One of the great benefits of leading the Humanities for All initiative is having the opportunity to meet with NHA members to introduce them to the website and to learn more about their publicly engaged work. Over three days in the Research Triangle in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to learn from NHA members at the National Humanities Center, Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My first day began at the National Humanities Center (NHC), nestled in the woods of the Research Triangle Park. Long known for its prestigious research fellowships, the NHC has reached new audiences with podcasts, lectures, exhibits, and programming for K-12 teachers. The NHC recently received an NEH grant to fund a professional development program for K-12 educators with military experience. Together, the teachers will learn about ways literature can facilitate understanding of the experience of war.
Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute was my second stop. Meeting with institute and university leadership, I was excited to learn about Duke’s support for training versatile humanities PhDs and for engaged scholarship and learning. This work includes interdisciplinary humanities laboratories and Story+, a summer student research experience program combining humanities research with storytelling for diverse public audiences.
The day concluded at North Carolina State University, where I joined university leadership and faculty at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library to learn about their interdisciplinary culture and support for publicly engaged work including: a range of compelling public-facing sociolinguistics books and documentaries; public events, workshops, and documentaries engaging the Lebanese diaspora community; and the Virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. Project. This multimedia and VR initiative recreates King’s significant, but unrecorded “Fill Up the Jails” speech at the White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, NC, working in collaboration with participants in the original event and the church’s current leadership and congregants.
Over the final two days of my visit, I participated in the 2019 Spring Symposium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Humanities for the Public Good Initiative. The four-year initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is recognizing and catalyzing the campus’ publicly engaged humanities and humanistic social science scholarship. The symposium addressed the nuances of public humanities work in Chapel Hill. Director Robyn Schroeder writes: “We took on some of the big “issues” in the public humanities in this research university town—racial equity, the local arts economy, communities of practice, engagement in graduate study, technologies of access, and tools and ideas about collaboration across institutional contexts.”
My contribution to the symposium was twofold. First, I moderated a panel of projects funded by the Critical Issues Project Fund around the theme of mobility and migration—all excellent examples listed in Humanities for All. Second, I shared how this work empowers NHA’s efforts to broaden narratives around the humanities in higher education. It is indeed projects like these that make Humanities for All such a rich resource for this important work, showing the significant public impact of the humanities in higher education.
If you have been involved in or know of a publicly engaged humanities project that is not yet included in Humanities for All, I encourage you to submit it via the website’s submissions portal.
Thumbnail image: Sign marking the entrance to the 2019 Humanities for the Public Good Symposium in Hyde Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Paul Blom.
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