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Sources: LeAnn Brazeal, 785-532-6789,;
and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, 785-532-0778,
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415,

Monday, March 23, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Two Kansas State University faculty members are receiving grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities for projects to help students understand the importance of free speech and to create an online home for stories about the "lost" communities of Kansas.

The grants to LeAnn Brazeal, associate professor of communication studies, and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, associate professor of history, are among the 197 selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities for $20 million in grant funding. Both projects also have been designated as "We the People" projects by the agency because they encourage and enhance the teaching, study and understanding of American history, culture and democratic principles.

Brazeal is receiving $16,800 for her project, "Protecting Dissent: Integrating Freedom of Speech into the Public Speaking Course," while Lynn-Sherow will receive $24,987 for her project, "Lost Kansas: Recovering the Legacy of Kansas Places and People."

Brazeal's grant award also is a Teaching Development Fellowship, a new program from the National Endowment for the Humanities where professors do advanced study in a specific subject area and bring that new knowledge into the classroom.

"My project focuses on free speech and its role in the democratic process. My goal is to help students better understand what free speech is really all about and how it's applied in real life," Brazeal said. "Everybody's in favor of free speech in the abstract, but it gets more complicated when the speech is unpopular. Americans tend to support free speech when they agree with it, but they tend to favor government censorship of speech they don't like. That defeats the purpose of free speech in a democracy."

Brazeal said her new vision of the public speaking course will address two needs.

"First, it will teach students the speaking and critical listening skills they need to participate effectively in a democracy. And two, it will help students better understand the right to speak, with its responsibilities and occasional limitations," she said.

"I've always been passionate about helping students learn to speak with integrity about issues that really matter," Brazeal said. "I see lots of students out there with something to say and I want to help them say it in a way that moves people. I also want to see them develop a deep respect for a democratic system that allows us to discuss and debate our differences in meaningful, respectful ways. For me, it doesn't get any better than that."

Lynn-Sherow, who is director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies in K-State's department of history, is the principal investigator on a grant that will find a new online home for the stories of forgotten Kansas communities and teach K-State students new, advanced methods in the collection, organization and distribution of historical data.

Assisting with the project will be Rebecca Gould, director of K-State's Information Technology Assistance Center, and M.J. Morgan, assistant professor of history. Gould and Morgan will help develop a pilot e-space class project for students working in the history of Kansas.

"Unlike most digitization grants that pay for scanning and uploading historical documents, the 'Lost Kansas' project will collect materials through student field work, organize the material into searchable databases, and then generate narratives to share with the members of the Kansas communities the students have worked with," Lynn-Sherow said. "These materials will then be shared with the Kansas State Historical Society's new 'Kansas Memory' database for even wider accessibility."

Lynn-Sherow said the Chapman Center for Rural Studies and the Information Technology Assistance Center will team up to bring specialists in the area of digital humanities to the K-State campus to train faculty, librarians and archival specialists in the latest concepts and software. Information specialists from Boulder, Colo., and the Center for History and New Media will lead workshops on campus in fall 2009 and will continue to consult on the project throughout spring 2010.

"Students will learn historical digitization methods by enrolling in one of the history lab classes that will be offered in fall 2010 in a new classroom space in Leasure Hall specially designed for this purpose," Lynn-Sherow said. "The renovation of the classroom is being underwritten by Mark Chapman, a K-State alum."

Lynn-Sherow said that the new classroom, combined with the K-State's reputation in providing high-technology classrooms, made for a winning combination in the highly competitive grant process.

"We were very fortunate to have been selected by National Endowment for the Humanities for this pilot grant, and we will definitely be submitting a larger phase II grant at the conclusion of this project to make sure what we learn is fully implemented," she said.