Summer Scholar Comments from 2014, 2016, and 2017 Institutes


“The Immigrant Experience in California was truly an invaluable experience. The director and faculty were incredible resources who have taught me so much in a short amount of time. I learned about California history through voices that have little mention in traditional history textbooks. I’ve heard about the experiences of Native Americans who lived in San Juan Bautista, immigrants who passed through Angel Island, migrant workers who came through the Bracero program, Afghan immigrants who came as refugees, and hundreds of immigrants who would classify themselves as “the other.” I also learned storytelling strategies, such as adaptations and documentary theater that will help my students share their knowledge with the greater community.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience! Wonderful people to work with, incredible opportunities to encounter and engage with stimulating artists and materials, and genuine compassion and consideration during the entirety of the fortnight. I anticipate being able to use theater and drama in my English classroom in meaningful ways.  I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to take part.”

“This Summer Institute I attended was the single most intellectually engaging event of my life. It was everything I wanted graduate school to be that it was not! I learned a lot of techniques (especially theater techniques) to use in my classroom that will both engage my students and help them to interact with literature at a deeper level. Several of the texts we studied will make their way into my classroom. I have a much better understanding of some of the forces that made America into what it is, and I will be able to construct better curriculum as a result of this experience. Also, the experience of being a student again was invaluable. I was able to practice being on the learning end of many things I assign to my students (such as, pair and share, making presentations, group work).”

“The topic was simultaneously broad enough to be widely relevant, even to people not from California, and focused enough to explore at a deep level.”

“The directors used local history and landmarks to great advantage; being able to visit Angel Island, Japantown, Little Italy, and other sites of immigration really helped that history come alive.”

“It was fantastic, truly far beyond what I’d imagined possible when I read about it and sent in my application. I came out of the institute with a mass of plans and connections to people — plans that I will implement in my teaching beginning next month, connections that I am firming up for future joint work — and I’ve already seen the institute affect my own artistic work.”

“The faculty were not just impressive but OUTSTANDING. The speakers were authors of the books we read, the tours were conducted by PhDs in history of California, and the field trips were so fun!”

“A once-in-a-lifetime experience in terms of creative thinking, historical analysis, synthesis of lecturers, integrated readings of immigration through literature and theatre. Combine these experiences with the field trips and you have an incredibly thoughtful, well planned and organized workshop.”

“This was a wonderful experience in every way. It will have a definite and direct impact on my teaching beginning with my professional goal next year: to find more ways to get students to adapt parts of novels into scenes that they can perform in the classroom. I also have learned so much about immigration that will inform my teaching of countless books in the future!”

“This was an incredibly powerful institute, reaching teachers in different programs (social studies, language arts, theater) that really made everything relevant to every teacher.”

“I learned a lot during the institute. I got a great deal out of the literature selected as well as the walking historical tours and onsite learning. I learned a great deal on immigration and its influence on the historical and current development of California and the nation.”

“The institute provided some of the most inspirational professional development I have ever had in my 10+ years as an educator. I feel more prepared to address the issue of immigration within my classroom, having a wealth of resources at my disposal. As an English teacher, I now understand the value of using performance to delve more deeply into text, and plan to incorporate performance-based activities in my classroom. With the staff and participants as my models, I have learned a lot about how to provide a safe space for the vulnerability that often accompanies creative endeavors.”

“This was one of those truly great NEH experiences. First, the selection of staff/guest experts was outstanding. Second, the selection of applicants led to a strongly committed group. Third, the experience was deep.”

“‘The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre’ demonstrated how literature, both fiction and non-fiction, can be used to teach about the past and life experiences. While fiction and non-fiction contain the seeds of life’s narratives, theatre nurtures those seeds and can carry students into realms of understanding that have not been crossed before. During the two week institute, we learned how to approach a text through various techniques that would bring the literature to life in a way that would allow students to identify the problems and experience relationships and issues that would have otherwise been ignored. Furthermore, I cherished the multi-faceted approach: reading and learning history, studying fiction as a primary source document, and exploring the art of documentary theatre from interview through performance. I can’t wait to do this with my students in the Fall!”

