About the Teaching Institutes

In 2019, the MLA was awarded a grant by the Mellon Foundation to strengthen the teaching of English at access-oriented institutions (AOIs) — community colleges and other colleges that prioritize access over selectivity in admissions. Between 2019 and 2022, the association organized eight regional summer institutes for those who teach at AOIs and those who would like to make their teaching careers at them.

Over four years, the grant allowed 150 doctoral students and instructors at AOIs (community colleges and other colleges that prioritize access over selectivity in admissions) to participate in week-long summer institutes in different regions of the United States, conduct pedagogical research projects the following semester, and present their work at an MLA Annual Convention or on the MLA Commons.  Graduates from the program were awarded an MLA Certificate in Reading-Writing Pedagogy at Access-Oriented Institutions.

The MLA Teaching Institutes are part of the MLA’s efforts to develop regional professional-development programming and to promote the humanities at institutions that prioritize access. AOIs enroll many first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and students of color—groups that are often discouraged from pursuing the humanities. “Students at access-oriented institutions deserve the opportunity to take courses that help them develop a foundation for lifelong learning, not just ones that train them for a specific job,” said Paula M. Krebs, the executive director of the MLA. “To encourage these students to study the humanities, we need to make sure they have instructors who understand their needs.”

The institutes:

  • provide new and future faculty members with an understanding of the needs and circumstances of students at AOIs;
  • provide new and future faculty members with intensive training in pedagogical theory and practices for the teaching of writing and reading together to improve writing instruction at AOIs and to nurture the study of the humanities in diverse educational settings;
  • develop strategies for locally sustaining the collaborations started by the institutes; and
  • renew conversation in the profession about relations among literature, composition, and the humanities and build stronger connections between introductory writing courses and upper-level humanities courses.

The first of the Mellon Foundation–funded institutes took place in the summer of 2019 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of Washington, Seattle.  The 2020 institutes were postponed, but cohorts selected for that year attend ed summer institutes online in 2021 at Columbia University, NY; Sonoma State University, CA; and East Tennessee State University, TN.

The institute at East Tennessee State University devoted special attention to teaching at community colleges and HBCUs. The institute at Sonoma State  University devoted special attention to teaching at community colleges and HSIs.

The final round of institutes took place in-person during the summer of 2022 at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, California State University, Los Angeles, and Princeton University. 

The institute at California State University, Los Angeles once again devoted special attention to teaching at community colleges and HSIs. The institute at Princeton University devoted special attention to indigenous rhetorics.

The planning for the creation of the MLA Teaching Institutes was supported by a generous grant from the Teagle Foundation, awarded in March 2018.

In 2022, the MLA sought a Sustaining Humanities Infrastructure Program (SHIP) grant from the Nation Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in order to sustain work on the Teaching Institutes. 

The MLA sought a SHIP grant to address COVID-related losses for the program. Teaching Institute site institutions were not prepared to build programming and partnerships in the face of the pandemic. The loss of a year of institutes in 2020 and the move to a virtual format in 2021 kept the MLA from being able to build strong regional networks to follow-up on the success of the Teaching Institutes and to establish continuing and locally funded institutes in the host regions. 

With funding from SHIP, the MLA was able to move forward with facilitating another summer of Teaching Institutes to be hosted by regional partnerships of universities and community colleges that will collaborate to create institutes that can be sustainable and address local needs and circumstances. The 2023 hosts were:

  • Brandeis University and Middlesex Community College
  • George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham and Jefferson State Community College
  • University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College. 

The institutes were organized and co-taught by teams of experienced faculty members, one from each regional host institution, who will receive training about the MLA Teaching Institute curriculum at the 2023 MLA annual convention. The 2023 faculty teams were:

  • Darin Jensen, professor of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies at Salt Lake Community College, and Christie Toth, professor of Writing and Rhetoric Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Utah
  • Leslie Goetsch, professor of English at George Mason University and Director of the Northern Virginia Writing Project, and Chris Kervina, Interim Associate Dean at Northern Virginia Community College and PhD candidate in Writing and Rhetoric at George Mason University
  • Paige Eggebrecht, Faculty Advisor to the Writing Center and Lecturer in the Writing Program at Brandeis University, and Nicholas Papas, professor and program coordinator of ALP and Reading at Middlesex Community College (MA)
  • Christopher Minnix, professor of English at University of Alabama, Birmingham, and Connie Caskey, Chair of Communications at Jefferson State Community College (AL).

In 2023, the MLA received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to support a new initiative: Pathways: Recruitment, Retention, and Career Readiness. With this grant, we are able to continue offering the MLA Institutes on Reading and Writing Pedagogy at AOIs. Stay tuned for announcements about the 2024 hosts!

Further details about the application process will be posted in February 2024. Applications will be accepted from doctoral students in English and related fields and from new faculty members  at access-oriented institutions. Applicants must reside in the region of the institution hosting the institute to which they are applying.

Project Manager: Mai Hunt
Modern Language Association
85 Broad Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10004
E-mail: mhunt@mla.org