UF Press secures new federal grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) released its list of 305 grant recipients for the Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) awards on Monday, and UF Press will add $460,260 to its coffers because of the grant program—the largest amount received in Florida.

Congress funded the money with its American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) that President Joe Biden signed into law in March. Municipalities and counties were portioned off parts of the $1.9 trillion act, but different federal agencies also received portions, like the NEH.

The NEH awarded $87.8 million with Monday’s announcement―on top of another $52.6 million it has already distributed.

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Rachel Doll, marketing manager for UF Press, said the staff is thrilled to receive the grant and excited to use the funds to further its goals.

“We’re mission based,” Doll said. “It’s not all about book sales for us. It’s about the scholarship that we publish and how we’re contributing to the scholarly ecosystem and how we’re disseminating the important work of researchers.”

As a non-profit and academic publisher, the press balances its funding with its mission. The niche or academic-oriented works it produces often have less marketability than pure popular fiction.

The additional NEH funds will allow UF Press to finance seven new positions and retain four others. Doll said some of these positions will work to convert older books into different formats, like e-books or paperback.

Doll said e-books have trended upward for a while, but the pandemic brought a spike that will stay with publishers.

“Once a lot of researchers were not able to access libraries and physical collections, so the demand for digital books really picked up and it hasn’t slowed down,” she said.

The press will also utilize the grant to improve its acquisition and promotion in two key subjects: African American and Latin American studies.

In the post about the funds, UF Press Director Romi Gutierrez said scholarships in these areas tend to lack financing.

“By broadly disseminating and promoting this scholarship and helping to train a new generation of publishers in these critical areas, this project sustains more than just the Press,” Gutierrez said. “It benefits future scholarships in these fields.”

UF Press hopes to increase that scholarship through paid internships that allow interns to get involved in the world of scholarly publishing.

The Press will also start a new virtual event series with local colleges next year that will discuss publishing as well as thematic topics with faculty from other institutions.

A new book from UF Press, scheduled for release in November, combines two of the organization’s focus areas: Florida and Latin America.

A compilation of authors now living in the Sunshine State, “Home in Florida: Latinx Writers and the Literature of Uprootedness” explores what makes Florida home for a diverse range of first, second and third generation Latin American immigrants.

Stephanye Hunter, interim editor-in-chief at UF Press, said she’d been reading many of the authors for years before starting the work.

“Honestly, it was a dream project,” Hunter said. “These were the people that I wanted to publish.”

The book will include fiction, nonfiction and poetry from these authors with diverse Latin American backgrounds including Mexico, Cuba, Perú, Chile and Honduras.

Some of the works will be translated into English for the first time.

“We wanted to really represent the diversity within the community, including writers who were writing in Spanish,” Hunter said.

Other Florida institutions will also add personnel, create new exhibits and digitize items through the NEH funds.

The Florida Humanities Council received more than $2 million from the NEH in a previous round of funding from the ARP.

Joining UF Press with grants awarded Monday were:

  • Daytona State College, Inc.―$50,000
  • Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, Inc.―$200,000
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust, Inc.―$230,269
  • Friends of Lincolnville, Inc.―$48,900
  • Coalition of State Museum Association―$50,000
  • Florida Association of Museums Foundation, Inc.―$50,000

As a whole, Florida institutions received $1,089,429 from Monday’s grants.

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