National Endowment for the Humanities Selects SUNY Poly for Prestigious Award

National Endowment for the Humanities Selects SUNY Poly for Prestigious Award

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 10:30
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For Release:          Immediate – April 11, 2017

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National Endowment for the Humanities Selects SUNY Poly for Prestigious Award

Grant to help create new curriculum bridging humanities and business


Utica, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute has been selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to receive nearly $100,000 in funding to re-imagine the spirit and strategy of entrepreneurship in an interdisciplinary way by uniting it with the creative thinking of the humanities, resulting in new opportunities for students, veterans, start-ups, and further enhancing the economic vitality of the community as a whole.

“This highly competitive award is tremendous evidence of our outstanding faculty’s dedication and commitment to finding new solutions to the challenges our region and the world face,” said Dr. Bahgat Sammakia, Interim President of SUNY Polytechnic Institute. “The funding from this grant recognizes the critical role that interdisciplinary collaboration between the humanities and business plays in our local, regional, and global economy, and SUNY Poly is proud to lead the way.”

This prestigious NEH award of $99,949 over the course of three years is grounded in the growing recognition that the humanities play a key role in cultivating students’ ability to tackle the issues, problems, and challenges facing modern society in creative and innovative ways. Teamed with the skills, knowledge, and experiences of business management, students will become better equipped to take on the challenges of a complex, rapidly-changing, globalized 21st century world. The result will be individuals who can thrive in situations of uncertainty, think creatively to solve problems, envision opportunities for positive change, and possess the confidence to take risks and ventures. Led by SUNY Poly Interim Dean Dr. Robert Edgell and Professor Dr. Daryl Lee, this is the first time SUNY Polytechnic has received a National Endowment for the Humanities award.

“We are incredibly proud of the innovation and successful efforts of Dr. Edgell and Dr. Lee in earning this award. I believe I can speak for all of our colleagues in congratulating them both for this new academic initiative here at SUNY Poly,” said Dr. William Durgin, SUNY Poly Provost. “New and groundbreaking initiatives such as this will propel SUNY Poly into the future.  Our communities—and the region as a whole—will be strengthened because our students will play critical roles in shaping the world to come.”

“I am delighted that, together with my Interdisciplinary Studies colleagues, we now have the collective capacity to bring this immensely important initiative to life,” said Dr. Robert Edgell, Interim Dean of the newly formed College of Business Management. “Our new shared center and minor will harness and integrate the ideational power of the humanities with design-thinking and the venturing know-how of business management disciplines. This will strategically aid in reversing the local “brain drain” and help make our region more innovative, ethical, and sustainable. I am deeply grateful to the NEH for this bold, visionary act which will catalyze opportunities for a greater number of new ventures and enhanced economic vitality.”

“Our modern and globalized world is increasingly complex, and so too are the challenges that confront us, whether these are global or local,” said Dr. Daryl Lee, Associate Professor of Humanities at SUNY Poly. “The humanities have a crucial role to play in helping us to understand these issues and to imagine our way forward. This award underscores how SUNY Poly is not just on the cutting-edge of technological innovation, but also how we’re innovating in the humanities.”

"This project is a perfect illustration of the enduring value of the National Endowment for the Humanities: it inspires collaboration and supports creative and engaged scholarship that will provide value for SUNY Poly's students and for citizens of the Mohawk Valley,” said Dr. Andrew Russell, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “I am also excited at the national recognition for the approach of Professors Lee, Edgell, and their team: entrepreneurship can become more meaningful with humanistic thinking, and the humanities can become even more relevant when infused with an entrepreneurial spirit."

The NEH award is a reflection of SUNY Poly’s strategic commitment to leverage interdisciplinary connections to create new educational and research opportunities. With these goals in mind, a new academic minor, Creativity and Ethical Venturing (CEV) will launch at SUNY Poly in Fall 2017, connecting the humanities’ contributions to creative thinking and ethical reflection with the applied knowledge of business and entrepreneurial education. The minor is designed to cultivate students’ ability to envision and engage problems and opportunities, conduct interdisciplinary inquiry and research, develop creative solutions, and realize those solutions as potential ventures. The ultimate goal is to provide students with a coherent, integrated educational pathway that guides them through the complete process, from developing their creative and collaborative capacities to realizing ethical and sustainable ventures that can bring about positive social impact.

“We were excited to endorse this project because it supports the continued enhancement of our region’s educational and entrepreneurial pipeline and a more robust economy,” said Alicia Dicks, President/CEO of The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties. “As part of this effort, The Foundation hopes to help with coaching and mentoring of students to help them understand the value of positive social impact.”

In addition and with the help of the NEH funding, Drs. Edgell and Lee will develop and lead a new structure known as the Joint Center for Creativity and Ethical Venturing (JCCEV), aiming to systematically institutionalize a robust and sustainable connection between the humanities and business management. Stretching far beyond the halls and campuses of SUNY Poly, this joint center and initiative will provide instrumental student-centered experiential learning and aid in providing opportunities for students and others to remain in the region by catalyzing opportunities for a greater number of ventures that can enhance economic vitality.

“It is always an honor to hear about the achievements of professionals in the Mohawk Valley, and I congratulate Dr. Lee and Dr. Edgell on receiving this prestigious grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “This grant will allow SUNY Polytechnic Institute to create a new curriculum – bridging humanities and business management. Such a program will undoubtedly provide students with a rich and comprehensive understanding of the complex issues that entrepreneurs face today, and I look forward to hearing about its success.”

“This grant is welcome news for our community as it will allow SUNY Poly to continue to enhance its curriculum to better serve both our students and the Mohawk Valley,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. “New programs created by these grants will give students the tools they need to innovate, lead, and help build a stronger business community right here in the Utica-Rome area. Throughout my time in Congress, I will continue to advocate for the needs of our students and colleges here in the Mohawk Valley.

“The Mohawk Valley has many examples of businesses started by people with degrees in the arts and humanities,” said New York State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica. “This new academic program is a terrific idea that will help to bridge the gap by providing the resources humanities students need to become entrepreneurs. This program will help encourage talented individuals to stay in the Mohawk Valley and contribute to our area’s economy.”

“As SUNY Polytechnic Institute remains at the forefront of innovative educational initiatives in our region, this endeavor to create a program that unites the ideas of the humanities with the skills of Business Management will provide a unique and forward-looking perspective to help students explore new paths toward business success,” said New York State Senator Joseph Griffo of Rome. “I congratulate Dr. Edgell and Dr. Lee on being awarded this grant, and I wish them all the best as they pursue their vision to create new opportunities for the students of SUNY Poly.”

A broader hope of this initiative and collaboration is to create an environment open to more venturing for the region, stretching beyond simply teaching students the methodologies, but guiding them through a curriculum that provides them experiential opportunities to put their ideas, plans and strategies into action – opportunities like the New York State Business Plan Competition, the Student Veterans of America National Business Plan Competition, and the Big Ideas Impact Opportunity Challenge, providing students with the opportunity to develop an idea into a venture by pitching a realistic and coherent plan that can bring a creative idea to life while at the same time having a social impact. In turn, this pathway opens the door to both economic and cultural vitality and sustainability for the community as a whole.



The National Endowment for the Humanities. Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at


SUNY Polytechnic Institute. SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem, formed from the merger of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and SUNY Institute of Technology. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience and nanoeconomics programs at its Albany location and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica/Rome location. Thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts billions of dollars in high-tech investments and over 300 corporate partners. For information visit and