“The Search For Common Ground: Culture in California’s Central Valley,” is a two-year “Humanities Initiatives Grant” project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities aimed at fostering discussions and curricular development that critically explore the rich cultural heritage, daily life and struggles of those who live in California’s Central Valley.  The project brings together Modesto Junior College and other California community college faculty, as well as regional scholars, artists and leadership from the University of California at Merced, California State University Stanislaus, Fresno State University, The National Steinbeck Center, El Teatro Campesino and the Modesto Junior College Foundation to study the culture of California’s Central Valley, to develop collegial networks for scholarly collaboration and to create thematic curricular modules (grounded in the poetics of local cultural heritages and regionally-lived experiences) for use in a wide-variety of post-secondary classrooms.  

As a result, the project also makes the study of the humanities more relevant to local students, who may now see “themselves” represented in the classroom.  In this way, the community college classroom becomes a “common ground” moving faculty and students alike to discover avenues for expressing, discussing and understanding themselves and the cultural context for their lives in California’s Central Valley.
Through lectures by eminent scholars and the reading and discussion of interdisciplinary texts relating to California’s Central Valley, this project gives humanities faculty a more comprehensive picture of the traditions and expressions of our diverse community and then offers the opportunity to collaboratively enrich curricular content in order to reflect the cultures of California’s Central Valley.  In this way, the Common Ground project not only helps participants understand the unique cultures of the people who live among us yet have remained largely unrepresented in classroom didactic content but is also an excellent example of how educators, artists, innovators and students within a community can learn together while seeking commonalities rooted in “the undiscovered country of the nearby.”

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