Through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Governors State University has been awarded a prestigious grant that allows the university to explore and study veterans' contributions to the humanities. With a special emphasis on oral history and literature, the grant - written by Drs. Rosemary Erickson Johnsen and Andrae Marak of the College of Arts and Sciences - is one of only fifteen awarded by the NEH in 2017 for the Dialogues on the Experience of War program. That program is part of a broader NEH initiative titled Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War, an initiative which seeks to "support advanced research in the humanities that explores war and its aftermath; promote discussion and deepened understanding of the experiences of those Americans affiliated with the armed services, whether active duty or veterans; and support returning veterans and their families."

  NEH images
War, Trauma, and Humanities

Through the grant, students at GSU have been given a unique opportunity to examine the literary and cultural contributions of veterans through the lenses of veterans themselves.

The NEH grant allows allows the university to sponsor several campus events that are open to the GSU community:

 Patrick Russell
“War and Trauma”
November 6 at 5 p.m.

Location: D-34115
RSVP to Sandi Kawanna or call 708.534.4011

Join Patrick Russell, founder and director of The Making History Project, for a discussion of soldiers’ stories, from the coast of France to the Middle East.

Inspired by a visit to Omaha Beach in Normandy, France in 2010, Russell collects oral histories of veterans and archives them with the U.S. Library of Congress. Through his work, he gives veterans an opportunity to talk about the ways in which their experiences of combat have affected them while preserving their stories for future generations. Russell plans to expand the project to include stories from the Korean War, Iraq, and Afghanistan as well.

Pizza will be provided for students after the talk.

A Reading by R.M. Ryan
November 14
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Location: Hall of Honors
RSVP to Sandi Kawanna or call 708.534.4011

Join poet and memoirist R.M. Ryan for a reading from his memoir There’s a Man With a Gun Over There, an autobiographical novel based on his military experiences.

An antiwar activist while in graduate school, Ryan received a draft notice after the Tet Offensive in 1968. Opposed to the war, he considered moving to Canada until an army recruiter promised him a place in a German language class at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. When he graduated as a translator, he was sent to Military Police School, a decision that kept him physically out of harm's way but caused severe and unexpected emotional consequences.

About his book, Ryan offers: "All of us men with guns were pretty scary… even scarier is the realization that most of the people who come through the American military are trained killers. These people are your neighbors. They're your relatives…We need to face up to what we're doing, both to peasants in the Third World and to our own children.”

Pizza will be provided for students after the reading.  

Veterans Speak: War, Trauma, and the Humanities

Hosted by Kevin Smith, GSU Director of Veterans Affairs

December 4 at 7:30 p.m. – check-in starts at 6:50p.m.*
Location: Digital Learning and Media Design Studios
RSVP to Sandi Kawanna or call 708.534.4011 – limited space available

Five student veterans, along with Professors Rosemary Johnsen and Andrae Marak, lead a discussion on how engaging war-related humanities sources enables veterans to make connections with their own experiences and to help others better understand war's impact on those who serve.

This forum is hosted by The College of Arts and Sciences and the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) and funded by the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War program. GSU's project explores war trauma through literature and other humanities sources with the trained student-veterans serving as embedded discussion facilitators in a special topics class. This event is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

*This event is being taped and live-streamed to Facebook.