Summer Seminar :: Invitation

Dear Colleague:

Thanks very much for visiting our website and for considering applying to our seminar on the amazing events of 1989. We have planned an exciting two week seminar for all those participating—the visiting scholars (you), the faculty for the seminar, and the staff here at George Mason University. We see the seminar as a gathering of peers and we know that at the end of our two weeks together we will all know much more about 1989 and how to teach it to our students.

This letter provides an essential overview of what we will be doing together during the two weeks and how the seminar works. Please read it carefully and make note of any questions that occur to you. Then let us know what else we might tell you to help you decide if this seminar is the right one for you.


Few images from the second half of the twentieth century endure as vividly as the jubilant crowds atop the Berlin Wall in 1989, seemingly tearing down the Cold War with their hammers, hands, and hopes. Just as memorable was the sight of hundreds of thousands of people filling Wenceslaus Square in Prague, chanting “Truth Will Prevail” as the communist regime crumbled before their eyes. These joyful images compete in popular memory with equally powerful but horrific scenes: the Romanian President, Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife executed on live television on Christmas morning, Chinese Army troops clearing Tiananmen Square, or emaciated Bosnians peering out from behind prison camp wire following the outbreak of civil war in Yugoslavia. As rapid as it was unexpected, the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the non-collapse of the Chinese regime, and the period of transition that followed brought the twentieth century and the Cold War to a close in a way few expected.

Now that it has been eighteen years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in China, these remarkable events have finally made their way into the high school curriculum at both the AP and regular levels as a topic in all three of the standard survey courses—U.S., World, and European.

This NEH Summer Seminar focuses on learning as much as possible about the events of 1989 and the conflicting interpretations of those events, and on developing learning activities that will make it possible for you to bring these events to life for your students. In addition to learning a great deal about 1989 and its aftermath, the participants who join us for the seminar will create Primary Source Activities that you can take home, use in your classrooms, share with colleagues and potentially publish on the website Making the History of 1989: The Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

During our two weeks together, we will spend much of our time in an intensive learning environment. But we will also have more relaxed learning opportunities including a film series spread over four evenings, a visit to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum, and time at the Library of Congress. And, of course, you will have free time to explore the cultural opportunities of the greater Washington area, including the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Museums, and the many historic sites in the area.

One of the greatest difficulties in teaching about 1989 is the lack of primary sources in English. As a participant in this seminar you will be among the first to have full access to the new web resource, Making the History of 1989. This website, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, includes a database of more than 300 annotated primary sources from 1989 and its aftermath, a series of multimedia interviews with scholars, and a collection of teaching resources designed to help teachers at all levels put the resources of the website to use in their classrooms. Participants in the seminar will have the opportunity to publish their work on the website and to take part in the creation of an important resource for colleagues around the country.

Finally, in addition to the Primary Source Activities you create, you will return home with a variety of learning materials, including a number of books on 1989, articles, and websites for use in preparation and teaching. The creation of these Primary Source Activities will be a collaborative activity led by Elinor Greene, our master teacher, who has more than 30 years of classroom teaching experience. The activities might focus on a text, a collection of images, a film clip, or any other type of primary source that you like to use in your teaching.

For the specific details of the daily schedule, please refer to the complete syllabus available in the Teacher Resources section of the seminar website.

Seminar Faculty

We have assembled a fantastic faculty for this summer seminar, including a number of the leading scholars on the events of 1989 as well as a number of experienced and award-winning scholar-teachers. Several of the seminar faculty have been very involved in the Teaching American History grants program that brings K-12 teachers together with university faculty.

The Co-Directors of this Institute are T. Mills Kelly (George Mason) and Matt Romaniello (University of Hawai’i). Professor Kelly is the Associate Director of the Center for History and New Media and an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History at Mason and is a historian of modern East Central Europe. In 2005 he received the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award, the highest honor the state bestows for faculty excellence. Professor Romaniello is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and former Associate Director of Making the History of 1989. Both of the Co-Directors are experienced history teachers who have taught the Western Civilization survey and other European history courses for more than ten years and have extensive experience with secondary education.

