By Christopher Noble
Looking to build on the University of California's strength in the humanities and highlight the importance of the humanities in the development of a robust democracy, President Mark G. Yudof has committed $100,000 from the President's Initiative Fund to support a program of collaborative projects between UC faculty and public policy experts and cultural institutions.
Under the program, called "The President's Public Partnerships in the Humanities," the money will be used for grants of up to $15,000 for projects including workshops, colloquia and residencies that bring faculty and graduate students together with public policy experts, community humanities groups and cultural institutions.
Yudof made the grant against the background of a growing national debate about the importance of humanities in U.S. education in which some have questioned the value of studying history, languages, literature, religion, and other humanities subjects. Concerned individuals from academia, government, business, the military and other walks of life have countered that strong humanities learning is essential to foster critical thinking skills, innovation, leadership and security in an interconnected world.
In a recent report on the issue, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences singled out engaging the public in humanities instruction as a key way to educate Americans in the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to do well in the 21st century.
Yudof said he hopes the grant will highlight the university's commitment to the humanities and underscore his belief that engaging the public in humanities-focused research and cultural events is of vital importance.
"I'm hopeful that the projects paid for with this money will help foster a dialogue between UC's humanities programs and the public, and highlight the important contributions that humanities make to our society," Yudof said.
The projects will be funded on a competitive basis and administered by the University of California Humanities Research Institute, part of the UC Humanities Network, a multi-campus research program funded by the Office of the President. They can include public humanities programs created in collaboration with libraries, museums and other cultural groups that aim to explore topics of public concern or help raise the profile of humanities research. They should be aimed at improving the humanities education of UC students and boosting the contribution of humanities research to public policy discussions.
David Theo Goldberg, director of the UC Humanities Research Institute and a professor of comparative literature and anthropology at UC Irvine where the Institute is based, thanked President Yudof for championing the initiative and said the grants would help demonstrate UC's robust commitment to humanities.
"This has been a very generous gesture to seed and enable these projects and once again make it possible for the University of California to be in the forefront of this debate and discussion," Goldberg said.
According to David Marshall, Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at UC Santa Barbara and Chair of the UC President's Advisory Committee on Research in the Humanities, which oversees the UC Humanities Network, "this pilot program will highlight the contribution that the humanities make to UC's role as a public university, as well as to research and teaching that engage issues of vital public importance."
Faculty interested in submitting projects for funding should contact Prof. Goldberg or visit the Humanities Research Institute's website for more information. The call for projects is expected to be issued in early October.
Christopher Noble is managing editor for internal communications at UC Office of the President.