RU librarian awarded fellowship for NEH summer institute
Rather than slacken his pace over the summer, one Rutgers University librarian decided instead to
take part in an intensive and demanding three week institute to explore the history of American
study of Russian and East European cultures.
James P. Niessen, world history librarian in the Rutgers University Libraries, was invited to apply
for a fellowship to support participation in the institute entitled "America Engages Eurasia:
Studies, Teaching, and Resources," hosted by the Columbia University Libraries and funded by a grant
from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The institute was held June 13th - July 1st, on the
Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University in Manhattan.
The scholarly gathering was one of a series of summer institutes offered by the National Endowment
for the Humanities to provide college and university faculty members and independent scholars with
an opportunity to enrich and revitalize their understanding of significant humanities ideas, texts,
and topics. It brought together 25 select scholars and provided intensive collaborative study of
texts, topics, and ideas central to undergraduate teaching in the humanities under the guidance of
faculties distinguished in their fields of scholarship.
Jim was invited to apply to attend the institute by the two organizers, both distinguished
librarians of Russian and East European studies with many years of service at the New York Public
Library and Columbia University, who were aware of his publications in this field and his work with
the Rutgers' Institute for Hungarian Studies, of which he served as director for 18 months.
For six days a week for over two weeks, institute fellows heard a guest lecture in the morning,
participated in a working lunch focused on the day's themes, and then attended a formal discussion
in the afternoon with more guest speakers. After 3 pm the scholars were on their own to research
personal projects related to the theme of the institute in New York's libraries and archives. In the
last week of the institute the scholars gave 30-minute presentations about their projects.
Jim's institute research project was "Hungarian Studies Programs and Collections in the US:
Political, Cultural, and Linguistic Motives since 1900." The project traced the history of Columbia
University's programs and collections in Hungarian Studies and developed a framework to compare the
evolution of its work in this area to two other noted programs - at Indiana University and Rutgers.
The Libraries congratulate Jim on his selection to participate in this distinguished gathering. And
we look forward to learning more about his research project.