UMBC Watch

"The accomplishments of Professors Irmscher, Kars, and Field – and the national recognition and awards they have received – illustrate the importance and success of research at UMBC. Their work and the substantive interactions with students enrich the experiences of our students.”

— President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III


National Endowment for the Humanities Recognizes UMBC Faculty Research


March 30, 2005 – Two UMBC faculty recently received one of the highest honors in the humanities and related social sciences. Professor of English Christoph Irmscher and Associate Professor of History Marjoleine Kars were awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships for University Teachers. This year, only 14 percent of applicants received this prestigious one-year fellowship, which recognizes faculty research that contributes to scholarship or to the general public’s understanding of the humanities.

Irmscher will use his award to complete a cultural biography of biologist/geologist Louis Agassiz (under contract with the University Press of Virginia). Regarded as the most famous scientist in 19th century America, Agassiz was a prolific writer known for his opposition to evolutionism and his theories on the Ice Age. “He was a cultural force whose work provides valuable insight into mid-19th century American society and culture,” said Irmscher.

Irmscher’s previous books have received numerous awards, including the dissertation prize of the German Association of English Studies, the American Studies Network Prize, the Literature and Language Award of the Association of American Publishers and The Bloomsbury Review’s “Editor's Favorite.”

Kars, an historian of early North America, will use her award to complete research on a longtime interest in Latin American and African history that also allows her to use her Dutch language skills. She is writing a book on one of the largest 18th century slave rebellions, which took place in Berbice, a Dutch colony in the Caribbean, now part of Guyana. “The only two books on the rebellion were written in Dutch in 1770 and 1888, so it is important to bring this rebellion to the attention of an English-speaking public,” said Kars.

In 2004, Kars received a Mellon Research Fellowship by the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, where she is currently studying the role American Indians played in the Berbice rebellion.

Thomas Field, professor of modern languages and linguistics and director of the Center for the Humanities, received a NEH Fellowship in 2003, but chose to delay his award until June 2005. Field will build a Web-based database on the earliest texts in Gascon, an endangered Romance language spoken in parts of France and Spain.


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