Three Chairs for Public Engagement

Professor Laura Prieto is the first Alumni Chair in Public Humanities under the Ifill College’s new program.

The Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities has launched a signature program that creates three, rotating Alumni Chairs in Public Engagement (Public Arts, Public Media, and Public Humanities). Supported through generous funding from Simmons alumnae/i, the chairs will afford tenured Ifill College faculty the opportunity to pursue civic or public engagement projects that demonstrate the important role of the arts, media, and humanities in a vibrant, diverse democracy. 

Laura Prieto, pictured, professor of history and women’s and gender studies, is the first Alumni Chair—in Public Humanities. Her project will engage students in an archival project about Boston’s old West End neighborhood which was razed in the name of urban renewal in the 1950s-1960s.

“Students will conduct research at Simmons in the archives of pioneering social worker Eva Whiting White, in records at the Boston City Archives and elsewhere,” says Prieto. Throughout the year, students will contribute blog posts to the Boston City Archives website. And the projects findings will ultimately lead to the creation of a virtual walking tour of the West End and a student-curated exhibit at Simmons.

Prieto’s project is supported with a $10,000 grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), which she co-wrote with University Archivist Jason Wood ’01MS, ’11MS; Assistant Director for Service Learning Meghan Doran; Ifill College Dean Brian Norman; and archivist Marta Crilly ’11MS, ’11MA, representing the Boston City Archives. 

“The grant intended to connect independent colleges with their communities through undergraduate research,” says Prieto, “so it beautifully matched Simmons’ emphasis on undergraduate research, community engagement and partnerships, and our strengths in archival studies and public history within the history department in particular.”