in the proliferation of generative AI in reading, writing, and languages classrooms. Dr. Byrd is proud to announce that he and his colleagues have received The National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Chair’s Grant for $30,000 for this work. 

The grant will support a virtual meeting in November and a two-day in-person meeting in New York City next spring of humanities societies that represent reading, writing, and languages to discuss critical AI literacies. Anticipated participants include: Association of Research Libraries (tentative); Association of Language Departments (confirmed); College Language Association (tentative); Council of Writing Program Administrators (confirmed); International Writing Center Association (confirmed); Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and CCCC Send Language Standing Group (confirmed); and Two Year College Association (confirmed). Dr. Byrd and task force members expect to discuss topics of mutual interest, including the following: 

  • Shared priorities for generative AI interventions
  • Additional resources that the organizations can create, commission, or curate to advance critical AI literacy 
  • Planning for a gathering of language, literature, and literature professionals, convened with sessions presenting research and opportunities for conversation around AI and writing 
  • A topic for the task force’s second working paper, possibly centered on the development of critical AI literacy

As classroom instructors and students face the disruptive changes brought about by the expansion of AI, the MLA-CCC Joint Task Group will help to identify constructive approaches for those who teach students reading, writing, and languages. The Center for Digital and Public Humanities and the English Department are pleased that our UMKC colleague will play a vital role in helping educators to become more knowledgeable about the capabilities and uses of AI and consider how they might use this increasingly pervasive tool in the classroom.