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Kean History Professors Receive National Honors

Kean history professors Dennis Klein, Xurong Kong and Christopher Bellitto

Kean history professors Dennis Klein, Ph.D., Xurong Kong, Ph.D., and Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D.

Three history faculty members at Kean have received national recognition and grant support for their scholarly research, bringing academic distinction to the University in the United States and abroad.

Professor Dennis Klein, Ph.D., director of the master’s program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, received nearly $89,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to underwrite a two-week summer seminar called, The Search for Humanity After Atrocity

Professor Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D., also received a $32,500 NEH Public Scholar grant to support his book project, Humility: A History of a Lost Virtue

Assistant Professor Xurong Kong, Ph.D., was named a finalist as a Fulbright Scholar to China for her book project, Reading Poetry Along the Silk Roads

“This recognition demonstrates Kean’s commitment to faculty research and shows the importance of cultivating a robust research environment on campus,” said Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., Kean’s president. “We support research opportunities at every level, including for our undergraduate students who will directly benefit from this important work.” 

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded $30 million in grants for 238 humanities projects across the country in its last round of funding for fiscal year 2020. 

“The recognition given to these three faculty members underscores their dedication to the ‘teacher-scholar’ model so vital to public universities like Kean,” said Professor Elizabeth Hyde, Ph.D., chair of the Department of History. “The work conducted and experience gained in context of these grants will inform their instruction at Kean and shape the thinking of our students.” 

Klein’s summer seminar for higher education faculty, The Search for Humanity After Atrocity, will explore the emotional demands of survival in large-scale traumatic events using the Holocaust era and its legacies as a case study, and will offer perspectives from history, psychology, human rights and Jewish studies. Kean University Assistant Professor Donald Marks, Psy.D., an expert on psychological flexibility, will serve as the Project Scholar and elaborate on the psychology of resilience. It will take place in the summer of 2021.

“Participants will post their projects to seminar-related websites, social media channels, and an online newsletter, which will also serve as a post-seminar networking resource,” Klein said. “Through this online presence, we will share the participants’ seminar-inspired, early-stage teaching units and research as well as links to artistic representations and seminar-related syllabi, articles, bibliographies, videographies and online testimonies.”

Klein is the author or editor of five books on the Holocaust and genocide and is a Fulbright-Hays Fellow. He frequently presents his research abroad and throughout the country.

In his book, Humility: A History of a Lost Virtue, Bellitto will draw on ancient world literature, scriptures, philosophy and mythology to track how the virtue of humility came to be denigrated as the vice of humiliation. Through the work, he will seek to restore for the modern world the nobility of humility from its ancient and medieval roots.

“My goal is to write an accessible history of humility to get a wide conversation going about how to recover a healthy sense of this virtue for our divided society,” Bellitto said. “Humility is a good vaccine for the 'me-ism' pandemic that has infected our nation.” 

Bellitto, the author of 10 books, was a Fulbright Specialist at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand last year, where he was a visiting professor of medieval history and conducted public lectures and workshops. He is currently a peer review judge for the Fulbright Specialist program which supports U.S. academics and established professionals in two- to six-week, project-based exchanges at host institutions across the globe.

Kong’s book, Reading Poetry Along the Silk Roads, will explore the relationship between China and other cultures in the third-century through the lens of literary writings and with a focus on the famed ancient international trade route, the Silk Road. 

“My research focuses on the foreign origins of parts of Chinese culture. I hope students in both China and America, the two most influential cultures in the world, will benefit from knowing more about each other,” Kong said. “Considering the unstable relationship between the two countries, knowing each other is more crucial than ever.”

A presidential executive order has put the Fulbright program on hold in China for the upcoming year. If not for the suspension of the program, Kong would have become a Fulbright recipient. Kong said she will reapply for the grant and is confident that she will receive Fulbright Scholar status since she has received a corresponding grant from the government of China.

Kong is currently a Fulbright Specialist, and under that grant traveled to Sichuan University last year to conduct public talks and workshops. She is planning her second trip, to Taiwan or London, for next summer.