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Becoming US: The Immigrant Experience through Primary Sources Institute Overview

Project Goals


The institute features the opportunity to work directly with primary and scholarly sources that delve into immigration to and migration within the United States. These sources range from personal accounts to broader analyses, but all offer insightful looks into the many facets of immigration. Immigration predates the United States itself, but persists as an integral part of the country's present and future. It is therefore a vital area of inquiry and education.  

By engaging with these sources, educators will be faced with questions that reverberate through this topic: Why do people emigrate? What factors and experiences shape an immigrant's vision of the American dream? What is the balance between assimilation and retention of cultural practices? This institute will pose these questions–and many more–and equip teachers with the tools to integrate the answers into their classrooms. By bridging past and present with these key questions, teachers will be able to create lessons which encourage students to pair historical research with family and community experience, resulting in a more effective curriculum that resonates with students on a personal level. 

In addition to the rich archival material, teachers will be able to draw on each other's experiences as both educators and individuals. The institute is designed with synthesis and collaboration in mind, as these steps are integral to producing an effective and engaging classroom curriculum. Although only five days long, this institute’s reach will extend into each classroom a teacher represents, and impact the individual students’ academic journeys therein. 

Review the eligibility criteria for NEH Seminars and Institutes for K-12 Educators here

The deadline to apply is March 3, 2023. All applicants will be notified by April 3, 2023. Selected applications will have until April 14, 2023 accept or decline an offer.

Principles of Civility for NEH Professional Development Programs

NEH Seminars, Institutes, and Landmarks programs are intended to extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics, texts, and issues; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; and foster a community of inquiry that provides models of excellence in scholarship and teaching. 

NEH expects that project directors will take responsibility for encouraging an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. 

Seminar, Institute, and Landmarks presentations and discussions should be: 

  1. firmly grounded in rigorous scholarship, and thoughtful analysis; 

  2. conducted without partisan advocacy; 

  3. respectful of divergent views; 

  4. free of ad hominem commentary; and 

  5. devoid of ethnic, religious, gender, disability, or racial bias. 

NEH welcomes comments, concerns, or suggestions on these principles at

Recommended Reading


Participants of the institute will have access to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s scholarly publications, including

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. The following articles are recommended reading about immigration: 

From Peopling to Postethnic: Pennsylvania Pluralism Reconsidered by Kathryn E. Wilson and Rosalind Beiler
From Bachelor Enclave to Urban Village: The Evolution of Early Chinatown by Kathryn E. Wilson
Freedom of Religion: Bibles, Public Schools, and Philadelphia's Bloody Riots of 1844 by Bruce Dorsey

Presenters and Educators 

Joan Ruddiman, EdD, Lead Teacher - As Lead Teacher for the Institute, Dr. Ruddiman will act as guide and curriculum development partner to the participants. She has more than four decades of classroom teaching experience and has more recently channeled her passion for education into writing, penning the award-winning Little Children, BIG Feelings. She earned her B.A. in English and her Reading Specialist Master’s degree from Rutgers University, and went on to receive her Doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching from Columbia University. Dr. Ruddiman has received numerous teaching honors throughout her career, including accolades from National History Day and the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance. 


Justina Barrett, Project Director - Ms. Barrett develops public programming and educational initiatives as the Director of Education and Programs at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining HSP in 2021, she worked for 16 years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, most recently as the head of public programs in the Education Division. Justina earned a bachelor's degree in history with teaching certification from Bryn Mawr College and a masters degree in early American material culture from the Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware.

Rebecca Fay, Educator - Ms. Fay is the Director of Education for the Delaware Historical Society, working closely with the historical society’s archives and collections to help educators enrich their curriculum utilizing primary sources. Rebecca received her Bachelor’s degree in History and Social Studies Education from the University of Delaware and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Instructional Technology and Library Information Science from Valdosta State University. 

Ned Landsman, Scholar - Dr. Landsman is a professor of history at Stony Brook University (SUNY). His areas of expertise include colonial history, Atlantic history, and migration. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Zachary Schrag, Scholar - Dr. Schrag is a professor of history at George Mason University. His areas of expertise include urban transportation and nineteenth century riots. His current work on the nativist riots in Philadelphia are particularly pertinent to the institute. Dr. Schrag earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University. 

Kate Wilson, Scholar - Dr. Wilson is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University. Her areas of study include immigration, American cultural history, and gender studies. Her work on Philadelphia's Chinatown will be the focus of her work with the institute. She earned her Ph.D. in Folklife and Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Alan Kraut, Scholar - Alan M. Kraut is a university professor of history and an affiliate member of the School of International Service. He is also a non-resident Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute. Currently, he is the President of the Organization of American Historians, the largest professional organization of American historians. He specializes in U.S. immigration and ethnic history, the history of medicine in the U.S. and the American Civil War. 

Katie Clark, Institute Coordinator - Katie is the Education Coordinator at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Her position duties include hosting 6-12th grade virtual lessons, introducing undergraduate students to archival research, and coordinating the National History Day competition in Philadelphia. Katie previously worked in HSP’s library as an access liaison. She earned her B.A. in History and Political Science from Gettysburg College. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania together: Democracy demands wisdom.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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