Cal State Monterey Bay archeology professor Ruben Mendoza teamed with two students to land a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to teach educators from around the country about the history of California's missions.

Jewel-Sean Gentry and Jennifer Lucido helped Dr. Mendoza write the successful grant request for $177,000 to fund two workshops that will bring teachers to the Central Coast next summer.

“This was an amazing opportunity for us as students,” said Gentry, a Riverside native who is the president of the university’s Archaeology Club. “We worked a lot of long nights on this over the winter break.”

Detail from California mission

Visit the workshop website here.

Lucido, a Seaside native who graduated from CSUMB and now attends graduate school at Sonoma State, said, “As a student, particularly as an undergraduate, the opportunity to write and to assist in the organization of a grant is highly applicable to my field of study. That in itself was a fantastic learning experience. 

“However, to actually be awarded the grant is phenomenal. It not only adds to my professional experience and my credibility, but is an opportunity to promote the history of California at a significantly broader level.”

Gentry, a returning student who had worked as a director in a vocational school in San Diego before enrolling at CSUMB to pursue an interest in archaeology, said the organizational skills he learned on the job served him well in helping bring the grant proposal together.

“I think returning students are a great resource for the university. They bring different skill sets and experiences,” said Gentry, who said his decision to return to college was about “rebooting myself.”

Dr. Mendoza, a founding faculty member at CSUMB, said the grant application was a team effort. He said Lucido and Gentry were very much co-authors of the grant as they helped bring together the many details of the proposal.

The grant, through the NEH’s "Landmarks of American History and Culture" program, was one of only three awarded in California and 22 awarded nationwide.

Dr. Ruben MendozaDr. Mendoza (pictured at right) said the grant program was so competitive that he was worried all the work that the students had put in might end in disappointment. “When Sen. Boxer’s office called (to notify them of the grant approval), I couldn’t believe it. The fact that they were undergraduates who had played such an important role made it that much more exciting.”

The workshop is entitled "The Fourteenth Colony: Native Californians, Missions, Presidios and Colonists on the Spanish Frontier, 1769-1848." Two separate week-long sessions, each serving 40 teachers, will be held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds next summer. Participants will visit Central Coast mission sites and the sessions will feature some of the most prominent Native California and California mission studies scholars in the country.

As word of the program has spread, Dr. Mendoza has received inquiries from teachers around the country who are interested in participating.

The goal is to help the teachers incorporate the missions’ history into the lessons they teach their students. A supplemental grant awarded to Dr. Mendoza will make that easier. The extra money will be used to develop a website that will provide electronic resources for teachers. UPDATE: Visit the website here.

Meanwhile, Gentry and Lucido are continuing their academic collaboration. They attended the recent American Anthropological Association meeting in San Francisco and presented their first conference paper together, “Children of St. Francis: New Perspectives In California Mission Studies.”

Photo: Dr. Ruben Mendoza

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