RANDOLPH, NJ – The County College of Morris (CCM) announced that its “Project Yellowstone,” an academic interdisciplinary program, was one of 82 organizations statewide to receive a New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH) COVID-19 Response grant.

“Project Yellowstone” is part of a CCM community and civic engagement initiative that offers high-impact, interdisciplinary programs. “Project Yellowstone” brings together the academic disciplines of history, journalism, and biology to enhance student learning and community engagement. Programs offered on and off campus focus on environmental history and conservation through the lens of the National Park system and has served more than 500 students each year. 

“This NJCH grant means ‘Project Yellowstone’ will be able to continue with programming that allows for student and community engagement of the public humanities at a critical time,” said Dr. Michelle Iden. Iden is a faculty member in the History and Political Science Department and “Project Yellowstone” at CCM.

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Three years ago Iden; Samantha Gigliotti, professor of biology and chemistry; Dr. Maria Isaza, professor of biology and chemistry; and John Soltes, professor of communication; developed and implemented “Project Yellowstone.” For the past two years, they have traveled to Yellowstone National Park to create greater awareness about conservation and protected lands and to share their experiences with CCM students and the public. In October 2020, the team had scheduled an educational and exploratory trip to Yellowstone National Park for six CCM students. Due to the novel coronavirus, the educational trip was indefinitely postponed. They are hoping to travel to the National Park in May 2021.

"This award is a testament to the quality of the program and the hard work of a very creative group of faculty. Students are learning about the natural environment from several perspectives and coming to understand how different academic disciplines work together,” said John Marlin, vice president of Academic Affairs at CCM.

According to NJCH, CARES Act funding, allocated through the NEH, allowed NJCH to build a brand new COVID-19 Response Grant program. Funds were made available as operational and programmatic support for nonprofit organizations that provide humanities programming to public audiences and who are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NJCH grant will help “Project Yellowstone” programming scheduled for fall semester 2020 and spring semester 2021. In September, Gigliotti will conduct a virtual guided tour of the Great Swamp in Morristown. A public book discussion of John Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” will occur in October. Dr. Shane Doyle, Native American scholar and member of the Crow nation, will give a public Zoom presentation. Rounding out the fall semester programming will be a faculty and staff book discussion of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Complete details of other “Project Yellowstone” programming will be forthcoming to guidance related to the pandemic.