“This was an amazing institute filled with information about immigration, and training on presentational techniques. The things learned here will have direct application to my classroom.” 

“I loved meeting and dining with Maxine Hong Kingston to glean ideas about how to more effectively teach my creative writing classes, hearing Andrew Lam bring his stories alive, going to El Teatro Campesino and learning and working with the techniques, working with Ping Chong on his documentary techniques, seeing literature adaptation in person with “Masquerade,” exploring the culinary layer to the immigration narrative, producing the culminating piece in a frenzy of creative amazingness–and all of this grounded in literature and scholarship. Really quite unique and incredibly enriching. I can honestly say I am a changed woman because of this institute.”

“I left the institute feeling creatively driven to bring performance elements and techniques into my classroom, as tools to help my students greater understand the complexities of history and language.”

“I was thoroughly impressed by the quality, thoughtfulness, care, and passion demonstrated by the institute director, staff, and participants and would encourage other teachers to take advantage of this truly unique and life-changing experience.”

“The experience I had with this institute cannot be compared – it was amazing!”

“This experience was one of the highlights of my teaching career. It was thoughtfully organized with a good blend of lectures/discussions and hands-on experiences. Examining the topic of immigration through the lens of literature, history, and theater will provide an approachable way to discuss a complex issue.”

“Director and facilitators were incredibly well tuned into both their subject matter and their audience and adjusted as needed. The topics were well varied but interconnected and helped build a full, clear picture of immigration in CA through history, legal impacts, literature and performances. The access to experts was incredible and inspiring beyond expectations. The reading lists and supporting materials were excellently chosen and perfectly blended to cover a wide range without being too overwhelming.”


“This was one of the best professional development experiences I have had in my 16 years of teaching. I walked away from the institute filled with new ideas and resources, numerous professional connections and so much inspiration for the upcoming school year. I was so impressed with the faculty, the guests, and the other teachers. I felt valued and honored as a teacher, and I am excited to get back into the classroom to bring these new ideas to life.”

“This institute has reignited my love of learning and teaching. After 16 years of teaching and a lifetime of living in the inner city, the stress was taking its toll. However, after participating in this workshop, the small window through which I looked at my world has been transformed into a boundless lens. I realize now more than ever how important it is to be a passionate teacher. I have realized a bit more of my own value through the interactions that I have had with all the people that I have met. And most importantly, in a profession that can be quite solitary at times, I have found a community that I can rely on to keep me going even though the going might get tough. Every thing that I have learned through this workshop I will use within my classroom.”

“This was the best professional development I have had outside of college. I was challenged to reorganize my thinking about immigration and the patterns we see in history. The combination of both field trip and exceptional speakers made it a smorgasbord of intellectual discovery.”

“I am so motivated and rejuvenated for next school year that I am already lesson planning. I think that the connections I made will help support me through many school years and encourage me to do my best work. This program was incredible.”

“This was one of the best, most inspiring and widely applicable Professional Development experiences of my career. I feel ready to bring concepts, pedagogical approaches, and texts from the Institute directly into my English curriculum, and the program has also gotten me personally fired up about further studying the history of my region and being involved in its decisions regarding immigrants going forward.”

“This experience was THE single-most moving, enriching, thought-provoking, and meaningful professional experiences of my life. I feel that I received so much useful information every single day. This experience has reinvigorated my teaching and has made me excited to go back into my classroom. The institute introduced me to new texts that my students will love, so I plan to use some of these texts in my courses. I made lasting relationships with my fellow participants and directors. I feel that this institute not only has made me a better teacher, but has made me a more reflective and better human.”

“The Immigrant Experience in California was one of the most intellectually stimulating, rigorous, and good-natured institutes I have attended. I am a longtime educator (15+ years) and was pleased to be pushed even further in my professional practice.”

“This institute was by far the best professional development I have ever experienced. It has transformed how I will teach history and has demonstrated the importance of using an interdisciplinary approach to examine the past. It has reframed how I think about literature and theatre, and it has reaffirmed my dedication to teaching for social justice.”