The Cather Project was recently awarded a grant for academic enhancement through the Chancellor's initiative to develop priority-identified academic programs. This grant will build on the Cather Project's commitment to research on and teaching of Cather at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is aimed to bring together various sites of Cather-related work.
When asked what made this initiative a strong candidate for the award, Susan Rosowski cited "Cather's prominence, her quality and stature in American and world literature" as central to the high-priority status of this project. She continued, "Sinclair Lewis said in the twenties that the United States knows of Nebraska because of Cather. If he were alive today, I think he would say that the world knows of Nebraska because of Cather. She is the best spokesperson for the university and for the state."
One of the aims of the initiative is to expand Cather's significance and relevance within a broader academic community. Goals directed towards this end include those to "[b]uild and strengthen relationships with other university departments and assist with research, consultation and publicity for Cather-related programming" and to "maintain [. . .] interdisciplinary symposia, lectures, and international seminars" (Grant for Academic Program Enhancement). Other goals work to expand Cather's importance through developing and making available scholarly resources on Cather. Goals to "[e]stablish and maintain [a] [. . .] top scholarly website," "[c]omplete [the ongoing work] [. . .] of the Cather Scholarly Edition," and "[a]ssist Love Library in acquiring Cather-related materials" work in this way (Grant for Academic Enhancement).
Describing the Cather project, the Office of Academic Affairs reports, "The project will provide faculty and program support to build on UNL's various existing strengths including distinguished Cather scholarship by humanities faculty, the Nebraska Press's publishing of the definitive editions of Cather's works, the growing partnership between library and humanities faculty to create electronic archives of vast usefulness and access, a major new film biography in production at NET funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and several Cather-related projects by opera and other music faculty" (UNL's Priority Initiatives webpage). The synopsis points to the ongoing, dedicated work that has been done on Cather at UNL and highlights the university's commitment to such work in the future.
When asked about the implications that this initiative had for the English department, Rosowski explained, "The Cather Project is based upon collaboration within the English Department. It is one of the major areas of study that the department is noted for. Scholars and students come to Nebraska out of interest in Cather and faculty and students all benefit by the exchange of ideas." Linda Pratt, English department chair, reaffirmed that the benefits of the initiative extend to the English department, explaining, "Any project that gives more attention to Cather gives more attention to the Department of English." Pratt also noted that the grant enabled the English department to hire a new faculty member, Guy Reynolds, who would be joining the English faculty in 2003.
The impact of this grant, however, extends beyond the English department and stretches beyond the bounds of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Commenting on the potential of the initiative, Rosowski explained that she hoped the work that would come out of this grant would prompt others to "use Cather as a model for the work of the humanities, especially interdisciplinary projects."