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Kevin McLaughlin: The Humanities Initiative

Article / Review by on February 16, 2012 – 8:54 pmNo Comments

Kevin McLaughlin: The Humanities Initiative

Announced in 2010 with a $3-million gift, Brown’s Humanities Initiative aims to strengthen the distinctiveness of the humanities at Brown and to extend the impact of the humanities across campus and beyond. Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin recently updated the faculty on how the initiative is progressing.

Kevin McLoughlin, Dean of the Faculty “We believe this will enable us to attract faculty who will have a galvanizing effect on scholarship and teaching in the humanities at Brown.” Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown UniversityKevin McLoughlin, Dean of the Faculty
“We believe this will enable us to attract faculty who will have a galvanizing effect on scholarship and teaching in the humanities at Brown.”/ Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

Brown’s Humanities Initiative is entering its next phase.

Announced in 2010 and supported by a $3-million gift, Brown’s Humanities Initiative is designed to help the University achieve new levels of collaboration and undertake academic initiatives of international significance. The Initiative has two main components: hiring six new professors of humanities and establishing an endowed Humanities Research and Teaching Fund to award support for collaborative scholarly projects proposed by Brown faculty.

Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin discusses how the next phase of the Humanities Initiative will roll out and what it says about Brown’s commitment to humanistic inquiry.

How will the nominations work for the six Professors of Humanities?

We ask that groups of two or more faculty members representing different fields suggest names of scholars whose work could make significant and generative contributions to Brown. They will be appointed primarily to develop innovative collaborative programs of teaching and research between departments and programs. These positions are neither in competition with, nor substitutions, for regular departmental searches. This pool will exist to magnify the strength of Brown’s academic departments and programs while remaining a supplement to existing units.

When do you expect this will be fully implemented?

I expect that the Humanities Initiative will be an ongoing commitment at Brown. We will be hiring the new Humanities Initiative faculty gradually as part of a deliberative process of bringing the most important scholars to Brown for collaborative projects and events that may lead to appointments at Brown — indeed we will be placing a premium on this process itself as collaborative activity. We believe this will enable us to attract faculty who will have a galvanizing effect on scholarship and teaching in the humanities at Brown. The research and teaching fund will be fully operational this fall, but we expect it to grow in the years to come.

How does the initiative build upon investments the University has made in the humanities?

The Humanities Initiative builds on the dramatically increased number of faculty hired in the humanities at Brown since 2003 — in addition to the steady replacement of retiring faculty also over 20 entirely new positions that have been filled in these department. The goal is to stimulate a range of activities that will focus on the importance of the humanities as a critical force in the university of the future.

What do you hope students will experience from this?

Our hope is that the humanities at Brown will be given a greater freedom to develop research and teaching that seeks to address more directly the big questions facing humanity. We would like especially to stimulate collaborative teaching across departments and as part of this develop a set of rigorously interdisciplinary team-taught courses that are organized around topics of broad interest as a supplement to classes that fit into a more traditional curricular structure.

What kind of statement is Brown making with this kind of initiative?

The statement, it seems to me, is to reaffirm the centrality of the humanities to the University — the University that is very appropriately and responsibly making enormous investments in science and technology. Brown is saying that the humanities will be the engaged counterpart to these scientific fields in the university of tomorrow.

More detailed information on the procedures for both the Humanities Professorships and the Humanities Research and Teaching Fund are available on the Dean of the Faculty’s website

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*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by Brown University
** More information at Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island, USA)

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