The University Press of Florida, a publisher based out of the University of Florida, announced on Oct. 4 that it was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal organization that funds humanities programs across the country.
Romi Gutierrez, the director for the University Press of Florida said that the publisher will use the $450,000 they were awarded starting Dec. 1.
They were one of nearly 300 organizations in the humanities field across the country to be selected for the funding. Other winners across the state include the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, the Coalition of State Museum Associations in Tallahassee and the Daytona State College Southeast Museum of Photography, according to Gutierrez.
The grant was given as part of an awards program called “Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan” or SHARP, for short. According to a press release from the NEH, the SHARP program aims to help cultural and educational institutions rehire workers and reinstate programs that were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gutierrez said that press sales were adversely affected at the height of the pandemic when bookstores, libraries and college campuses were closed.
“So the grant is really meant as a stimulus package,” she said.
The University Press of Florida intends to expand on that with the money they receive, according to Gutierrez.
She said that while part of the funding will go directly to filling positions that are vacant due to retirements and moving, some of it will support their “Exploring Diverse Stories of America through Humanities Publishing” project.
The funding allows them to publish more stories in African American Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies as well as convert backlist titles under those categories into paperback and digital formats. Gutierrez said that this will improve accessibility to those stories.
She also said they aim to establish a three part online speaker series, which will be open to anyone to view, that brings in guests from minority serving institutions across Florida such as Florida International University, the University of Central Florida and Florida A&M University. Gutierrez also said they hope to work with the University of Puerto Rico, which has an established relationship with UF’s Center for Latin American Studies.
“We hope to bring all these voices together to talk about relevant topics at the intersection of African American studies and Latin American studies.”
The University Press of Florida will also establish a paid internship open to minority UF students who want to gain experience in publishing.
“It’s an apprenticeship field,” Gutierrez said. “You have to get your foot in the door for the most part to learn the ropes and that can be very tough when you are a minority student who works, you know, 20 hours a week while going to school.”
The internship and speaker series are coordinated with the African American Studies Program and Center for Latin American Studies at UF.
“There have been recent surveys of demographics in publishing that show that it is lacking in diverse voices”, she said. “So we need to find ways to bring a new generation of voices into publishing and so we think this is a really good start.”