In addition to the co-directors, the faculty for this Institute include the award-winning documentary historian and filmmaker Carma Hinton, George Mason University Provost Peter Stearns who is the author of more than 100 books in European and World History, Gale Stokes who is the author a seminal book on 1989—The Walls Came Tumbling Down, and Kelly Schrum, Director of Education Projects at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Selection Process

A selection committee composed of the project faculty and an experienced high school teacher will evaluate all applications. In particular, we will look for teachers actively committed to improving their own teaching and to integrating new approaches and techniques into their teaching. We will also seek a balance in backgrounds and interests (including a mix of American, World, and European history teachers, as well as those teaching other subjects such as international politics, literature, or film) to foster discussion and insure multiple perspectives on the sources and topics covered. Regardless of your teaching areas—European, U.S., or World—please consider applying.

Graduate Credits and CEUs

In recognition of the rigor of this academic endeavor, teachers who complete the required work will qualify for three graduate credits in history at George Mason, which will offer the credit at a reduced rate of $550 per credit hour for in-state and $800 for out-of-state residents. For teachers who would like to receive continuing education units (CEUs) or professional development credit, we will provide a full syllabus and at the end of the seminar, a general letter explaining the work they have completed that can be taken to district or county administrators in charge of awarding CEUs. Credit for participation in the seminar is, of course, entirely optional.

Location and Facilities

The seminar will be located on the main campus of George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia, about fifteen miles from downtown Washington. While you are here you will have full access to George Mason’s library system, which currently contains more than one million volumes, including books, journals, and microfilm. Its online resources include subscriptions to more than 300 research databases, many with full text documents. We have also reserved a computer lab for the seminar participants so that you can access the library’s resources and participate in our moderated online discussions. You will also have full access to the library collections of the Washington Research Library Consortium that knit together the collections of all the university libraries in the greater Washington area.


Everyone participating in the seminar will live in the Chesapeake residence halls, George Mason’s newest and most comfortable residential facility. These buildings, completed in the fall of 2007, provide single occupancy rooms with a shared bathroom (shared between either two or three people) as well as a living room space at the end of the hall reserved for our group. The cost for this housing is $27 per night plus a one-time linen charge of $18. These rooms are air-conditioned and the entire building has wireless Internet access. Rooms have cable television hookups and service, but no televisions or cables. Laundry can be done in the residence for an additional nominal charge. On campus, participants will have access to University dining facilities. There are also several restaurants right across the street from the University (Thai, Cajun, American, a deli, etc.) and you can also access the restaurants of downtown Fairfax through both a campus shuttle and city buses. A regular shuttle also connects with the nearby Vienna Metro Station for easy commuting to Washington, D.C.

Seminar participants will also have access to George Mason’s fitness facilities during their two week stay for a charge of $4.00 per day.


Participants in the two-week seminar are awarded an $1800 stipend, which is meant to help cover travel, housing, and food costs during the seminar. Half of the stipend will be paid to you when you arrive; $450 of the remaining amount will be paid at the end of the first week and the final $450 will be paid on the final day of the seminar. In order to be eligible for the full amount of the stipend, participants must attend all required events and activities. In accordance with NEH rules, participants who do not attend the entire seminar will be required to return a pro rata amount of their stipend.

Application Process

To apply for this seminar, please refer to the section of the website titled Application Information. Your completed application should be postmarked no later than March 3, 2008, and should be addressed as follows:

NEH Summer Seminar
Center for History and New Media
George Mason University
4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030

Perhaps the most important part of the application is the essay that must be submitted as part of the complete application. This essay should include any personal and academic information that is relevant; reasons for applying to the particular project; your interest, both intellectual and personal, in the topic; qualifications to do the work of the project and make a contribution to it; what you hope to accomplish by participation, including any individual research and writing projects; and the relation of the study to your teaching.

Also, please remember that while you may request information about many NEH Summer Seminars, you may only apply to one.


We hope you will join us for an exciting and stimulating seminar this coming summer. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions that you have about the seminar, about us, or about George Mason University.


T. Mills Kelly


Matthew Romaniello