Voices and Experiences of Poverty—A New Interdisciplinary Humanities Curriculum is a project organized by Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) faculty that aims to bring humanities materials about poverty into classrooms across the curriculum. This multi-year project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), will seed and create a new interdisciplinary curriculum with a poverty focus, in which the critical study of humanistic texts and documents about poverty inspire our students to explore their own sense of purpose, reflect on their learning, and draw parallels with their life experiences.

Many CUNY (City University of New York) students face food insecurity, housing insecurity, and homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only exacerbated these vulnerabilities, but has also given additional motivation to find creative intellectual paths forward. CUNY colleges have taken measures to address poverty at a practical level, but to empower our students and ourselves we know we need much more. It is urgent that we think together and across disciplines about our diverse historical, local, global, and personal experiences of poverty. We need tools for imagining how these experiences and histories relate to all the subjects we teach and study, from mathematics to economics, from business management to sociology, from history to philosophy, from nutrition to psychology, and from women’s studies to art history. 

This is why our first major step in the Voices and Experiences of Poverty project is a five-week summer institute for CUNY community college faculty. (Read more about the Institute here.) Starting in the fall of 2021 faculty involved in the institute will try out their own poverty & humanities materials and strategies in their classrooms at BMCC, BCC (Bronx Community College), Guttman Community College, Hostos Community College, LaGuardia Community College, and QCC (Queensborough Community College). Faculty at the Institute, and beyond, will be learning together what we can do to make poverty an active-learning and action-inspiring topic for our college communities. With that goal in mind, the next steps of the project involve sharing our experiences through multiple “Voicing Poverty” events that will be hosted by BMCC. These events will begin in the fall of 2021 with pedagogy brown bags, and gain momentum in subsequent semesters with student-focused events, teaching tours, a digital humanities project, and a symposium. Check back here for detailed information about these events! Eventually, this website itself will act not only as a site for sharing news and events, but also as a “Poverty, Humanities, and Teaching” digital repository – a place where you can go for teaching and learning ideas, and texts and documents related to humanistic approaches to poverty.